Well Hopper

Exploring the ancient holy wells and healing wells of North Wales


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Llanfihangel Din Sylwy

cropped signDin Sylwy is a large limestone outcrop in eastern of Anglesey, lying between the village of Llanddona and the coast. Standing out in the surrounding countryside it is one of the largest hill forts on the island, having been the defensive home of the local Iron Age population and later of the Roman incomers who occupied the site in the third and fourth centuries. Later it was quarried to provide stone to build the Menai Bridge.

 On its western slopes lies the small church of Llanfihangel din Sylwy, St Michael’s. Like a number of small Anglesey churches it is now alone in fields, having been deserted by the community that once surrounded it. The surviving church building is a small simple construction dating from the early fifteenth century, and retaining some of its medieval features although it was largely rebuilt in 1855, an event marked by the date carved roughly into the stone to the left of the doorway. It now hosts just occasional services on summer Sunday mornings and we were unable to see inside during our visit.

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Its main attraction to us was the remains of a well, which lies outside the church gate, some 20 yards up the slope of Din Sylwy. The well too is largely forgotten, although a relatively well worn track led the way, suggesting that some people at least still visit, although some of the local residents we mentioned it to were unaware of its existence.

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We are not aware of any dedication for the well and although it has been marked consistently on OS maps no name is given to it. The Welsh Ancient Monuments record, Coflein, notes helpfully that

“There is no reason to suppose that this was a holy well and no definite evidence that it was not”

Tristam Gray Hulse has reasonably suggested that perhaps it may well be a lost St Michael’s Well following the dedication of the church, and one of a number of such wells across North Wales. This is based purely by association with the church and not with any evidence to support it.

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The well is cut into the hillside. A narrow outlet lined with stone and roofed with two large flat stone slabs. Two small steps descend into the water which was some three feet deep at the bottom of the recess.

This is in itself interesting since the Coflein record also states that

“The spring is said to have been boxed in with stones, although no trace could subsequently be found of this”

That, and the state of preservation of the well suggest that at some time in recent history the well may have been reconstructed to some degree.

Judging by tracks left in branches and leaves on the hillside it is probable that at times the well overflows its tank, the weather had been particularly wet at the time of our visit.

From this well we climbed Din Sylwy and crossed the flat top of the fortress. A vast circular expanse, ringed around by a lip of stone walling has earned the monument the name Bwrdd Arthur – Arthur’s Table. Although the sea is close by it was virtually invisible through the low mist and drizzle which has set in by then.

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On the opposite side of the hill we approached Llanddona beach, famed in local legend as the arrival point of the notorious Llanddona witches, who were reputed to have come ashore here at some unremembered point in history.

Baring Gould [1] surmises that these were probably Irish criminals who had been set adrift from the coast of Ireland in a curricle with no rudder or paddles, this was a traditional punishment; although other legends identify them as being of Spanish descent.

On reaching the shore they begged the local inhabitants for food and water, but the locals feared these strange foreign seafarers and refused trying to force them back into the sea. However, the leader struck the earth with his staff, bringing forth a stream of clear cold water. In fear of this display the locals backed off, and the newcomers were enabled to stay.

They promptly set up home in the area and lived for several generations amongst but separate from the local population. The men lived by smuggling; the legend tells that it was impossible to overcome them, since each carried about with him a black fly tied in a knot of his neckerchief. When their strength failed in a fight they would undo the knots of their cravats, and the flies would fly at the eyes of their opponents and blind them.

Meanwhile, the women survived by witchcraft. They were dreaded, since they would curse anyone who refused them food and if they attended a market no one dared to bid against them.

Baring Gould quotes one such curse

May he wander for ages
And find at each step a stile
And at every stile a fall
And at every fall a broken bone
Not the largest nor the least bone
But the chief neck bone each time

It is probable that, like most of those associated with witchcraft they most likely had a good knowledge of medicinal herbs cures and fortune telling , and were resorted to in times if illness and worry.

They are remembered still in local legends and folk tales of the island. They are also remembered at Ffynnon Oer – the Cold Spring, said to be the spring that they caused to flow on their arrival, and the well around which they made their home.

Ffynnon Oer still flows, and still provides the main water source, now pumped and filtered, for the current occupiers of the house on whose land it flows. Here Bella Fawr, the greatest of the witches, is remembered for the good that she did, rather than for any evil. She is imagined to be a midwife for the local population and a healer, and there are stories that the well was also used for baptisms of those born in the area.

