MATTHEW FORDE, the author of Eerie Britain 1 & 2, tells the dark tale that haunts a Surrey watering hole
Within the heart of the southern county of Surrey, nestling in between the two villages of Shere and Albury, there is a place of mystery and fable. Set back a short distance from the winding Shere Road and somewhat hidden within a thicket of trees, the Silent Pool has long provided succour for those seeking tranquillity and quiet contemplation.
But, while the serene and notably clear waters of the Pool offer solace to some, to others the place is tainted by the indelible legacy of a medieval murder.
A stone-strewn car park surrounds the understated entrance to a trail that leads first to Sherbourne Pond and then on to the Silent Pool itself. Once on the path, the sounds of traffic trundling along the nearby road quickly become muted and suddenly there falls a natural peacefulness over the visitor.
Walking upwards, the corridor of branches and bushes soon gives way to reveal the clear waters of the Silent Pool. It is far more accessible than the Pond with a footpath snaking around its edge, and it’s longer too; stretching away until its end is hidden by overhanging foliage.
Despite the crunch of gravel and stones underfoot, the Silent Pool does its best to live up to its name, perhaps this is why the area has long been considered a site of mystery. Legends claim that no birds will sing in the trees while others suggest the Pool is actually dangerously bottomless in places, and there is another, more infamous legend that has its roots here in this idyllic spot.
Many centuries ago, Emma, a young maiden from a nearby village, would visit the pool to bathe. During one of these habitual dips she noticed that a strange man was watching her from atop his horse. Seeing that she had spotted him, he ushered his steed a few steps forward and revealed himself to be none other than that dastardly figure from English history—King John. Being a shy and retiring sort, the young girl retreated away from his presence, but her evasion brought her closer to the Pool’s treacherous depths. The King saw this and advanced towards her, urging his mount into the waters with lecherous intent. As he neared her she stumbled to a part of the Pool that becomes deep abruptly and, unable to swim, she let out a panicked cry before slipping beneath the crystal clear waters.
The callous King made no move to save her and simply left the scene, failing to notice that an incriminating feather from his hat had become caught in one of the low-hanging branches that ringed the Pool. An addition to the tale suggests that the girl’s brother heard her scream and raced to the scene. He plunged head first into the pool in an attempt to save her but he too drowned.
Perhaps the area’s eerie calm has made it inevitable that a ghost legend would become attached to the place sooner or later. It’s certainly not true that the pool is bottomless; in fact it is rather shallow these days, and (of course) birds do sing in the trees as they sing in any others. In fact, wildlife is abundant here. Birds peck among the leaves and stones of the snaking pathway before skipping lightly into the underbrush as you approach. Frogs croak along the waters’ edge. Insects buzz amid the foliage.
Even the Pool’s famously clear waters are not caused by any supernatural effect. Thanks to being spring-fed from underground water that has passed through chalk deposits (the Pool is thought to be the remains of an ancient quarry), the water carries no sediment to cloud its depths. Sometimes small bubbles can be seen at the Pool’s far end as the spring waters come up through the rock.
Certainly, though, the Silent Pool is enchanting with or without the stories that have become associated with it.
MATTHEW FORDE is the author of Eerie Britain 1 and Eerie Britain 2. You can purchase them from Amazon here.