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Diana's Walk, Bysing Wood

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Keith C    22 Sep 2008
Can anyone shed any light on the legend of Diana and "Diana's walk"?

The only thing I know about the legend of Diana is that her ghost is supposed to walk along a path in Bysing Woods (Diana's Walk) with her head under her arm. Quite why she chooses to carry her head in this manner, rather than attached to her neck like most self respecting ghosts has never been explained to me.

I have asked a few other local people if they knew anything of the story of Diana, and although they all knew about her headless woodland rambles, none of them were able to shed any light on why she was headless, or why she walked through the woods.

The legend of Diana and Diana's walk has been passed down from generation to generation by local people and is now part of our folklore, but I wonder if there's any historical substance to the legend.

Lots of towns and villages have stories of this type and although these tales may have changed dramatically as they were passed down over the years, they are often based on a real person, or born from some real event.

Is this the case with Diana?
mark shilling    02 Aug 2015

Regarding Diana's walk the story I have been told by my father is that Diana was a strong-willed  daughter of a well to do rich landowner who lived near or what is now known  as Syndale.

She was in love with a peasant boy who lived somewhere in the vicinity of what is now Bysing Wood and used to meet at the old chapel ruins at the bottom of Judd's Folly Hill.

One day Diana's father caught them at the chapel and forbade them to see each other.They continued to meet in secret until once again the father caught them and in such rage beheaded his daughter .So from that day on she is said to roam Diana's walk with her head under her arm searching  for her love.

christopher Mettyear    10 Jun 2015

When the old road was there going to the woods .it was said that she lived in a tunnel under the road and one day when she came out of the tunnel she fell over and a horse and was run over her and she lost her head 

Nuala Brenchley-Sayers    08 Feb 2012
I was told by the then Vicar of Oare (the Rev Michael Anderson if I remember rightly) and the Catholic priest Fr Frank Crossan (RIP) that Diana was the daughter of the people at the manor house that is now Syndale Park. Her fiancé was the son of the vicar of Davington Church.

He used to walk Diana home after evensong each night. One night she was attacked and decapitated; he was slightly injured. A short time after her death he was found hanged near the place they were attacked. There was some speculation that he was indeed the attacker.  

The path that goes from Davington to Judd's Folly Hill is now covered by housing.  Both of the priests had performed blessings on properties on the line of this old path as "odd" things had happened in the houses.  

 Hope this helps!
Jason Coulls    15 Feb 2009
>>Isn't that the plot of Arnold Ridley's play The Ghost Train?<<

Never heard of it, but it would make sense...  As I mentioned previously, I'm just trying to come up with a plausible cause for the tale and keeping nosey people away is pretty plausible. 

Always open to having the theory shot down, though!


Chris Marshall    10 Feb 2009
Isn't that the plot of Arnold Ridley's play The Ghost Train?
Jason Coulls    04 Feb 2009

I was just mentally trying to fit my theory to other local stories, and started thinking about the old railway bridge over Whitstable Road at the corner of the Rec. The stories there was of a ghost fox-like animal (similar to the standard British "black dog" tales) and also of a ghost train that would run over the bridge at night.  

Just imagine that people saw trains running over it in the day, then someone wants to "borrow" the train and haul out an extra load of gunpowder or something else privately in the night for some cash on the side or whatever, then it would make sense that to keep suspicion down and stop people being nosey, you'd start a tale to scare people from getting too close.

Just a thought...
Jason Coulls    04 Feb 2009
>>The legend of Diana and Diana's walk has been passed down from generation to generation by local people and is now part of our folklore, but I wonder if there's any historical substance to the legend. <<

I have given this a bit of thought and come up with a plausible scenario, and my thought process on how I got there, though it's been like 20 years since I last heard about this tale.

Where is she supposed to walk?  It was on a pathway and not randomly through the trees. 

Why do pathways exist?  To get people from point A to point B easily when an obstruction (such as a wood) would otherwise cause people to go around it.  So, it's a shortcut.

Where do many old ghost stories come from?  People doing illegal stuff and telling tales to scare prying eyes away from seeing what they're doing. 

So, tying this all together, it's not wholly impossible that it wasn't started in history by smugglers wanting a clear run at a Bysingwood path to shift contraband quickly from either Oare Creek or Faversham Creek to the main road to get stuff to/from London without being seen.

Think of the standard British black dog and hellhound tales – while "Black Shuck" is a bit hard to nail due to some of the extreme eyewitness accounts (like "him running into a packed church to kill two people and run out leaving firey scorch marks on the floor and making the tower collapse"), he does fit in with the haunting of "coastal roads" – and he's sometimes headless, just to add to the scare ratings.

The same with Dartmoor happens where people were told not to go onto the moor at night because of the black dogs (which was used as inspiration for the "Hounds of the Baskervilles" story) – yet it's almost impossible to ignore the smuggling connections. Although these started off as much older superstitions and British folklore, they got perpetuated and embellished by smugglers.

Full moons are another one. It's the night with the most light to see what you're doing in the dark, so you tell the locals "Don't look out the windows tonight – the ghost of old man Smith in his carriage being pulled by 4 headless horses will come out tonight"... 

Then later, scared people hear a carriage and hooves go past outside and believe it's the ghost when it's quite obviously the smugglers. Should try to find out if she's only supposed to walk around a full moon.

There's another one out near Sheldwich, which was supposed to be half dog-half goat and owned by some woman (Joanna Trelawny?). This sounds very much like the Phillipino "Sigbin" mythical animal. How would that end up in Kent? Probably from someone trading with the Far East. Could smugglers be responsible for that one as well?  Probably.  And besides, the Trelawney surname indicates Cornwall, which is notorious for stories of hell hounds and smugglers.

So, I reckon that if there is any truth in history where this is concerned, then it is probably this: Someone needing to smuggle stuff either knew about a prior story to perpetuate (unlikely as it would probably be a black dog like all the others, which come from much older superstition), or they made a story up, and the best they could do is a woman who walks in the woods holding her head. Once the story was out, it's been carried down for generations.

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