Etwall Well Dressing

On Saturday afternoon we took the opportunity to see the well dressings at nearby Etwall, a village located to the south-west of Derby.

Well dresssing is a custom observed in over 50 villages around Derbyshire; Etwall probably being the most southerly of them all. Most are in the Peak District and Derbyshire Dales where they have been held for hundreds of years. Etwall is a relative new comer to well dressing as it was first celebrated in the village in 1970.

This year, Etwall celebrated with 8 wells, all decorated by various organisations in the village, including a wonderful example by the local primary school.

A blessing of the wells service was held in the morning to officially open the festival. In addition to the well dressings there was entertainment and activities for the whole family, various craft stalls and demonstrations and a special flypast by the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight Lancaster. This was of particular interest to a number of residents and their families who work for Rolls Royce in nearby Derby. ‘Royces’ built the engines for the Lancasters in WW2.

The true origins of Well Dressing are unclear. Some accounts say it developed from a pagan custom of making sacrifice to the gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. Like many folk traditions, it was later adopted by the Christian Church as a way of giving thanks to God for His gift to us of water.

In the early days, the dressing of wells would have taken the form of simple arrangements of flowers and other natural materials. The unique Derbyshire tradition of elaborate pictures made for the most part of individual flower petals pressed onto clay covered boards seems to date from Victorian times, when there were many movements afoot to revive and enhance old folk traditions. It can take up to seven days to make and soak the clay covered boards and then decorate them.

Daffodil time

On my previous post, one follower commented ‘I can’t wait for the daffodils’. Well here they are in and around Newton Solney.

Church Lane, Newton Solney

The avenue of trees is Church Lane which once was an essential thoroughfare leading to fords in the nearby River Trent which could have been crossed on horseback. St. Mary the Virgin’s church is the oldest building in the village and was originally a “chapel of ease”, one of eight such chapels owned by Repton Priory in 1271. A “chapel of ease” was one where parishioners could worship to save them from having to travel to the parish church.

St Mary the Virgin’s Church
By the Trent

February fill dyke

This photograph of nearby fields is my take on an old country saying ‘February fill the dyke, be it black or be it white; but if it be white, it’s the better to like.’ The saying perfectly describes early February when full dykes or ditches is a good sign that there is a plentiful and vital supply of water in the ground for the crops growing in the months ahead. The water can be from rain (black) or snow (white). Good for the crops, but not quite so good for walkers wishing to use footpaths. Sturdy, waterproof boots are certainly required.

There is a famous painting with the same name by Benjamin Williams Leader, first exhibited in 1881. February Fill Dyke was greeted with lukewarm reviews when it was exhibited at the Royal Academy but it became popular at later showings in Manchester for the Royal Jubilee Exhibition.

February fill dyke by Benjamin Williams Leader 1881

My search for more information about the painting revealed that the scene was not painted in February but is actually a November evening after rain. Artistic license perhaps? Having discovered that, I have no qualms about telling you that my photo was taken in January and not February!

Trees have personalities

Trees have personalities but firstly – our new postbox. You may like to see where your postcard’s journey starts! Just made the 4pm collection.

I have often driven along the lane where these trees are but as the road is quite narrow I have never stopped the car to take a photo. Now just a 10 minute walk from home, and the winter sun making a welcome appearance this afternoon, there was no excuse.

I was reminded of the words of Eddie Askew…

“Trees have personalities. They’re individuals. Tall or bushy, thick or thin, well-established or struggling, they’re like people, each with its own character. Sometimes as I walk around, I look at people and try to work out what sort of tree they are. Just for fun of course.”

Just to reverse that, can you work out what sort of people this triplet of trees would be as they quietly keep watch over the crops and seasons, year in year out? Just for fun of course.