Tag Archives: cerne abbas

St Augustine’s Well……or is it!

25 May

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

We are continuing with our theme of ‘Quirky Dorset’ still and I think this is Part 19, and it is another well. It seems that a lot of wells have a lot of folklore written about them as legends and ‘Chinese whispers’ are passed down through the generations, and this one is no exception! So whose well is it? Lets look at the evidence 🙂 !

St Augustine’s Well

St Augustine's Well

St Augustine’s Well

St Augustine’s Well, as it is known, is in the lovely Dorset village of Cerne Abbas, of ‘Giant’ fame, and tradition has it that it owes its existence to St Augustine of Canterbury, hence the name. It seems that in the 7th century, St Augustine visited Dorset and he was travelling through the Cerne Valley before the current village existed and he met some shepherds. They were thirsty so the saint asked them if they would prefer water or ale to drink, and they, probably realising he was a saintly man, replied that they would prefer the former. The saint duly did what anyone would do and struck the ground with his staff, crying out Cerno El which apparently means ‘I perceive God’, whereupon water flowed from the spot.

Now this may be a correct and true story but the cynical in me thinks that might just be an invented tale, since there are others! I say ‘invented’ because people did do that sort of thing simply to attract visitors 🙂 !

St Augustine's Well

Ribbons Adorn the Tress

The second story in fact doesn’t credit it to St Augustine at all but rather another gentleman known as St Edwold. He was actually royalty, but became a hermit and settled in the area back in the 9th century, and he had a vision where he saw a silver well. He was walking through the Cerne Valley one day and being hungry, he bought bread and water from a shepherd, paying him with silver. The shepherd handed over the bread and brought him to this well to draw water, whereupon the saint immediately recognised the well he had seen in his vision.

Taking this as a sign, he built a hermitage on the site and stayed there until he died. Thus, perhaps this should be called St Edwold’s Well! Or maybe Silver Well, as it seems it was once known. Then again, some say that St Edwold’s Well is in fact a different well all together as there are a number in the area. These things are so confusing…..but that just adds to the intrigue 🙂 !

Fallen and Floating

Autumn Leaves in the Well

We will never know the truth, but we do know that this was recognised as a sacred place and that there was once a chapel built over the top of the well. This was lost in 1539 with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The well was until comparatively recent times used as drinking water by the villagers, although looking at my picture above, you probably wouldn’t want to try it in autumn with those rotting leaves 🙂 ! Oh, and apparently a 3 feet long eel was found in it not long ago 🙂 !

As with most wells, the water is said the have curative properties and also to aid fertility……which of course is also something that is said about the famous Giant on the hillside about which I blogged recently. It was said too to be beneficial to dip new born babies into the water! It wasn’t only fertility either, as young girls were often encouraged to come here and pray to St Catherine for a husband, turning round three times as they did so.

Oh, and there is another local legend that says if you look into the water over Easter, you will see reflected the faces of those who will die that year.

Path to the Well

The Quiet Tree Lined Path to the Well

Clearly, this is a mysterious and somewhat quirky place, and one that has been regarded for centuries as a holy place. To this day, people still tie written prayers on the surrounding trees. In fact there are 12 lime trees around the well and these are known locally as the twelve apostles.

St Augustine’s Well is a delightful place. It nestles in a hollow beside the graveyard and not far from the old abbey ruins. Peace and tranquility are words that spring to mind as you stroll down the tree lined path that leads to the well itself. This is a well that is perfect for a pilgrimage, or just to sit and meditate beside.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

 

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 10

15 Apr

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Our final entry for the week spent exploring ‘Quirky Dorset’ earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest public house in England, although that accolade no longer applies as we shall see. This is The Smith’s Arms.

The Smith’s Arms, Godmanstone

This diminutive one-time pub stands in the village of Godmanstone in the lovely Cerne Valley with its rippling stream that flows behind the pub. It is a flint and thatch building with a single bar just 15 feet by 11 foot 9 inches and a ceiling that is barely 6 feet high.

