In the heart of the New Forest lies a quiet, unassuming English village with a spooky history.
Burley Village is awash with tales of witchcraft, smuggling and dragons, which is probably why it’s such an excellent place to go to for Halloween…
“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes…”
When walking through Burley Village today, you will quickly notice the number of occult shops and “witchy” signs here. Why, you may ask?
This is inherently linked to “Britain’s most famous witch” who once lived here in the 1950’s: Sybil Leek.
Often seen walking around the village in a long, black cloak with her pet jackdaw on her shoulder, the locals were upset by her appearance; believing her to be an “evil” witch.
In 1951, the Witchcraft Act was finally repealed. Although very few witches dared to reveal their craft at this time, Sybil Leek did. This resulted in a media frenzy, which caused her to flee to America in order to escape it.
Before she did however, she named one of the shops in the village as “A Coven of Witches”.
It’s in this shop that you can find the following story displayed in the window:
Why is it so witchy in Burley?
“During the late 1950’s, Sybil Leek was a self-confessed White Witch and High Priestess living in this village. She started one of the first covens in the Forest called the “Horsa” coven, which is still in existence today.
Sybil was often seen in the village with her pet Jackdaw (Mr. Hotfoot Jackson) on her shoulder.
White Witches choose to live close to nature being guided by the sun, moon and stars, mixing herbal potions, practicing healing and doing goodwill.
Besides being famous as a White Witch, Sybil was a television reporter and authoress, who wrote many books on many fascinating subjects including astrology and her life living with the gypsies in the Forest.
Unfortunately, her fame and lifestyle attracted a huge amount of interest and people began to besiege her home. So she decided to move to America where she received a huge welcome and lived out her life there until 1982.
Before moving to the USA, Sybil named this shop: ‘A Coven of Witches’.”
There’s an excellent 3-part YouTube series you can watch of an interview with Sybil before she died in 1982. She discusses her life story, which is very interesting – it even includes her time spent living with gypsies in the New Forest. Check out the interviews here.
A Tale of Smuggling Treasure Through Burley
Aside from witches, Burley Village is also fraught with smugglers and tales of treasure.
Folklore dictates that the Queen’s Head pub was notorious for 16th Century smugglers. And it’s believed that there used to be an old smuggler’s tunnel between the pub and The Burley Manor. Found within a hidden cellar in the pub were pistols, bottles and coins… all other treasure has since vanished without a trace.
And actually today, you can follow ‘Smuggler’s Road’ and take a walk through history.
Discovering Legendary Dragons
Not only are witches and smugglers prevalent within Burley Village’s history, but so are dragons!
It’s believed that a dragon’s lair used to be at the top of Castle Hill Lane. The dragon used to terrorise local villagers before a courageous knight dressed in glass coated armour slayed the dragon.
Today, you can still visit the supposed location of the lair… but there are no dragons to be seen anymore!
Did You Know?
- Burley is surrounded by trees, which have some interesting names! Some very ancient oaks at Burley Lodge are known as The Twelve Apostles; the Wilverley Oak used in 1759 for hanging highwaymen and smugglers is called The Naked Man and the trees near the old Vicarage are called Miracle Trees as they break into leaf only at Christmas time.
- Ponies and cattle roam freely throughout the village, so don’t be surprised to have animals meander past you whilst you do your shopping!
- Burley is twinned with Beurlay in France. If you haven’t heard of twin or sister towns before, then this used to be simply the idea of linking towns together to foster friendships and an understanding between different cultures and former enemy towns to promote peace, reconciliation, trade and tourism.
- Burley Village has its own working cider farm and orchard, which results in tasty cider called Snake-Catcher Scrumpy!
Celebrating Halloween in Burley Village
With so much spooky history surrounding Burley Village, could you be persuaded to spend Halloween in this intriguing place?
As mentioned, the village is in the middle of the New Forest in England. Here’s the address details you’ll need:
New Forest National Park
If you can make it down to the village on October 28th, then you should expect:
- A ‘Spot the Witch’ competition
- Tarot Card Readings
- Apple Bobbing
- Pumpkin Carving Competition
- Fancy Dress Competition
- Fancy Dress Parade
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