Burley is a pretty village in the New Forest, where ponies and cattle roam freely around the streets. It is one of the few remaining villages where “Commoning” is still practised. This tradition allows animals to graze on the open forest. Burley attracts many visitors, not only for its picturesque thatched cottages, but for its association with witchcraft, magic and fairies. There are many gift shops specialising in these old customs.
The association of witchcraft with Burley, stems from Sybil Leek, a witch who lived here in the 1950s and wore a long black coat and had a pet jackdaw on her shoulder. As some villagers believed her to be a wicked witch, she moved to America, where she wrote many books about the occult, including ‘Diary of a Witch’.
At weekends the village is very busy with visitors, who are well catered for in the tea shops and inns. The 16th century Queens Head pub was frequented by smugglers and highwaymen. Burley is a centre for cycling, walking and horse riding in the surrounding heathland, which is covered in purple heather in late summer.
An annual two day Fairy Festival is held in Burley Park. It attracts increased numbers of visitors every year, many of whom, both children and adults, come dressed in spectacular fairy and witch costumes. The “fairies” enjoy live music, storytelling and the many varied exhibitors displaying art and craft items, fairy clothes, gothic hats and healing and spiritual jewellery. There is also a healing area, offering Akashic therapy sessions, reflexology, clairvoyant readings and other psychic readings.