– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –
Today, we continue our theme of ‘Quirky Dorset’ and for Part 18 I though we could take a look at one of Dorset’s many wells, and a wonderful place it is too! This is in part a natural and mesmerising wonder, delightful to watch and listen to. This is the so called Wishing Well at Upwey.
The Wishing Well, Upwey
Although this is known as the Wishing Well, it is not strictly a well at all but rather is a natural spring which is the source of the River Wey which flows from Upwey to Weymouth some 5 miles downstream. It is believed to date back to the last Ice Age and was at one time the village’s water supply. It is at this point where, because of the formation of rock, sand and clay, water literally bubbles its way to the surface from the underground stream. The water is always clear and maintains a steady temperature of 10.5 degrees.
Although this is a natural phenomenon, it is one that has over the years been harnessed by man as an attraction to draw people into the area, and that includes royalty because it is said to have been something of a favourite place for King George III. In fact, the stone seat next to the well was specifically built for him. When he visited, he drank the waters from a special gold cup which interestingly became the original prize for a horse race known as the Ascot Gold Cup. In addition, it is said that Queen Charlotte and also HRH Edward, Prince of Wales both visited.
The royal connections continued because further changes were made to the site in 1887 when arches were added above the seat to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria.
One of the quirky things about this place is that there was a very specific way to drink the water! This involved filling a glass, drinking part of it with your back to the well, and then throwing the remainder over your left shoulder back into the well, making a wish as you did so. Such was the popularity of this practice that some villagers were appointed to help visitors with the process. Naturally, with modern health and safety requirements in mind, the practice is no longer encouraged.
One further change is that in recent years, the practice of dressing the well has taken place for May Day. This is a custom that is more associated with the Peak District but that has now come south to this Dorset well.
The Wishing Well is a place that was for centuries just a natural ‘welling up’ of water to the surface and which was only popularised in the 19th century when the term ‘Wishing’ was added. Today, with its attached gardens and tea rooms, it is still a popular place. And deservedly so because it is quite magical to just sit and listen to the birds, the bees and the babbling spring.
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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