New Day

From the Woodlands Series. Dering Woods, Kent. © Stewart Weir 2013

“Everyone believes the world’s greatest lie…” says the mysterious old man. “What is the world’s greatest lie?” the little boy asks. The old man replies, “It’s this: that at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”  Paulo Coelho (from The Alchemist)

The Screaming Woods

The Screaming Woods © Stewart Weir 2013

Dering Woods (locally called The Screaming Woods) is within a few kilometres of  the village of Pluckley, Kent.  Nominated as the most haunted village in the UK for it has no less than a dozen well described and substantiated ghosts within its borders.  The Dering family occupied the local manor house (known as Surrenden Dering) and took a leading part in the communities administration for around three hundred years. Surrenden Dering is haunted by The White Lady,  a former Lady Dering who was so beautiful that after her death her husband had her embalmed (and encased in four coffins – three of lead and an outer one of oak) so that he could continue to look upon her for the rest of his life. She was dressed in her best gown and a red rose was placed at her bosom. However, denying her a decent and prompt burial caused her restless spirit to protest and she has apparently remained with the building (now a ruin) ever since.

An American named Walter Winans, a wealthy big game hunter, lived in the house for a time. He doubted the villagers stories about the White Lady and one Christmas Eve (a particularly active period for the ghost), armed with a rifle, he sat up all night to see for himself. When she appeared, he fired two shots at her (they both penetrated the wall opposite his position). She vanished and Winans was left with nothing but the bullet holes to contemplate.

During WWII, like many large country residences, the manor house was used as a billet for troops. Unfortunately, one of the rooms was the lair of a poltergeist and the soldiers flatly refused to sleep in that part of the building. When, in October 1952, Surrenden Dering was burnt down in a mysterious fire, the poltergeist was considered by many local people to be responsible for the blaze.

“All forests have their own personality. I don’t just mean the obvious differences, like how an English woodland is different from a Central American rain forest, or comparing tracts of West Coast redwoods to the saguaro forests of the American Southwest… they each have their own gossip, their own sound, their own rustling whispers and smells. A voice speaks up when you enter their acres that can’t be mistaken for one you’d hear anyplace else, a voice true to those particular tress, individual rather than of their species.”  – Charles de Lint, The Onion Girl