Continuing with the theme of The Binges, as mentioned in two earlier articles, I have this story to tell.
Many years ago, early one June morning, I set off from Elms Lodge with my father’s gun under my arm and walked down our fields to Fishpool Brook. I followed the brook along what was then my Uncle Jim's land up to where it bordered The Binges. By the time I reached the woodland it was about 4.30am, quite light by now with odd pockets of morning mist in the air. I climbed through a gap in the hedge and started to pick my way between the bushes. Eventually I came to a clearing.
About twenty yards away on the opposite side of the clearing stood a man with his back to me; a gun under his arm, looking up to the sky. His clothing was odd; he wore a three-cornered hat, a fairly long waisted coat and black riding boots. Because he, as yet, had not seen me I decided to retreat quietly. Unfortunately, as I stepped back I stood on a fallen branch which made a sharp crack.
The man slowly turned round and gazed in my direction although not directly at me. He seemed to be looking past me and into the distance. He slowly walked towards me and continued to stare into the distance as he passed only a few feet away without ever looking at me or acknowledging my presence. As he passed I noticed his face was very pale and he had a pronounced scar on his neck partially hidden by a red neckerchief. My gaze followed him as he disappeared into the mists and bushes.
This experience shook me somewhat and I didn't mention it to anyone for some time.
Much later I came across a story which reminded me of this experience. A man called Ned Black lived in the village in the late 1700s. He was a pedlar who would push a hand cart around the village selling rabbits, pigeons and other game. Apparently, as the story goes, Ned got most of his wares from poaching and one evening he was caught by the local gamekeeper. A struggle ensued; a gun went off and the game-keeper was mortally wounded. When the body was found a red neckerchief was found clasped in one hand. Taking into consideration the fact that Ned always wore a red neckerchief, and the way he made his living, it did not take long for the villagers to work out who was responsible. Ned was soon apprehended hiding in The Binges, which was a much bigger woodland in those days. Ned was tried at Leicester Assizes, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged, which duly he was.
Make of this story what you will but I know what I saw.