Country diary: For a moment on this shadowy lane, the ghost story feels true | Environment

A highway out of the village goes down a infamous dip, often known as Pebble Hill or Satan’s Arch. There is no such thing as a arch as such, however historic timber squeeze the excessive banks with knuckled roots.

It’s all the time damp and darkly atmospheric, and the first to be closed by fallen timber in storms. It is usually a place with a unhappy story about a ghostly horse.

It’s right here at nightfall that my rattly 20-year-old automobile stops rattling. One thing dings behind me with a flash in my rear-view mirror because it hits the highway with a spark, the means a horse’s shoe strikes tarmac on a darkish winter morning. I hold driving my newly quiet automobile with one thing like reckless glee. Drawback solved!

However later on, on the means dwelling, I’m troubled by the place’s outdated tales and pull over to search for the half. Tawny owls name and the chalk financial institution gleams like a warning of approaching headlights. All is quiet. A dry leaf tickets down the highway and my breath types will o’ th’ wisps. I can nearly hear the frost forming.

Devil’s Arch, Inkpen, North Wessex Downs.
Satan’s Arch, Inkpen, North Wessex Downs. {Photograph}: Nicola Chester

On this spot, 126 years in the past, Thomas Tilling, a rakemaker, was returning dwelling with a totally loaded timber cart, pulled in tandem by two horses, when a piece of the harness snapped. The burden of the load listed in opposition to the wheel horse he was main. It panicked, and leaped up the financial institution. Tilling was fatally injured by the wagon and he died, his spouse beside him, the subsequent morning.

Ghost tales typically start as a type of warning. Tilling’s good gray horse is claimed to show in the direction of those that see it.

My telephone torch catches a white feedbag hung from a tree by the gamekeeper to discourage foxes. Tar spot fungus on sycamore leaves and a fermented, break up bale of haylage, misplaced from a trailer, scent like labored leather-based and horse sweat. There may be a heat, shut presence in the darkness, and – I’m certain – I hear the muffled “clop” of shod hoof on leaf mould.

I get again in the automobile, leaving a day-old apple core on the financial institution, as a poor providing. And I promise the good gray horse that I’ll repair this automobile.