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From Ffynnon Oer we headed south to Llaniestyn close to Llanddona, to search for the church and holy well of St Iestyn. Here is another church largely deserted by its community; and although we think we found the well in a small wood close by, it was so wet and dark by then that it wasn’t possible to take pictures. This site will have to await a return visit and a new posting.

[1] S Baring Gould (1903) A Book of North Wales. Methuen.

We would like to thank the owners of Ff Oer for their time and assistance and allowing us to visit their well

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Ffynnon Dudwen, Llandudwen

St Tudwen’s Well
Ffynnon Dudwen is situated in a field a couple of hundred yards from the little church of Llandudwen around two miles to the east of  Tudweiliog.

In the twentieth century it was generally stated that the well was lost, but efforts by local enthusiasts and Gwynedd Council in recent years have led to the rediscovery and restoration of the well so that it can once again be visited.

Tudwen is said to have been one of the many daughters of Brychan Brycheiniog (alongside Ceinwen and Dwynwen), although she does not appear in the majority of lists of his children. The church at Llandudwen is the only church that bears her name. It is suggested that the church was founded on the site of Tudwen’s grave in the fifth century.

The present church, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, is accessed down a narrow tree lined pathway. The church was once at the centre of a larger community, however population has drifted away from the area, the parish being abolished in 1934 and split between Tudweiliog and Buan. The church is however still active and used regularly for services.

To find the well from the church walk back about 100 yards on the track towards the road, where a new kissing gate has been constructed. Go through the gate and cross an exceedingly boggy field to a second gate. From this gate cross a stile and the well is found marked by a wooden cross.

Historic records of the well described it as having been of a semi circular form, supported at the rear with stonework in the embankment. Site clearance in 2010 enabled the restoration team to identify the basic shape, although little of the original construction remained visible. Since then local craftsmen have been involved in restoring the well and the area surrounding it.

Although fairly overgrown in August on our visit, the rear stone wall is clearly visible, with flatter stones sunk into the ground to form a front lip to the well basin.

Traditionally the well was held in great repute for cures for sore eyes, rheumatism, epilepsy and numbness. Devotes would throw money or pins into the well when seeking cure. Jones (1954) records that in the past clandestine weddings were solemnised at the well and that the water was regularly used for baptism.

St Tudwen’s Day is variously given as October 22nd or October 27th.


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Llanddwyn Island

Llanddwyn Island lies on the south west corner of Anglesey, close to the village of Newborough. Although in the past it was an island, it is now so only at the highest tides, It was at one time connected to the mainland by a stione built causeway, today it is possible to walk across a sand bar that has gradually formed to link it to Newborough beach. In summer months there is a constant stream of visitors to the island which seems to be leading to ever increasing measures to create paths and fences to direct walkers, and reduce erosion.

 

The island is the site of a church established by St Dwyn, more commonly known as Dwynwen (holy or blessed Dwyn). She was a sister to Ceinwen, commemorated nearby at Cerrigceinwen and Llangeinwen; and one of twenty four daughters of Brychan, king in Brecon. Her first church here was supposedly founded in the late fifth century.. St Dwynwen’s church was already virtually ruined by the seventeenth century, however small portions still remain, along with the traces of the monastery buildings. It is said that hoping to cash in on the benefits of the shrine a a Benedictine monastery was established on the island in the Middle Ages. No visible evidence of the monastery remains, and it is generally considered now that it never actually  existed.

St Dwynwen is known throughout Wales as the patron saint of lovers, effectively a Welsh saint Valentine, and her wells and shrine have been visited constantly, even after the ruin of the church. The parish at Llanddwyn was at one time among the wealthiest in North Wales due largely to the offerings left by visitors to Dwynwen’s shrine, and from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries it was considered the richest prebend in the principality. Wax candles were kept constantly burning at Dwynwen’s shrine, possibly a golden image of St Dwynwen was displayed and here “A thousand broken hearts her power invoked”

The church was largely abandoned following the reformation and local residents removed and re-used wood, stone and lead from the  building. The community that grew up around the church dispersed, and some houses were lost to the sea.
In the late eighteenth up until the early twentieth centuries, the island was inhabited again, as beacons were built and pilots housed to guide ships into St Georges Channel. The rocks off shore had historically been the cause of numerous wrecks on a then busy shipping route. At present the beacon, lighthouse and old lifeboat station remain, although unused. The pilot’s cottages have been converted into a small museum which reflects the life of Dwynwen and recreates that of the more recent inhabitants of the island.

