Burley is located to the east of Ringwood. It is a quintessential New Forest village, full of chocolate box cottages and roaming ponies and donkeys.
Burley has remained largely untouched by time. It has a rich heritage of tradition and folklore dating back centuries including smuggling activities and an association with witchcraft.
In the 18th and 19th century, Burley was notorious as a smugglers haven. The Customs Officers feared entering the village as so many of the village families were actively involved in “free trading”. These families’ role in the smuggling industry was to bring the contraband, often in large quantities from the coast to secret locations in the wilds of the New Forest. They were known as “landers”. It was common for gangs of smugglers of up to 300 men mounted on horse back to accompany wagon trains. 20 of 30 carts filled with brandy, tea, tobacco and silks traveled from the coast near Christchurch up to Burley and into the Forest.
Witchcraft in Burley
Not an ancient folklore tradition, but a history dating back to 1950’s.
During the late 1950’s Sybil Leek a self declared ‘white’ witch lived in the village. She was often seen walking around in her long black cloak with her pet jackdaw sitting on her shoulder. The locals became upset by her presence. As a result, Sybil moved to America where she continued studying and writing about the occult and astrology.
To this day, Burley has become well-known for its connections to witchcraft. One of the shops in Burley was not only named by Sybil but you can also find a portrait of her hanging above the Jacobean fireplace. The shops sells a variety of witchcraft-related items.
The open countryside around Burley is part of the New Forest National Park. Open heath land and numerous tracks provide good walking, cycling and riding.