If you want to experience Halloween in all its spooky magnificence, the New Forest is the only place to be.
Not only do we have more than our far share of ghosts, from that of Charles I, who is said to haunt Hurst Castle, to the spectral monks of Breamore churchyard at Fordingbridge, we’ve been a world-famous centre for witchcraft.
Whether it’s the ‘Father of Modern Wicca’ Gerald Gardner, who lived in nearby Highcliffe and who joined rituals in the forest, or Sybil Leek, Britain’s most famous white witch, who lived in the village of Burley, we have more than enough witchcrafting legends to intrigue you at this time of year.
It was only in 1951 that Britain officially stopped prosecuting witches and Sybil Leek emerged. With her trademark cape and touting a black jackdaw called Mr Hotfoot Jackson, Leek, who lived behind Lawfords in Burley, was internationally famous and drew thousands to visit the village.
Her legacy lives on in Burley’s witchcraft shops and in its magnificent Halloween celebrations, which this year fall on October 28.
From 10am-3pm you can Spot the Witch, listen to spooky stories, try your hand at apple-bobbing, enter the pumpkin-carving competition and, as dusk falls, watch the fancy-dress parade.
If it’s ghosts you’re after, head straight to Beaulieu, whose Palace House is considered one of the most haunted homes in Britain. Their Halloween activities take place in October half-term and include an All Hallows trail, traditional Soul Cake baking, Halloween-inspired crafts and spooky stories told by costumed guides.
Or take the ghost train round Exbury Gardens, where you can also enjoy the Witches’ Spell Trail, Creepy Crafts, and Phantom Poems.
For thrills and spills check out Paultons Park where there’ll be more than 1,500 carved pumpkins, special events and activities and some spooky surprises on some of the rides.
For a celebration with a difference, take part in New Forest Activities’ Spooky Halloween River Tour. Paddle up the Beaulieu river in fancy dress, keeping your eye out for ghosts, then walk back to base through the darkened woodland. If you dare…
For even more Halloween goings-on check out thenewforest.co.uk