In which Gawton’s Well fails to cure my rosacea, but the grove lifts my spirits
I recently made a spur of the moment trip to Greenway Bank Country Park, near Biddulph. It’s been many years since I was last there and I couldn’t resist calling in when I was in the area.
The 114-acre country park used to be part of the landscaped grounds of Knypersley Hall and includes a castellated folly known as the Warder’s Tower, masses of squirrels and the peaceful Serpentine Pool (which feeds the neighbouring reservoir Knypersley Pool), as well as a possible dolmen and the mysterious Gawton’s Well.
My first mistake was parking at the visitors’ centre car park instead of the one beside the pool, my second was setting off at 3pm with the light already starting to fail and the third was not wearing wellies.
I whizzed round the Serpentine Pool expecting to come to the Warder’s Tower any minute and probably failing to appreciate much of the beauty around me. When I finally reached it, I panted up the steps for a cursory look before ploughing ahead to find the well. I hadn’t realised that the Landmark Trust‘s plans to restore the Tower had fallen through due to bats roosting in the building and it seemed in a bit of a sorry state.
Taking a left fork I squelched through mud until I spotted an inviting gap in a low stone wall, through which you enter an oval grove of yew trees. The incredible atmosphere in this sanctuary-like glade more than made up for the muddy feet and aching legs.
The air was so still in the grove, no sounds except the trickling of water flowing into a series of stone basins and cascading into a stream. And it was dark – but not gloomy – with the overhanging branches forming a natural ceiling.
On the trees around the spring were hanging dozens of “clooties” and tributes to lost loved ones, including a photo album full of memories of one particular chap, Frederick Brammer, who passed away in April 2014. I’d love to know more about the people remembered here and what made the place so special to them and their families.
Legend has it that the well was used for healing – Gawton was said to be a resident hermit cured of a skin disease by the waters.
The Biddulph Museum website (which also describes the site as a “Druid Grove”) tells this story:
Gawton / Gorton was one of the servants of Knypersley Hall when he became ill with the plague. Due to everyone thinking they would fall ill he was forced to leave. He left and went to live in a cave (Gawton’s Stone) near Knypersley pool.
Nearby was a spring which is known as Gawton’s Well which is where he bathed every day. He also used the spring for his drinking water. The spring was believed to have the power to heal skin diseases by the locals and apparently cured Gawton of the plague.Even though he was now healed he continued to stay at the cave and lived there till his death.
I tried washing my face in the water but it didn’t help my rosacea (although this report suggests it may help with eczema!).
I could have spent a long time absorbing the energy of this magical place but I was very conscious that dusk was approaching and decided to save visiting Gawton’s Stone – variously described as a dolmen, natural formation or Victorian folly, depending on where you look – for another day.
I crossed the dam and walked back on the other side of the Serpentine Pool feeling spiritually uplifted and full of energy. There was hardly anyone around and it felt like another world.
This site was named the most spiritual place in Staffordshire in a 2003 BBC poll and it’s worth taking the trouble to find and experience it.