The Whitby Storteller Ghost Walk
The new Whitby Storyteller Ghost Walk is finding its stride and today I thought it was time to share a bit of old history, the stuff that informs my stories.
I was thinking about how close we still are to the times before tarmac...railways, engines, machines galore, the modern cacophany surrounding us today. It wasn't so long ago that England was a much quieter place. The kind of noise heard in Whitby would have been creaking rigging and ropes knocking against the masts of tall ships and fishing vessels; men urging donkeys up the track beside the 199 steps to St. Mary's church; women haggling in the marketplace; the oyster catcher calling out from tavern to tavern..
In the valley it was much quieter still ... in amongst giant oak trees, great greenwood filled with nature spirits, a forest stretching right out to Pickering ...a time when people believed that our green, sceptred isle was enchanted. Daily they wove magical spells - and often counter spells - making offerings, working with the spirits of land, river, sea and sky. Much was tendered, loved, respected. And much was seen...
It was only just over 200 years ago that the first road fit for horse and carriage ran from Whitby over the moors to Pickering. Before that, there were old pannier tracks and trails, but the highway was the sea and folk didn't care for travel on the moor. Local superstition and belief regarded it as a supernatural landscape. It was seen as a place of purgatory, where souls of the dead would travel to the other world. There are old pathways crossing the moors that were known as 'coffin trails', used to carry the bodies of dead sailors and naval men to be buried, as was the tradition, in coastal graveyards. The moor was always a wild crossing and ill favoured.
So when a stranger crossed the moor to arrive in Whitby, people wouldn't ask their name, but more beggar the question, 'what's he done?!'. Whitby was renowned as a place where a fugitive might disappear, escape to sea, find refuge. And therefore by the 1800's, such was the level of criminal activity in the town, that the coaching inn constructed a barred cell at the top of the building - which remains to this day at the White Horse and Griffin on Church street - in order to contain the criminals, who were to be taken by stagecoach across the moor on the new road, for prosecution at the courts in Pickering or York.
This blog is a teaser not only for the walks but also for a book on Whitby Magic and Mysteries to be released later this year.