The Phantom Stampede of Ludham Bridge.
After passing through Barton Broad on our boat we carried on cruising down the river Ant until we reached a place called How Mill close to Toad Hole Cottage, located between Cromes Broad and Ludham Bridge, this is where we decided to moor up on the monday night.
On the tuesday morning we again set forth down the river Ant and after half an hour we arrived at Ludham Bridge.
Ludham Bridge as it appears in this day and age.
We stopped at Ludham Bridge to take on water and call in at the local store. It is hard to believe that over 80 years ago Dr Charles Sampson stopped here to take on water and buy provisions at the local shop the same as we were doing. However 80 years ago he happened to speak to a local Historian who was at Ludham Bridge at the same time. He was told by the Historian that in the past this area was plagued by Nordic bands who pillaged and stole cattle, and it wasn’t until the Saxons settled here that these marauding attacks became less frequent.
The Historian went on to say that one of these attacks had somehow been recorded in the ether of this area and the event is replayed on the 2nd of April of each year before most tourists arrive, so the event hasn’t been witnessed by many people.
Dr Sampson returned to Ludham Bridge the following April on his boat along with his Cabin boy “Bert”, his Winch Hand “Bill” and himself, they moored the boat and prepared for a long vigil. Although there were a few boats, no one else was about as it was still too early for most people to be out on the Broads.
They settled themselves on deck wrapped in blankets to keep out the cold, to the east of Ludham could be seen the extensive marshlands and to the rear of the boat the flat lands stretched out fading into the darkness.
Fenland to the East of Ludham Bridge.
Apart from the occasional sound of a Night Jar and the screech of an owl all was peaceful and tranquil and the men passed the time telling stories of the legends that abound in these parts.
As the night wore on and twilight turned into darkness a chill wind started to blow, bending the reeds along the banks of the river. It was around this time that the men noticed a herd of cattle becoming restless in a meadow alongside the spot where they had moored up for the night. The cattle became more restless, lashing their tails and bellowing, the wind was rising and black clouds started scudding across the sky. It was at this time that the men on the boat became aware of what was causing the cattle distress, a black mass of mounted men with whips blowing horns were descending on the cattle from the nearby ridge.
The cattle responded by starting to stampede in the opposite direction to these riders and headed across the field in the direction of where Dr Sampson and his crew watched in fearful amazement from the deck of their boat. With the stampedeing cattle bearing down on them and nowhere to escape to they braced themselves as the cattle launched themselves off the river bank and onto the deck of their boat. As the cattle’s final plunge was about to bring them into contact with the river and the deck of the boat, to the relief of the crew all the cattle simply disappeared. The riders who had instigated the stampede milled around on horseback, then turned in the opposite direction and as they rode away they too simply disappeared.
So if you happen to be in the area on April the 2nd, even if you aren’t on a boat as Ludham Bridge can be reached by road, you may have the opportunity to witness an event that few people ever get to see, an event replaying itself down the generations for reasons unknown!