In the small village of Stiffkey, out
on the salt marshes is a large mud bank called
Blacknock, which is the site of a ghostly haunting.
Stiffkey is famous for its blue cockles, and in the 18th
century these were gathered by the women of Stiffkey.
It was hard and potentially dangerous work, as the tides
race in cruel and fast over these marshes. But the
cocklers of Stiffkey were tough women, they had to be.
With their weathered faces, dressed in pieces of sacking
for warmth, they trawled the marshes for cockles.
Once collected, the cockles had to be hauled back in
large sacks to the village, without help of man or
It was no wonder that the women of Stiffkey were known
thereabouts as Amazons, given their strength and
hardiness. You had to be tough to be a Stiffkey Cockler.
On one particular day the Stiffkey women were out as
usual gathering the ‘Stewkey Blues’.
We all told her, but she wouldn't listen, not her. Her
mother was the same, stubborn as a mule. Her mother was
a Stiffkey Cockler as well but at least she died in her
bed, not like her poor daughter.
It's hard work cockling. You get paid by the sack so if
you come back with only half a sack then you might have
to go hungry? Or one of your children?
Then, we have to carry those sacks, full of cockles, all
the way back to the village. You can't get no mule out
there, not out on those sand banks. But we're tough,
tough as old leather. That's why they call us Amazons
hereabouts. Though being tough don't make it any easier
when we lose one of our own.
But she wouldn't listen.
We all saw that the tide was turning; turning fast and
the weather was closing in quick. That's why we packed
up. None of us apart from Nancy, had a full sack but
half a sack and your life and a night with an empty
stomach is better than no life at all.
So we left the girl. Left her out there by herself still
gathering cockles out on Blacknock whilst we all came
back, came back home to our families and to safety.
There was nothing we could have done, she wouldn't
listen. Who could have known it was going to get that
bad and that quickly. Of course when she realised the
danger it was too late, the roke (fog) had descended. No
way could she find her way back. Don't even think Nancy
could have found her way back in a roke like that. Not
even with all her years of experience.
Our men folk tried to get to the girl. Well they could
hear her see. Out there in their boats on the sea they
could hear her calling and a screaming for help. My man
said he even heard her cursing and swearing. Raging
against the roke and the tide, even against God himself.
Then all of a sudden, he said, there was silence and he
could hear her no more, none of them could. So they
turned back, had to, too risky in all that roke in a
boat when you can't see where the mud banks be.
She's still out there of course.
No not her body. No, that we found the next day. Still
had her knife clasped in her hand and her sack a way off
still just half full. Seaweed there was, all tangled up
in her hair and her eyes. Well her eyes they were open,
glaring one might say, glaring at the injustice of it
all. No it's not her body out there, that be in the
churchyard, but her spirit, her restless spirit, that's
still out there. Now I cant spend my time gossiping I've
got to get on, got to get back and feed my family.
Now, don't you be thinking of going out there, not
No it's not cause of the tide. The tide has already
turned its on its way back out.
But there'll be a fog tonight; you can already see it
beginning to roll in from the sea.
No it's her, she's always much worse on foggy nights,
much more restless and noisy. Probably cause it was
foggy when she drowned.
No, she's far worse on foggy nights. On foggy nights you
may even see her. With all that seaweed still in her
hair. So you don't want to be thinking about going out
there, not by yourself, not out on Blacknock sandbank.