The wrought iron bed, with its distinctive blood red throw decoration and the dark oak wood of the room makes this a perfect setting for not only a romantic evening away but also for one of ghost hunting. The pitted wood, complete with miniature cobwebs, simply adds to the old-worldly feeling of the room – the only question really remaining is will we see the ghost of the former farmer here this evening?
Outside the weather has turned, icy rain has penetrated the clear skies that embraced the village only a couple of hours ago and from one of the attic windows in our room you can see the strength of the wind taking hold of the trees as if they were mere twigs sticking out of the ground. An eerie feeling descends upon the farm where we are staying; does that mean we are in for some interesting scenes tonight or is this us merely hoping that this will be the case?
Pluckley itself is famous for two things: ghosts and The Darling Buds of May. Today people flock to the village in the hope that they will be present during some sort of paranormal vision; the locals however, would prefer to be remembered for the three fantastic years of TV filming. When their quaint little village became a focal point for a nation of Saturday night TV watchers, and hundreds of people wanted to move there in an instant.
The Darling Buds of May was filmed in the village of Pluckley between 1991 – 1993 and starred one of Britain’s best loved actors, David Jason. Now even more famous for most, was his on screen daughter, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Set in lush country surroundings no-one would have guessed that the same area was also home to many ghost sightings that would cause more controversy than any TV programme coming to town could.
With sixteen sightings in total, Pluckley has been named the most haunted village in England according to the Guinness World Records – so who are these ghosts attributed to?
Two of the most claimed sightings are that of the screaming man of the village brickworks who is believed to have worked there unfortunately falling to his death and the Red Lady in the Dering Arms. There is also the highwayman who has been seen at Fright Corner (an apt name I believe) who is believed to have been pinned to a tree by a sword. Occasionally the ghost of an elderly woman who accidently set herself on fire can also be seen along with a schoolmaster who was found hanging by his children in the old school building. Other strange encounters include poltergeist activity and a strange smell of burning wool.
Where we were staying at Elvey Farm we were apparently not ghost free either. Two ghosts have allegedly been sighted here – Edward Brett, the resident farmer, who back in the 18th Century, shot himself in the dairy and a man in military uniform who stands on the stairs that lead up to the attic bedrooms. If we had a chance of seeing either of these, surely it would be the military man as we were the only occupants of the attic space during our visit.
Retracing our steps and reflecting on the previous few hours spent in the village itself, I can categorically say that, much to my disappointment, not even a whiff of a spirit was seen. We squelched through what should have been a country footpath but mostly resembled a babbling brook thanks to the persist rain descending upon us. By the time I reached the village my once black trousers had more of a muddy brown colour attached to them and to say that I looked like a drowned rat would be an understatement. During the summer months, when the pathways have dried and the sheep in the surrounding fields have had little ones, I am sure that this would be an enjoyable wander. Today however, I felt more like Eeyore with a permanent rain cloud above my head. There was only one thing for it – the pub was calling.
The Black Horse Inn, favourite watering hole of Pa Larkin and a ghost hunter’s paradise, welcomed us with open arms. The fire crackled in the corner, flickering slightly with each opening of the door and the woodwork seemed to creak in response to the cold weather outside. Taking seats as close to the fire as was physically possible we bedded down for a few hours in the hope that the storm would subside. Cider in one hand, food menu in the other I knew we would spend a happy afternoon in this friendly establishment. (For more information about the Black Horse Inn check out their website: http://www.blackhorsepluckley.co.uk/index.asp).
Back at Elvey Farm we climb the steep enclosed staircase to our attic room. Only two rooms are situated in this 16th Century area of the Farm along with the bar and reception area. We had been warned about the height of the doors and even my normal cocky five-foot-four self stopped laughing when I saw the beam resting just above below my shoulder blade, taking the phrase mind your head to a whole new level. Every farm room has unique features: the two attic rooms are more suited to families. The Broadstairs Suite, tasteful decorated in pale blues and cream, has two separate bedrooms and can comfortable sleep five. The Rochester Suite, where we spent the night, is dressed in rich blood red and come with a double and two single beds in one large room. Both recreate the history of the old farm and their wonderful characteristics add to the overall experience of this enchanting farmstead surrounded by golden meadows. Other suites are spread out across the farm and vary in size and style. The most luxurious even comes with a hot tub – a bit cold, and definitely too wet for our visit – but one people might wish to consider in the summer months.
One thing I had heard lots about and could not wait for was the dining experience. We were not disappointed. The thick, warm soup for starter, followed by pork and goat’s cheese and vegetable tart were a delight. So much so, we just couldn’t refuse the option of dessert – it would have been rude!
Breakfast was even better – this I had been told was the best part of the stay by previous guests and they were right. A full spread of breakfast cereals, bread for toast and the widest selection of preserves I have ever seen. I simply had to try the rhubarb and ginger jam on my toast. Fancy a cooked breakfast – you decide what you want and how it is cooked. We tried everything, washed down with copious amounts of coffee and walked away fully satisfied and ready to burst at the seams. All the food is locally produced and the owners take great pride in supporting other local small business owners. You can find details of everyone they use in the foyer by the reception should you wish to further purchase anything for gifts or simply to take home and indulge your taste buds further.
Whether you wish to explore the local ghost phenomena for yourself or want a quiet, relaxing break in the garden of England, Elvey Farm is a small, friendly, welcoming home from home. (For more information on Elvey Farm: www.elveyfarm.co.uk).