The Smith's Arms

The Smith’s Arms, Godmanstone

What is even more quirky than its size, is the way it is said to have become a pub! The building actually dates originally from 1420 and was as you have probably guessed, a Smithy. The story goes that King Charles II stopped here to have his horse shod, and asked for a drink of porter while he waited. The Smithy duly replied that he was unable to serve him because had no licence, whereupon the king immediately granted him one under Royal Charter. Thus it became a hostelry as well as a smithy.

It was run as a pub for many years by a brewery and was then sold, becoming a free house. This continued until just a few years ago when the last owner, a top jockey, became too ill to run it and it closed its doors for the last time.

I’m happy to say that I have had a drink in the bar here some years ago whilst it was still open. It was an interesting experience 🙂 ! In fact I only discovered that it had closed down when I was walking the valley a few years ago and decided that I would call in for lunch……..only to find that it was no longer open!

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.

Theme for the Week – Quirky Dorset Part 8

12 Apr

– – – Exploring The Countryside and Lanes of Dorset – – –

Continuing on the theme of ‘Quirky Dorset’, today we feature something rude 🙂 ! This is ancient graffiti, a hillside carved up, and X-rated to boot! This is the world famous Cerne Abbas Giant.

The Cerne Abbas Giant

The Cerne Giant

The Cerne Abbas Giant

This figure carved in the hillside above Cerne Abbas is shrouded in mystery……actually, maybe he should be shrouded in a cloak 🙂 ! There is considerable divergence of opinion on where he came from and how old he is, as well as why he is pictured thus!

Some say he is ancient with opinions varying between Saxon, Roman, Celtic and so on but in fact the first mention of him dates from the 17th century. That doesn’t mean he is not older, just that there is no documentary evidence. He stands 55 meters (180 feet) tall and almost as wide and he wields a club which itself is 37 meters (121 feet) long. His…….um, how shall I put it…….’manhood’ is 11 meters (36 feet) long. Studies over the years have shown that he once had a cloak draped over his left arm and that he possibly held or stood over a severed head but these features, if they were ever there, have been lost to erosion.

Again, there is much divergence of opinion on who he represents. Some say he is the Roman god Hercules, some say he is a Celtic god since a similar picture was found on a skillet handle at a nearby hill fort, others say that he could be a parody of Oliver Cromwell and that he was carved during the English Civil War. In truth, we shall probably never know and perhaps that is a good thing because maybe the mystery that surrounds him just adds to the intrigue.

On Giant Hill

The View from Giant Hill

Naturally, there is always a bit of folklore around such things 🙂 ! It has been said that he marks the outline of a real giant, possibly from Denmark, who was beheaded by brave locals as he slept on the hillside. And of course there is folklore around fertility, such as the belief that making love whilst laying on one particular part of his anatomy can cure infertility……….the mind boggles! Oh, and of course, he gets up now and then and walks to the stream at the bottom of the valley for a drink. Well, its thirsty work laying on a hillside 🙂 !

Now, to be contentious for a moment! If this were modern and was carved anywhere, or if a piece of graffiti was drawn like this, there would be a public outcry and undoubtedly the local authority would obscure the offending image quicker than you could say, ‘The young people of today’! So how come this one is perfectly acceptable? One wonders what would happen if a graffiti artist was up in court for producing lewd images and pleaded the acceptance of the Cerne Abbas Giant as a defence 🙂 ! In fact, in 1921 someone raised this issue, possibly a bit tongue in cheek, and his suggestion that part should be covered with a giant leaf gained some support, ultimately going all the way to the Home Office. Their reaction was that since the giant is an ancient monument, it could not be interfered with!

So that is the Cerne Abbas Giant, which I think fits the description of quirky 🙂 ! All things aside though, this is real Dorset history and the giant resides on a beautiful Dorset hillside where you will find some great walking and some fabulous views. Always worth a visit……..but probably don’t try the so called fertility cure, you might get arrested 🙂 !

Thanks for stopping by.

Until tomorrow,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler

If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@gmail.com – comments and feedback are always welcomed.

All photographs, poems and words in this blog are the copyright of The Dorset Rambler and must not be reproduced without permission.