Myths and legends of the Broads National Park

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Wondering what to do in the Broads National Park this Halloween? Why not visit the sites of some of the Broads’ most spine-tingling myths and legends? From the monks at St Benet’s Abbey to the devil dog of Bungay, there are plenty of chilling tales to explore and while you’re at it, amazing places to discover. Here are three that really caught our imagination...

Black Shuck of Bungay

The Legend...  

Let us take you back to the early hours of the morning on the 4th August 1577, within the walls of St Mary’s Church, Bungay... It was a morning so dark it could have been mistaken for night. Lightning illuminated the faces of the stained glass saints and the rain fell heavy upon the churchyard yews. The congregation were deep in prayer when the fearful silhouette of a great black dog appeared by the old church door. It swept through the pews so swiftly that it extinguished the candles with its strides and mauled many an ill-fated churchgoer where they knelt. With his thirst for blood satiated, the dreaded creature left by the old north door, but not before leaving the scorch marks of his claws upon it.

Things to do: Black Shuck is a local legend in Bungay and is embraced all over the town. From the black dog weathervane in the market- place to the tapestry hung in St Mary’s Church. Alternatively, take a walk on Bigod’s Way (the dog is said to appear in the mist to lone walkers).  The route passes Bungay Castle. In the spirit of Halloween, take a legendary trip to Bungay!

The Black Shuck © Adam Singer
The Black Shuck? © Adam Singer

The Shrieking Monk of St Benet’s Abbey

The Legend...

When night has fallen and the fog has rolled across the river, there are those who hear a fearful scream across the fields of Ludham. From the ruined gate- house of St Benet’s Abbey plays a spectral scene of betrayal and doom. Here on an autumn night, when the ground is hard and the air is cold, there are those who claim to have seen history repeat itself. They say they have witnessed the fate of Essric, the treacherous monk who betrayed the abbey to its enemies in exchange for the title of abbot. Once the enemies had seized the church they were true to their word and made him abbot before immediately sentencing him to death as an example to all informers. All that truly remains of St Benet’s Abbey now is the arch- way, and there are some who say the reason it stands is that the ghost of Essric swings there, crying out as an example to all.  

Things to do: St Benet’s Abbey is situated close to the historic village of Ludham and has many beautiful features. The abbey itself is best seen in the daytime and you can take a circular walk from it to How Hill. Book the Wherry Albion from Ludham Staithe and view the ruins from the water. Or simply soak up the atmosphere walking around the abbey site. What will you hear?

St Benet's Abbey © Reg Belcher (Flickr)
St Benet's Abbey © Reg Belcher (Flickr)

Blickling Hall

The Legend...

On the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death, it is said by some that the sound of gravel being crunched beneath carriage wheels can be heard on the driveway of Blickling Hall. And then if you’ve the nerve to watch, a spectral carriage draws up before the great house’s entrance. At first the carriage appears to be the same as any other, until one notices that the horses have no head, and the coachman has no head, and indeed the occupant has no head. For when the carriage halts before the grand entrance, Anne Boleyn herself descends from the carriage steps, holding her own severed head in her hands. And for the duration of that night Anne Boleyn walks the corridors of Blickling Hall until the morning breaks and with its coming she is gone.

Things to do: Blickling Hall is a wonderful National Trust property with lots of amazing features to explore. The house itself is fascinating and the surrounding grounds are dog friendly. For a ghostly themed weekend, check out their Mausoleum walks.

Blickling Hall © Peter Dean (Flickr)
Blickling Hall © Peter Dean (Flickr)

Remember to visit our Folklore and stories page If you want to read more about fascinating legends of the Broads National Park.