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.

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!

Friday flowers – more Spring blooms

Our walk this morning took us by this most colourful display in a garden at Melbourne (South Derbyshire, not Australia!)

Closer to home and back on the school run the bank on the lane to school (see the previous post). This week it’s the turn of the bluebells to shine.

Friday Flowers – Primroses

Collecting our granddaughter from school yesterday was meant to be just that and not a photographic expedition. However, when we arrived at this grassy bank, now bursting into life with spring flowers, I couldn’t resist reaching into my pocket for my mobile phone and taking this photograph of primroses.

I almost forgot to mention the forget-me-nots which were making a more subtle appearance but I did remember the quote ‘The best camera is the one you have with you’. How true is that?