There are poltergeists everywhere here,” said the barmaid of The Black Horse, while pouring my white wine spritzer. “Glasses are always falling off the shelves and dogs behave strangely. Someone took a photo of the fireplace with her mobile and there was a ghost of a little girl in the picture. It was probably Elizabeth, who died after being pushed down the stairs. Lemonade or soda?”
The landlord of the 15th-century pub joined the conversation. “I was unnerved by the photo. It was clear as anything and you could see straight through her.” As we spoke, a dog started barking. Everyone stopped talking and turned to the dog until it quietened. For a second, the pub fell silent.
The child ghost is one of a dozen reported spirits in Pluckley, which is said to be the most haunted village in the country. Pluckley must also be one of the most picturesque, too. It could pass as a 1950s village, which is presumably why it was chosen as the setting for ITV series The Darling Buds of May.
Thirst quenched and palms sweaty, I embarked on an exploration of the surrounding countryside.
A Fruit orchards
From The Black Horse a footpath winds through the churchyard of St Nicholas (alas, no sign of the resident ghost, the White Lady of Dering) and opens into countryside. I crossed field after field of apple, plum and cherry orchards and lost count of the number of woodpeckers I saw.
B Little Chart
The landscape around the village of Little Chart is the stuff of tourist brochures. There’s a crooked timber-framed house, a village green, oast houses and the striking Rooting Manor, which can’t have changed much in the last few hundred years.
C Wheat fields
The scenery changed from fruit trees to fields of wheat and we were joined by sparrows and the occasional linnet. By the time I reached Pluckley station, I was wondering why all the old houses have the same distinctive arched windows.
A local explained the design of these so-called ‘lucky’ Dering Windows dates to the Civil War, when the lord of the manor escaped imprisonment by climbing out of the top of a rounded window. A 19th-century descendent changed all the windows on the Dering Estate in his memory. Unlike many of Pluckley’s tales, this one just might be true.
HOW TO GET THERE
Pluckley is seven miles west of Ashford, and is served by regular trains.
FIND OUT MORE
The Dering Arms
The Grove, Pluckley
The Parsonage Cottage
Station Road, Pluckley TN27 0QZ
Image: © Copyright Stephen Nunney and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence