Out & About …

… on the North York Moors, or wherever I happen to be.

In search of three wells

There are many named features of the old Ordnance Survey maps which names no longer appear on the modern versions. I feel they must have been significant for the local farmers, gamekeepers and land agents to mention them when those early surveyors came knocking.

I decided to check out three wells today on Scarth Wood Moor and Near Moor, within the catchment of Crabdale Beck.

First up, Oliver’s Well on Scarth Wood Moor1Ordnance Survey Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952. Yorkshire 42 (includes: Bilsdale Midcable; Carlton; Faceby; Little Busby; Whorlt…[online] Available at: https://maps.nls.uk/view/102344290#zoom=7&lat=702&lon=2053&layers=BT [Accessed 6 Apr. 2022].:

Oliver’s Well

I must admit, I’d half hoped to discover some evidence of a hitherto unknown pre-historic ritual spring. But it was just a flush, the spring water seeping out of the ground and not confined to a definite channel. The bog might have been deep — I didn’t test it — a silted up relic of a pond. Very few stones around.

Next up, Raindrip Well, across the road on Near Moor — see featured image above2Ordnance Survey Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952. Yorkshire 42 (includes: Bilsdale Midcable; Carlton; Faceby; Little Busby; Whorlt…[online] Available at: https://maps.nls.uk/view/102344290#zoom=7&lat=1067&lon=3885&layers=BT [Accessed 6 Apr. 2022]..

Only clumps of soft rushes defined the ‘wet’ ground, the linear marsh drifting down the hillside.

And so to Holy Well:

Holy Well

There are many ‘Holy Wells’. Every parish has one, probably ensuing from pagan origins. It’s a name that has been retained on the modern map3Ordnance Survey Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952. Yorkshire LVII.NW (includes: Osmotherley; Snilesworth; Whorlton.) [online] Available at: https://maps.nls.uk/view/100942847#zoom=5&lat=4924&lon=4762&layers=BT [Accessed 6 Apr. 2022]..

Holy Well lies just off the main channel of Holy Well Gill, a deep glacial overflow from Lake Scugdale. So the distinctive gulley must take its name after the well. Again there is not much to see. Standing water with a noticeable film of surfactants on its surface, resulting from the natural decay of plant material.

So all in all, a disappointment perhaps. But I remain convinced that in some age past these named ‘wells’ must have been of significant importance either ritually or topographically, or as a water source where stock could be corralled or wildlife hunted.







2 responses to “In search of three wells”

  1. Graeme Chappell avatar
    Graeme Chappell

    I share your disappointment with the ‘Holy well’ – just a regular spring, unless there is something buried beneath the vegetation.
    50m further up the gully there is actually another spring which is a bit more interesting, and i did wonder if it could be the real origin of the Holy Well Gill name. This is a petrifying spring flowing from the bank side, and it has built up a large mound of petrified material where the water flows away. Quite a few holy well have this petrifying property, so who knows?
    Worth a look a this unusual site/sight, if you are passing that way again.

    1. Fhithich avatar

      Thanks for the tip. It’s now on my to-do list.

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