Traditionally lovers would visit her well or shrine to divine the identity of future partners or to test whether existing love would last. According to accounts of her life, Dwynwen was loved by Maelon Dafrodill, whom she loved in return. However, he was said to have made inappropriate advances, which she rejected; and as a result he stormed off, spreading rumours and gossip to besmirch her reputation as he went. Heartbroken, Dwynwen swore that she would never love again and prayed to God to cure her of her love. God granted that in future she should never wish to be married, and also her wish that all other true hearted lovers should either obtain their desires or be cured of their passions. He also finally released Maelon at her request, whom he had temporarily frozen into a block of ice. Dwynwen then took the veil and founded her church on Llanddwyn Island.

Not only lovers resortedto the shrine, Dwynwen’s well also gained the reputation for curing aches, stitches and pleurisy. Her church also developed a reputation for the cure of farmer’s beasts. The following story is widely reported.

Around the year 1650 the ploughing oxen at Bodeon took fright when at work, ran over a steep cliff and perished in the sea. This occurred on St Mark’s Day and the farmer concluded that it was due punishment for working on the saint’s feast day. To prevent future accidents he decreed that this day should henceforward be kept as a holiday and that two wax candles should be burned on that day in the porch of Dwynwen’s church. This practice was maintained well into the eighteenth century, the owner of the farm and other local farmers paying to maintain the church porch for this purpose at a time when the remainder of the church was in ruins.

There are three wells of note in the immediate area, Crochan Llanddwyn on the mainland and,on the island itself, are found both Dwynwen’s own well and also Ffynnon y Sais.

Crochan Llanddwyn

Crochan Llanddwyn, Llanddwyn’s Cauldron, is a pool on the mainland, hidden in the Newborough forest a little way off the road that runs from the toll gate to the beach car park. It was to this pool that the youth of the area would come to predict the course of their love. Perhaps as her island shrine fell into ruin, devotions paid at the shrine were transferred to this well. Another widely reproduced account; this by William Williams of Llandegai who recorded many local customs in the early 1800s records that

There was a spring of clear water, now choked up by sand, at which an old woman from Newborough always attended and prognosticated the lovers’ success from the movements of some small eels which waved out of the sides of the well, on spreading the lovers’ handkerchief on the surface of the water. I remember an old woman saying that when she was a girl she consulted the woman at this well about her desting with respect to a husband, on spreading her handkerchief out popped an eel from the north side of the well and soon after another crawled out from the south side. Then the woman told her that her husband would be a stranger from the south part of Caernarvonshire. Soon after, it happened, that three brothers came from that part and settled in the area, one of whom made his addresses to her and in a little time married her. So much of the prophecy I remember. This couple was my father and mother. [1]

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The pool is not currently clear, rather it was choked with pond weed on our visit and no eels were to be seen.

Ffynnon Dwynwen, Ffynnon Fair, Ffynnon Dafaden

Dwynwen’s Well is considered a little problematical. There are records of a well dedicated to St Dwynwen, also often called Ffynnon Fair (St Mary’s Well) on the island although its precise location has been open to dispute. Although Dwynwen’s well was certainly resorted to for its curative powers there also remains some confusion over whether the lovers’ ceremonies were performed at Crochan Llanddwyn as described above or at St Dwynwen’s Well on the island, though i believe the former to be the correct location. Some sources state that the well on the island it is now lost.

There is a well on the island clearly marked on most maps as Ffynnon Dafaden (wart well). It has been recorded that at some period in history this well was resorted to for the cure of warts, and numbers of corks with pins stuck into them, a part of the wart cure ritual, were to be found in the well.

It is more than probable that this well is that dedicated to St Dwynwen. It lies high on a cliff above the sea on the north side of the island, little more than about 50 yards from the church. The water cascades from the well over the rocks into the sea. On our most recent visit the pool was swarming with little tadpoles.

Dwynwen, who is remembered for the maxim “There is none so loveable as the cheerful”, has been the subject of numerous celebratory songs and poems over the centuries.

Dafydd ab Gwilyn (ca 1315-1350) commences:

 Dwynwen, your beauty like the hoar-fros’s tears:
from your chancel with its blazing waxen candles
well does your golden image know
how to assuage the griefs of wretched men.
What a man so ever would keep vigil in your choir
(a holy, shining pilgrimage), (you with) Inded’s radiance,
there is no sickness nor heart’s sorrow
which he would carry with him thence from Llanddwyn.
[2]

 

St Dwynwen’s Day is celebrated on January 25th.

