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Author hunting tall tales and scary stories from the New Forest

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New Forest historian and storyteller Brice Stratford
New Forest historian and storyteller Brice Stratford

TALL tales and scary stories are being hunted by a researcher looking to round up the myths and legends of the New Forest into a new book.

Brice Stratford, who lives in Lyndhurst, is appealing for residents to send him local folklore such as ghost sightings, ancient customs and sayings, and accounts of witchcraft and magic.

He said he wants information “no matter how relevant or random, how serious or silly, how ancient or new, how widely known or how personal and obscure”.

Mr Stratford is a historian and storyteller who used his research skills to fight plans to redevelop the derelict Lyndhurst Park Hotel into retirement flats when he discovered part of it was designed by Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle.

To write the book he has been investigating documents to gather more tales of the New Forest – both real and fantasy.

Mr Stratford said: “I've been researching the project for some years now, and believe I have all but exhausted the historical, literary and linguistic sources which exist.

“I'm very keen now on adding a more human, less academic element, and on exploring what oral traditions might remain or exist, and seeing what golden nuggets and old fragments I may be able to find in people's memories and experiences.”

Eye-catching stories so far include a tradition that King Arthur's final battle and death was at Cadnam, with Winchester as the site of Camelot.

Another relates to Robin Hood's Sheriff of Nottingham who, according to legend, went on to help found Beaulieu Abbey. The story is that he was discovered by the king as a baby floating on a shield in river rushes, brought up by a local family, and raised to royal service.

The Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Wessex was also said to have been founded in the New Forest at the Battle of Netley Marsh.

Mr Stratford also wants to hear about local slang, traditions and geographical nicknames, as well as the area’s industrial, smuggling and military history.

He said: “I want to be as inclusive as possible, and am hungry for any scrap of anything I can find, no matter how tawdry or peculiar.

“I am especially interested in hearing from older generations, and people with long ties to the Forest.”

He is aiming to produce the book by Christmas.

People with suggestions should send them with details of their own links to the New Forest, and background about the story or information – and whether they think it is true. Email BriceStratford@live.co.uk.

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