Later in the week I spent a very enjoyable morning talking with residents in Cullompton at their craft fair (I’d really recommend this, held in The Walronds gardens every two weeks) Iain Emmett told me that there are Springs all around Cullompton and Wells recorded in many of the old houses. So it seems likely that there are many more than the six wells found in the archaeological records. The one found that Antony knew of in Cullompton was called St George’s Well and found with Roman coins nearby and a bronze figure of Bacchus. Bacchus is the Roman God of wine. He’s associated with dancing, wild trance states and was said to have many women followers – I always think he’s rather exciting.
Bacchus takes me to the tale of the Minotaur – do you know it? The terrifying creature, half man, half bull who must have 14 human sacrifices every year. It was the king’s daughter, Ariadne, who helped the hero Theseus to escape. In modern historical tellings Ariadne is betrayed by Theseus and abandoned with Bacchus and his followers. But it always struck me – maybe it would be more fun to be with Bacchus, singing, dancing, being wild, than being a meek Greek wife. So the Bacchus figure found in Cullompton makes me think, was there once some wildness here? Crazy trance dancing, drum beating, voice freeing, arms waving, letting in the spirit of land and waters, letting them flow through….and what of Ariadne?
Talking to other residents in Cullompton at the craft fair, I started to build up a stronger and stronger picture of just how important water is in this town. In the past water was a friend, supporting many industries, farming, leather making, the wool trade, paper making and more. But in recent times it seems that this friend has become like an old unwanted wife. She’s pushed around the back of the town, barely visible, she’s silting up leats, causing problems in the Weirs, new houses build on her meadows, she floods, uncontainable, uncontrollable again and again. But there are clearly some who are aware of her beauty. Some who do want to listen to her and find out what it is that she is trying to say. People are frustrated that her leats are silted up with rubbish, they know she is an asset to this ancient town but how to make this real?
The more I explore this landscape the more I fall in love with it. It seems to be longing to run, gush and sing with water but at the moment, so much of it unseen.