The Well and the Water Board

 by Helen Woodley

The parishioners of Stoke St Milborough, Shropshire, care enough about their village to have produced an excellent little booklet, A Quart in a Pint Pot, which is on sale locally. The curator of Ludlow Museum remarks in it – ‘….it really is good to know there are still unspoiled places such as Stoke St Milborough….’. He apparently missed another comment in the booklet – ‘The well was a lovely romantic spot until the Water Board dealt with it.’

I am prompted by Laurens Otter’s mention of this spot in Source (First Series) issue 6, to bring a few additional observations to your attention. The well and its surrounds are in a most horrible state. Carefully planted shrubs and trees still grow in the well enclosure, but its sparkling waters are now imprisoned under two rectangular green padlocked covers and are only permitted to escape through a long outlet pipe below. The field in which the well enclosure is sited is in an appalling mess, with mounds of dumped subsoil and rusting heaps of machinery in every corner. It gave me the impression that it has been earmarked as the next building site, but I might be wrong.

The shame is that this once was, and potentially still is, a most gorgeous spot. A mile or so up the road we were stunned by the views, which took us right over the whole span Herefordshire to the holy Skirrid mountain near Abergavenny and westwards to prominent Welsh features such as the Whimble and Black Mixen. The distance to the Skirrid is an incredible forty-four miles. Stoke St Milborough itself is a most peaceful place (at least on a Sunday), and the well faces the east end of the church across a small valley. From the well’s vicinity the top of the church tower touches the further horizon.

The lady I spoke to at the church tried almost to dissuade me from visiting the well, so shocked was she by what had happened to it, even though she said it was done before she came to live in the village, seventeen years ago.

Here are local people who care. What can we do to help? Does anyone have any experience of introducing the concept of sacred sites to Water Board officials? Just as I was leaving a final ironic note came from the church. The congregation was singing ‘All things bright and beautiful…’

Text © Helen Woodley (1989)

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