Friday, 22 November 2013

The Ghostly Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - in Kent!

1) From Bridge high street, take the lane that heads northeast just north of the bridge over the Nail Bourne Stream, signposted to “Patrixbourne”. Follow the lane as it passes under the modern A2 dual carriageway.

This road is haunted by possibly the most famous ghost in Kent, though there are few who realise it appears as a phantom. Indeed, some do not believe that the thing ever existed at all. The car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has featured in books, stage plays and a film. Although the magical flying abilities of the car are pure fiction, the car itself was real enough and dominated the world of motor racing in the early 1920s.

The car was the invention of a flamboyant Hungarian, Count Louis Zobrowski, who made his home in Patrixbourne after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the wake of the First World War. The Count had always been interested in the exciting new sport of motor racing and was determined to create an unbeatable racing car. He therefore brought to this little English village a selection of car chassis, engines and a talented team of mechanics.

In 1920 Zobrowksi startled his neighbours by taking to the road in a Mercedes chassis to which he had attached a 23 litre Zeppelin engine, two seats and minimal coachwork of timber and hand-beaten metal sheeting. The astonishingly powerful car was amazingly fast, though it had trouble on corners, and was dubbed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by its proud creator.

In its very first race the car became the first to average 100mph in a contest. And in its second race astounded onlookers to topping 120mph. Zobrowski was delighted. He dressed his mechanics in identical uniforms, something then unheard of, and adopted a fanciful version of traditional Hungarian folk costume for his own public appearances. The car, he liked to boast, went so fast it seemed to fly.

For two years Zobrowski and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang reigned supreme, but then other drivers and mechanics began to catch up. The Count retired his great car from racing and brought it back to Patrixbourne where he used it to take visitors on exhilarating drives around the countryside. He particularly liked to race down this long, straight lane to show off the car’s extraordinary turn of speed.

In 1924 the Count agreed to drive a car belonging to the Mercedes team in a race at Monza, in Italy. The car crashed and the Count was killed. His family sold off his remaining cars, or broke them up for scrap. The great Chitty Chitty Bang Bang being one of those dismantled. But just a few weeks later the Count and his famous car were seen again, racing down this stretch of road at incredible speed. He is still seen, from time to time, belting along with scarf streaming out behind him. Perhaps it was here that he was happiest, racing his great car around the lovely lanes of Kent.

from Ghosthunter Walks in Kent by Rupert Matthews

Buy your copy in a bookshop or on Amazon

Friday, 8 November 2013

A ghostwalk around Horton, Dorset


Distance:            6.5 miles

Ghostly Rating        ****

Route:                Horton - Knowlton - Horton

Map:                OS Explorer 118

Start/ Parking:        Horton High Street

Public Transport        Horton is linked by an infrequent bus service to Wimborne.

Conditions:            A gentle walk over good surfaces with no stiles or awkward gates.

Refreshments:        There is a fine selection of bar meals and ales available at the Horton Inn.

Horton is an atmospheric area. The ghosts here are as old as any in England and one of them is dangerous as well. The landmarks along the walk range from the truly ancient to the modern and from the enigmatic to the frivolous. Much of this walk is along surfaced lanes, but for the most part these are quiet and see little traffic. Only the B3078 has much in the way of traffic to bother the walker, but generous grass verges give plenty of room to walk.