As you approach the Headstone Tunnel on the Monsal Trail, the signs ominously warn of the tunnel lights going off at dusk, and if you find yourself crossing the viaduct after sunset – especially at this time of year – the inky blackness ahead of you is not a particularly inviting prospect. Good then, that the path to the welcoming warmth of Monsal Head and the Stable Bar heads up the hill to the left of you.
Indeed, the tunnel’s nightly extinguished lights would be a welcome sight as you come to the end of the Brushfield loop.
But nearby within a mile or so, witnessing a line of lights in the darkness – legend tells – is the last thing you would wish to do.
Thornbridge Hall sits between Great Longstone and Ashford on the Water, just off the Monsal Trail, but if you find yourself wishing to explore the lanes by the hall at dusk, be very wary of any lights you might see up ahead in the darkness.
Longstone Lane passes by the Hall as you head towards Ashford in the Water, but to give it its local name gives more of a clue to its atmosphere.
For travelling along ‘Shady Lane’, even in daylight, can send chills down your spine. At night, it could be the death of you.
Locals tell of strange goings on at night. Sightings. Lights. An ominous procession passing the manor. But none can give too many details, as they fear they’ve seen the terrifying sight of 12 headless coffin bearers walking their grim march to who knows where, and quickly beat a hasty retreat.
And who is in the coffin atop the shoulders of this deathly dozen? Well, nobody…yet. Legend once more tells that the empty casket awaits the soon to be departed body of the witness themselves; the portentous sight a terrifying prediction of your own untimely death.
Accounts talk of swaying oil lamps or candlelight in Shady Lane late at night, the headless coffin bearers arriving to collect the unlucky observer. But would you hang around to greet them?
So next time you’re passing Thornbridge Hall late at night, maybe the darkness of the tunnels would be a safer bet than the lanes and woods around them…or maybe the Stable Bar is a better bet to settle and simply watch the sun go down.