MJ WAYLAND recounts a spooky happening during a foxhunt Dartmoor on Christmas Eve many moons ago …
RWF Poole, country correspondent to the Daily Telegraph once told this story about his first season as a master of the Dartmoor Foxhounds, many years ago. On Christmas Eve, the hunt met at a pub on the edge of the moor. The landlord sniffed the air and said snow was on the way.
A fox was found at Piles Wood and soon the hounds were streaking away up the rocky valley. They ran past Erme Pits, heading for the bogs of “The Struggy” and the fog on top of the moor.
Riders started peeling off for home and by the time Poole reached Green Hill, he was alone in the mist with the occasional cry of hounds and the first flakes of snow. He was about to turn back when a figure beckoned him to follow him. He could not make him out in what was now a blizzard, but he could see that he was little wiry figure riding a sharp-looking, iron-grey horse.
As they climbed higher, the ground got worse and Mr Poole, who could not look into the driving snow, noticed they were on a faint path.
“The path undulated as we rode along it,” wrote Mr Poole. “I know what this was – the infamous Black Lane, a man-made track across the wet green mosses, mosses which would swallow a horse. Few people rode Black Lane in good weather, certainly not in a blizzard. I had not heard the hounds for some time, but was more concerned with survival, so I clung to my guide as he flitted through the murk.
At last we emerged from the bog onto the slightly better ground around Swincombe Heads. The misty figure held up his hand and we stopped. Sure enough, I could hear hounds coming to my left.
“We held on at a trot, my horse being very tired now. Then suddenly we dropped below the cloud into the Swincombe Valley, just in time to see the hounds catch their fox by the moor gate. I knew that I was safe now – I had just to follow the track down from the gate. My guide had been beside me and I turned to thank him, but he waved a hand and was swallowed up in the cloud.”
Later that day Mr Poole sat in the kitchen of a farmer called John, and related the eerie encounter John unhooked a picture from the wall of a wiry little man on an iron-grey horse with a ratty tail. “That’s Limpety, the gypsy huntsman, he died in a blizzard on Swincombe Heads 50 years ago on Christmas Eve.
MJ WAYLAND is an author, researcher and tutor specialising in paranormal and alternative subjects. He has an excellent blog called Walker of the Borderlands of Belief.