Published: 18:30, 16 September 2021
| Updated: 19:37, 16 September 2021
Villagers are spooked by the prospect of ghost-hunting wild campers leaving a frightful mess in a haunted woodland this Halloween.
Every year visitors are drawn to Pluckley - famously the most haunted village in England - in the hope of experiencing a brush with the supernatural.
Legend has it that 12 spirits haunt the area, including the Red Lady, sighted in the churchyard of St Nicholas, a ghostly monk, a phantom highwayman and a gypsy woman.
But the village’s reputation as a home for the paranormal is now drawing increasing numbers of spook-seeking campers to the ancient Dering Wood - and their littering has forced the closure of the car park at the Woodland Trust site.
“Reports of camping, fires, ghost tours, and even raves have plagued the local community throughout the year, but increases around Halloween,” Smarden Parish Council clerk Kat Hoyle said.
“Visitors to the area seem to have no regard for the woodland, leaving litter, discarding camping equipment, and have resulted in the Woodland Trust needing to close the car park to stop visitors accessing the wood.”
The people of Smarden, Pluckley and Egerton previously campaigned together to help buy the woodland, which was mentioned in the Domesday Book, for the Woodland Trust.
"We are aware of continuing anti-social and damaging night-time activity..."
“It was intended as a wonderful local asset for all to use,” Ms Hoyle said.
“But due to the reckless, irresponsible nature of these ghost hunters, it is an essential measure to try and protect the wildlife.”
The Woodland Trust says the car park closure, which first came into force July, is not a long-term measure, and it will work with police and Smarden Parish Council to try and find a solution to the wild camping problem.
Jenny Scholfield, regional director for south-east England at the Woodland Trust, said: “We could not manage our woods without the support of wonderful members and supporters, and it’s unfortunate that at Dering Wood we have additional costs to clear rubbish and repair vandalism.
“We apologise for the continued closure of the car park over the summer.
“This is not a long-term solution, and we are aware of continuing anti-social and damaging night-time activity, with cars parking along dark rural lanes.
“We are working with police and Smarden Parish Council to find a sustainable solution.”