Ffynnon y Sais

On the same side of the island, a little closer to the mainland is Ffynnon y Sais. This is a small fresh water spring that emerges from the shingle at the top of the beach and runs in a small stream across the beach towards the sea. I am unaware of any traditions or stories relating to the spring, it is relatively small, and probably just noted as a source of fresh water; however the bay in which it is located is called Trwyn  Ffynnon y Sais

A final notable feature on the island, close to the path that leads onto the island is actually marked on the visitor’s display boards as an old well. This is the feature generally known as Merddin Cil. It is a narrow stone lined chamber that goes down to a depth of some ten feet. Its purpose is unknown, however there is no evidence of it ever having held water or having been a well

 

NOTE
On a visit in September 2012 we noted that excavations had been taking place inside the church. The floor level had been taken down, exposing the footings of all the external walls. Turf had been cut back to show the circular external wall around the area. One of the remaining window arches has also been taken down for restoration. The site is apparently being restored and conserved, with interpretative material to be displayed on site. BBC News Item 

– for more information on the work being carried out see comment below from Tim Morgan.

[1] William Williams Manuscripts, quoted by Baring-Gould and Fisher in Lives of the British Saints

[2] Selected Poems of Dafyyd Ap Gwilym. Translated by Rachel Bromwich Penguin Books 1985   Quoted at http://teifidancer-teifidancer.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/prayer-to-st-dwynwen-daffyd-ap-gwilym.html

There is an interesting general blog that covers Newborough and Llanddwyn Island here


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Goblins’ Well, Mold

Goblins Well, which was once found about a mile to the west of Mold, is another well with a long history that is sadly now lost to us, finally having fallen victim to a road widening scheme. Goblins Well lay in a field near Maes Garmon farm, the same field where the obelisk stands commemorating the supposed site of the famous Alleluia Victory of St Garmon’s Christian army over the massed ranks of Picts and Scots in around 430.

The obelisk was erected, rather fancifully in 1736 by the landowner Nehemiah Griffiths of Rhual. There is certainly no evidence that the battle, recorded by Bede amongst others took place at this spot.

The well last appears on the 1899 Ordnance Survey maps and was visited and described by the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments in 1910, they write

Within the field (Maes Garmon) is a stone enclosure, 8 feet by 4 feet, containing a spring called the Goblins’ Well; the stones are mostly displaced, and the bed of the well is trampled by cattle; the overflow is fairly copious. – Visited 21st September 1910.

It must have been fading fast even then, for it is no longer recorded when the updated OS Map is produced in 1912, and it doesn’t appear on subsequent maps, although it isn’t until around the 1970s that the road passing by was widened and any last traces of the well obliterated.

Despite this the water still appears to reach the surface, a pool on the opposite side of the road a little way down the hill, which has been referred to in comments received below, is said to be fed by the original spring.

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The name Goblins’ Well presumably links it to the nearby Goblins’ Hill, Bryn-yr-Ellyllon. This was the site of a burial cairn, dated to around 1900 to 1600 BC, close to the River Alun, which was opened in 1833. Its contents included the magnificent  golden cape, this was badly damaged when found and much of the gold was shared out among the workmen finding it. Since then most of it has been recovered and the remains of it are now in the British Museum, with a facsimile copy on display in Mold. There were also a large number of amber beads, most of which became collector’s items for the local finders and are largely now lost.

There is a long history of the association of ancient burial mounds and supernatural folk such as goblins or fairies. A number of mounds around both Wales and other parts of Britain are similarly named.

Richard Holland [1] records a ghost story linked to the well. It was supposed to have “an eerie reputation”, and that the local population would avoid passing close to the well during hours of darkness.  Those who did find themselves at the well at night would be liable to meet up with a hooded headless lady in white

Francis Jones provides a section on the ghost lore of wells. Women in white (he refers to Ladi Wen) were a common sight, known to haunt not only wells, but crossroads, churches, abandoned houses, fords, hedges and bridges.

Ghostly women in white are not unique to Welsh wells. A brief search of the internet shows wells across Britain and Ireland haunted by these figures. Many commentators seek to draw a link between early Celtic goddesses, particularly Brid or Brigid, who is often traced through to St Brigid, after whom many wells across Britain have been named. It is suggested, by those who support the theory of the incorporation of pagan well related customs into Christianity that often Brigid has been transformed into the Virgin Mary as a dedicatee of wells.

