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 Post subject: Hello!
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 7:57 am 
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I thought I would pop in for a bit and introduce myself. I live in California but just recently returned from a year in England, volunteering in Chalice Well Gardens and travelling around exploring Holy Wells. I miss England deeply right now, though I am happy to be home. There is something that just keeps calling me back no matter how I grouse about the food! :lol: The watery-ness of England thrills me deeply.

While I was there I read James Rattue's book, Quiller Couch and Broadhurst on Cornish Wells, as well as many local tourist guide-type pamphlets. I lived in Wells - where else - and every day spent an hour in the morning writing in the garden behind the Cathedral where the wells are. And every afternoon I would go volunteer at Chalice Well. On the weekends I would explore various counties - mostly in the Suthwest, but also all the way to Cumbria and Yorkshire - and track down Holy Wells. I have many favorites but the Silver Well at Cerne Abbas I returned to over and over again. I started to clean it up a bit, mostly just removing some silt whenever I visited, so the water could flow more freely. The Silver Well at Cerne Abbas makes my soul sing! I have dreams of seeing it planted with white roses. I would be happy to know what is happening to the row of beeches there. Does anyone know? They have been rather drastically pruned - or is this preliminary to cutting them down?

Also while I was there, I developed a bit of a passion for baptismal fonts as a continuation of the Holy Spring experience. I popped into just about every village church I came across. My favorite is the font at St. James, Avebury - isn't it everybody's? Though the font at St. Mary's, Morenstow runs a very close second.

While I love folklore, and truly appreciate the contribution Rattue has made with his book, I must be honest and say that it is the mystic experience of the Well, of the Spring, that draws me to be involved. I am amazed that so many people share this interest in Wells, for whatever reason, and would love to hear more of people's personal experiences with wells, and what draws them to them. I am happy that this forum exists and I hope it thrives.


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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 11:40 am 
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Hello and Welcome to the Forum!

Sound like you had a fascinating trip around England. I have never actually seen Silver Well, but I have always wanted to, and will get there one day. I am not sure about the trees. The latest picture I have seen of the site was at the end of 2006 and everything looks okay in that, but if anyone has a more recent picture please feel free to tell us what it shows.

I wonder if you have read any books by Cheryl Straffon, who writes a lot about Cornish Holy Wells and edits the quarterly Meyn Mamvro.

I must admit, that Holy Wells can create some strange experiences. I remember being part of the NWI field unit that surveyed St Cuby’s Well in Cornwall. The Well is a baptistery with a chamber with seating extending 2 or so metres into the gloom before the Well is reached, which is in a back chamber. We had looked at a number of wells before this one and all our equipment was fine, but on this Well, our primary and backups torches both failed. One of our group had a lighter and we lit that [outside the Well], and as the flame fizzled on the stone at the back of the lighter shot into the Well chamber, past the seating and landed with a splash in the Well at the very back of the building. We did not get many volunteers to go into the well chamber to retrieve it. In time we were going to the next Well for survey, and during an equipment check everything worked again.
:?


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 Post subject: Thanks for the welcome...
PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 6:01 pm 
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That's an amazing story...St. Cuby is a beautiful well. What does the NWI do? Is it government run? Is there an index/list of al the wells? I think there should be little brown signs on the roads indicating a holy well nearby as you drive along. The symbol could be a gentle spiral. Would the NWI be in a position to do this or to do a map with all the wells indicated? Is it a volunteer organization, or does it accept volunteers?

The Silver Well, also called in it's Christian 'persona', St. Augustine's Well, lies at the end of a short row of beech trees - 12 in all - which proceed down a gentle slope. So the well - there's no well house, just shallow square 'basins' - is situated in a small declivity. According to Rattue, this is a classic formation. The beeches are referred to as the 'twelve apostles', but then they would be, with the parish church and the ruins of the abbey right there. The water flows out into a small marsh which turns into a duck pond. It is the archetypal pagan well, more so because the Giant is just over the hill. The beeches looked fine in the summer, but then this February, they had been 'trimmed' almost down to just their trunks. It was horrifying, actually. And no one in Cerne Abbas could say why. I think I have some photos, if there's a way to post them.

The thing that is so amazing about the Silver Well is that the water does seem alive in a silvery, mercurial sort of way. I've noticed this about the different waters...they have intensely different qualities, not just in tast and in colour, but in 'texture', 'substance' and flow.

Also there's a really good pub nearby. :wink:

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2007 6:24 pm 
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The colour of Well water is often quite varied. At certain times of year the waters are supposed to be more efficacious [for example] than at others, and the collection of this water is called milking the Well. Silver Well sounds so lovely and your response has taught me a lot of things I did not know about the site. I must go and see it. I would love you to post some pictures of it to this site, but unfortumately we are constrained by a smallish bandwith limit at the moment and solving that problem requires a discussion with our IT guy before posting is allowed.

With regard to signs, I agree, more signs for Wells. There is actually a tiny wee snippet talking about signposts on the Fieldwork section of the NWI site because much to my amazement some do in fact have the little brown heritage signs and Madron Well in fact has a proper road sign pointing to it from some directions. However speaking from experience there are not enough road signs.

