After making many walks ourselves in the Stour Valley, today was the first of our public walks and so it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that we met at Manningtree Station. Artist Alan Hockett, who had been supporting us on the project, was already there with his wife Mel, and we sorted some official paperwork before people started to arrive. As they did, a large black cloud also loomed close promising to add another sensory experience into the mix.
Alison's knowledge of the area, local residents who had been affected, such as Elizabeth Clarke, and the complex nature of the witch trials themselves was incredible, with so many dates, locations, theories, facts and fictitious stories. She explained how Matthew Hopkins and his deputy John Stearne, used the judicial system to prosecute and persecute ordinary people, with the help of the public, 'watching' and 'familiars'. Most of the accused were held at places like Colchester Castle and tried at Chelmsford Assizes, but a few people were hanged in Manningtree to set an example.
It took a couple of hours to walk between Manningtree Station and the Mistley Thorn, which meant that unfortunately the storm cloud caught up with us and we had to shelter beside and industrial building, but everyone was in good spirits and reasonably well prepared with umbrellas and rain coats. Some of us also managed a cup of tea and a slice of cake afterwards which helped us to dry off.