Marie Trevelyan [2] wrote that “Wales, in common with England, has innumerable white ladies, and every county of the Principality has several of these apparitions”.

However, many suggest that the specific Welsh Ladi Wen is a relatively recent, certainly a post-Tudor, phenomenon, and may be a very different entity to the white lady that haunts the wells The Ladi Wen is often labelled as a specific Welsh bogey-woman, more common in South Wales than North Wales. She is often headless like Holland’s White Lady at Goblins’ Well, and she would be used to threaten naughty children, and would be a commonly expected visitor at Hallowe’en.

Clearly the White Lady at Goblins Well is part of a nationwide team of White Lady apparitions.

However the well’s white lady isn’t the only ghost in the area. Goblins’ Hill itself has its own spectre. A giant warrior, clad in the gold cape of the burial, was seen a little before the discovery, trying to lead treasure seekers to his hoard. The story, recorded by local vicar Mr Clough, was in widespread circulation very soon after the discovery, and others were soon willing to state that they, or their predecessors had also seen the warrior.

This unassuming area on the outskirts of Mold boasts it all, ghosts, wells, golden hoards and historic battles. We knew that the well was no longer there to be seen before we set off, although we found the pool across the road on a subsequent visit,but the thrill of tramping across fields in driving rain, the chance to visit the fabled battleground (or at least to see the monument) and always the outside chance of meeting a ghostly white lady or gold clad knight was probably too good to miss out on. The lack of photos indicates that the spectres, on this occasion, failed to materialise.

[1] Richard Holland (2011) Haunted Wales. The History Press
[2]Marie Trevelyan (1909) Folk-lore and Folk-stories of Wales


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Vicarage Spring and Ffynnon Bwbach, Cwm

Cwm, near Dyserth could be a well hunter’s paradise, it is claimed that there are around 127 in the parish, although few are named and have any tradition attached. We went on the trail of four the day we visited Cwm, Cil Haul and Asa have already been covered in previous posts, so here we cover the two others, those closest to the centre of the village.

The church is dedicated to Saints Mael and Sulien, the church at Corwen is also dedicated to the same pair, who, it has been suggested, may have been brothers. Baring Gould believes they were related to St Cadfan. The parish history states they came separately to Wales in the 6th century from Brittany, Mael  with Cadfan and Sulien with Rhystyd and Christiolus to become a monk on Bardsey Island.  Their joint feast day is celebrated on May 13th.

The church was renovated several times during the 19th century, and although it was locked, the lack of stained glass allowed us to see in through the windows and there seemed to be little of interest inside, apart perhaps from some 15th century stone slabs, one of which may once have covered the well.

Lhuyd records two wells close to the church, Ffynnon Fael y Sulien and Ffynnon Fair. (St Mary’s Well).  Discussing Ffynnon Fael y Sulien, he notes that

“Some resort hither to bathe their eyes, etc.”

The specific locations of these two wells has become uncertain over time, it even may be that they were two separate names given to the same well.  Certainly the main village well was situated beside the church in the vicarage garden. The present building (now a private house) was built in 1847. For convenience this has generally become referred to as the Vicarage Spring, although recent commentators seem to assume that this is Ffynnon Fael y Sulien.

This well was probably restored in 1772 as that date appeared on a timber cover seen by the Royal Commission during their visit in 1910. They play safe, referring to it as The Vicarage Spring, noting that

 “The spring is in the Vicarage garden, adjoining the churchyard; it is protected by what appears to be a portion of a fifteenth century sepulchral slab and is approached by four or five steps. It is probably the Ffynnon Fael a Sulie(n) mentioned by Lhuyd, but that name is not now remembered”

The RCAHMW database Coflein does list both wells as separate entities, although Ffynnon Fael y Sulien is given a full grid reference attaching it to the Vicarage, whilst Ffynnon Fair is only approximately allocated to a grid square.

The CPAT Report on Wells and Springs (2011) [1] in questioning the naming of the well, says that given the links with the church the identification of the Vicarage well as Ffynnon Fael y Sulien is a reasonable link, although it stresses that it is Ffynnon Fair that is specifically mentioned by Lhuyd as being by the Vicarage. It may be that the well has borne both names during its history, and it has been said that Ffynnon Fair is sometimes used as a generic name for a holy well.

CPAT (2011) report that the well has now apparently been filled in, although the CPAT website record for St Mael and Sulien Church from 2007 implies the well still extant in the Vicarage garden. It isn’t clear whether this is from actual observation, or more likely just an uncorrected assumption based on historical records.