The NWI itself is a private project so no government funding :( run by a group of people interested in Holy Wells. Basically the Index of the title is a central database of all the Wells we have information on listing all known images, fieldwork, history, customs etc. Most of our work is taken up by identifying a Well from records and then sending out a field team to record it, make sure it is all okay and so forth. But we also monitor some key sites to make sure they do not deteriorate. This is where I am involved in my 'official' capacity [im also site admin here but thats not part of my 'official' involvement], as NWI archaeologist.

In fact all our key/perminent officers are volunteers who are specailists in their fields. I am a trained archaeologist and Roman finds specialist by day. We also have, for example, an Educational officer, publications editor and archivist who are likewise specialists in their respective fields.

That said, we do work with interested people and groups, and we do have positions open for many of our programs, for example, we are always looking for people to be field assistants, and these positions should be listed at this forum as they come up.


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 Post subject: I wold love to have volunteered
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 7:05 am 
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I'm so sorry I didn't know of this group while I was in the UK; I would have loved to volunteer. I feel strongly about the heritage of Holy Wells! Obviously! Actually, to be more precise, I feel very strongly that the British Isles and the British people make a powerful contribution to world heritage by maintaining these sites which are to me, almost like lynchpins to an archetypal space. I have read one guide book by Cheryl Straffon to Cornish Wells. I found it very helpful. I'd like to get a hold of more of her books. But I don't know the quarterly you mentioned. Is it about wells?

Did not get to Madron this past year. That is mostly because the experience I had the first time visiting it in 2000 was so perfect that I don't wish to ever try to top it or dilute it. So this is the first I've heard of it being 'landscaped' so to speak. I hope - no, I trust it was done in sensitive fashion. Madron is a very very magical place. All of Cornwall is, IMO.

Which key sites does the NWI monitor? I'm trying to guess which they would be. Your work sounds fascinating.

And what's this about a bibliography that the NWI assembled? did I read that correctly?

Alsp : Are you, this form, and the NWI website linked on the Chalice Well website? I know that the CW website is undergoing reconstruction, but they have had in the past, links to other sites focused on wells, e.g. a link to the online version of The Source.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2007 7:55 pm 
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Don’t worry we have lots of volunteer for all sorts of programs. Keep an eye on our press release section from time to time and you will see our requests for volunteers.

Cheryl Straffon’s quarterly publication in Meyn Mamvro, but this is about a range of ‘ancient stone and sacred sites in Cornwall’ although Holy Wells crop up quite often as an article or two, e.g.: http://nwi.skyphos.co.uk/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=34

We monitor a range of sites. The most important, depending on how you evaluate importance, are the Tissington Wells which we re-survey every year or two. In fact the survey team is becoming quite well known by some of the house owners who overlook some of the Wells. We make sure that no damage occurs to the Wells and if does, and is not repaired by the excellent local Well committee, then we will step in. I am yet to see the details of what was done at Madron, and there are some spectacularly awful well ‘conservation’ projects out there, but the key features I remember being at the Well do seem to have been largely retained. I think it is really a trade off. Making better access removes some of the threats from other quarters, and the question is, is this is a good or bad trade. The most detailed info I have on the new state of the Well is from FOCUS http://www.cornishancientsites.com/Madr ... tistry.pdf

Yup the bibliography is all finished. The Publications Editor who periodically skulks about on this forum will correct me if I am wrong, but as I understand it, it is an occasional paper. This means it is one step up from an archive paper, a bound article if you will, that is generally short and is used to explain or promote a new standard that the NWI is adopting without waiting to publish a series of papers together. In this case it is a standardised indexing system for bibliographic records and a short historiography of Holy Well studies. It will be expanded and re-issued periodically. Not exactly sure when it will be released but hopefully within a month or so.

As for the Chalice Well website, I don’t think we are on their links page, however, we would very much like to be. I did not know they were reconstructing the website, but I would be happy to drop them an email telling them about the NWI site and this forum.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 3:48 pm 
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Should add that Cheryl Straffons major book on Holy Wells is still available, re. Ed's review: http://nwi.skyphos.co.uk/phpbb/viewtopic.php?t=46


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 Post subject: re : Cheryl Straffon's 'Fentynow Kernow'
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 7:01 pm 
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Yes! I have read this book and put it to very good use while travelling through Cornwall. It is very sensitively written; that's why
I was interested that she had a journal as well. I picked up my copy at the Tourist Info Center in Tintagel. She was just part of the Megalithomania Conference in Glastonbury, which was broadcast over Glastonbury Radio, on the Internet, but I missed her contribution. I'm hoping they will re-broadcast.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 7:56 pm 
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I also missed Cheryl Straffons talk at the Megalithomania Conference, but I bet if she has a copy or knows of one she will be happy to share/point you in the right direction.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2007 3:04 pm 
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Picking up this thread, there is now a way to share images, which can also be linked to this forum, at the NWI ARC project which can be found here: http://archive.nationalwellsindex.org.uk

Here is a pic of a postcard of Silver Well [discussed above] from the NWI archives, showing on ARC:
Image


Last edited by rik_na1 on Wed Oct 31, 2007 11:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2007 5:55 am 
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Oh! Look how beautiful that well is! Today there is a stone bench commemoratin the millenium, and to the right, where it seems to just end, it is opened and flowing into a small marshland/villae duck pond. I just love that well. Thanks for posting that card.

P.S. I'll post some photos as soon as I can

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