Veterans of the Hallowe'en trudge

David Norris follows the lanterns up Pendle Hill

Coming off the Pennine moors between Hebdon Bridge in Yorkshire and Nelson in Lancashire, Pendle Hill looks majestic and isolated. Barley, the village at the foot of Pendle Hill is the place to be on Hallowe'en, because even if the view doesn't attract you, the annual celebration and the history of the place should.

On 18 August 1612 at Lancaster Assizes, Judge Altham and Judge Bromley tried 19 witches from the Pendle area. They were accused of getting together for a witches' sabbath. Nine of them were subsequently hanged. The names of Alice Nutter and Anne Redferne are etched deep in local folklore, mainly because they were victims of ignorance.

The saga started when a poor girl called Alizon Device met Abraham Law, a travelling peddler on the hills near Colne. She begged for some pins. He refused her. She cursed him and he had a stroke. Of course in an age of witch-hunts that seemed a clear case of sorcery. Zealous magistrates and constables took a nine-year-old's evidence and manipulated family feuds to such an extent that two families ended up confessing to being spellbinders.

Pendle Hill keeps an eerie silence on that slice of history. The local post office in Barley is prone to running an anti-publicity campaign about the present goings on at Hallowe'en.

"There's nowt here now. They come here from as far off as Liverpool, but there's no bonfire on the hill like there used to be."

Locals tell of the old days when everyone met in the main street - armed with turnip lanterns - and set off in procession at 10pm to walk up the hill. Now, on 31 October people simply walk up Pendle Hill as the mood takes them. But with their moving lights the effect is still spectacular - a sort of fairy necklace of illumination.

The hot dog stall in the car park by the stream is the nerve centre for all activities nocturnal. Last year we set off at 11pm. We turned left off the road by the stream where a signpost points to Pendle End.

The footpath alongside the stream is full of tree roots raking out to trip you up. That was where we were told that the right way to do the walk is without a torch. Once past Pendle End the slope gets steeper, the track gets as busy as Oxford Street and your breathing gets heavier. It's then that the English eccentricity hits home. Where else in the world would you meet a group in fancy dress walking down a hill banging a drum at the same time as someone else tries to ride up it on a scramble bike?

Only once have I ever seen policemen at the top checking on safety. But then how can you get lost? There can be as many as a hundred people on the hill at any one time, all noisy, all making that string of lights such an effective, romantic image, and yet so few really know why they do it.

On the drive back into Burnley we gave a lift to two teenage veterans of the trudge. "How many times have you done it then?"

"This is my fourth".

"Why do you do it?"

"Dunno."

All Hallows is the first day of the pagan year. Hallowe'en is a time when spirits are allowed to roam free. I've never seen one. Never seen a witch either. The Pendle witches were arrested at Malkin tower four miles away on the evidence of a nine-year-old child. The probable motive for their get-together was not a witches' sabbath but a Catholic gathering in Protestant England.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
people
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Darrell Banks’s ‘Open The Door To Your Heart’
music
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'