All that remains on view today is the overflow cistern from the well. This can be seen as a trough, a little less than a yard square, formed by upright ceramic slabs set into a recess in the Vicarage wall. This tank is now dry, although an underground pipe leads into it from somewhere within the Vicarage garden.

Ffynnon Bwbach

Ffynnon Bwbach is still marked on the OS maps of the village. The Royal Commission in 1910 recorded it as

“…on the side of the lane below the village school, and is still flowing, though much neglected and choked. It is not mentioned by Edward Lhuyd in 1699 or appears under a different name. – visited 6th July 1910.”

Today the school is no longer a school, the lane is no longer a lane and the spring is much more neglected and no easier to find than it was 100 years ago.

The lane opposite the old school appears at the top end to have been built up to form car parking spaces; lower down it is marked by two rows of trees, and banks to either side, the remnants of old boundary walls or banks. The public footpath across the fields now runs to the east of the old track.

Actually Lhuyd does record a Rhyd y Bwbach (a ford) in Cwm, it isn’t clear where this was in relation to the spring.

The well takes its name from the Bwbach , a particularly mischievous Welsh sprite along the lines of the brownie or the elf. The Bwbachod have one particular characteristic, which is their dislike of teetotallers and of dissenting ministers, they were often known to harass those who don’t drink alcohol. Thus this is one of a number of Welsh wells named after mythical folk, for example the Goblin well near Mold.

No tradition appears to exist in the area concerning this particular well and its name however. The location marked on the maps is occupied by a hawthorn and bramble thicket, which was completely impenetrable. There was a quantity of water flowing down the track, which may well be the output from Ffynnon Bwbach, no source for this could be identified in the mud and brambles.

[1] Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) (2011) Medieval and Post Medieval Monastic and Ecclesiastical Sites in East and North East Wales.


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St Digain, Llangernyw

 

There is little factual information available on the life of St Digain. Digain is reputed to have lived in the fifth century, by legend  he was a Cornish prince, born in 429, a son of Cystennin Gorneu. a king of Dummonia ( in modern terms,  part of the south west extending into  Cornwall)  who is associated with the founding of the church at nearby Llangystennin.

 The village by which Digain’s well is found is Llangernyw which may be translated as “the church of the Cornishman”. Digain is shown in a small stained glass window, dating probably from the early Victorian period, on the north wall of the church.

As well as this church in Conwy there was also a (now extinct) church of Llangernyw, in the Valley Dore,  Herefordshire.

Ffynnon Digain, Digain’s well, lies on a steep hillside about a mile to the north west of Llangernyw.

It is relatively undisturbed, although it is possible that at one time it may have had another stone at the front to form a basin, and the record of a visit in the 1990s suggests there may once have been a flat stone lying across the top. [1]The water flows out from the base of a large stone at the back, which supporting the bank, and is channelled between two other upright stones in a channel around 9 inches wide.

Within the channel the water was an inch or so deep, running on a deep bed of silt, so deep it wasn’t possible to determine whether there is a stone at bottom of it or not.

The water flows vigorously, forming a stream that runs down the hillside, collecting in a pool lower down.

The well is clearly visited, judging from the collection of burnt incense sticks we found beside the well.

Maybe this was because we were there just a few days after St Digain’s feast day which is celebrated on  November 21. It is both encouraging and fascinating to know that these wells and the saints days are being remembered, whatever the ceremony that was being carried out.

St Digain’s Church at Llangernyw deserves a study of its own. It is built beside a yew tree currently estimated to be around 4000 years old, possibly the oldest living thing in Britain. The churchyard also contains two upright standing stones, each with a cross etched into them. These are possibly the sites of Christian burials from the Dark Ages, although other sources consider they may be the remains of an ancient altar.

A further two rougher standing stones are situated close to the entrance to the church. The origin of these is probably pre-Christian and they may have stood there almost as long as the tree itself.

Finally, the church is the haunt of the notorious Angelystor, the spectral Recording Angel of Death. The Angelystor is said to make its appearance twice a year, at the end of July and again, , most suitably, at Hallowe’en. On these appearances it will read out in a deep voice the names of those people of the parish who will die in the forthcoming year.

Llangernyw Church

4000 year old yew tree at Llangernyw

Early Christian burial marker at Llangernyw

[1] http://www.ffynhonnaucymru.org.uk/llangernyw.htm