29 March 2017

A sad day.....

A quote from Dr Jonathan Foyle:-
"Ugly feeling of bereavement this evening.  The civilizing impulse so many love - the desire to live together and cooperate - is being killed".


... I've 'borrowed' this from David Schneider's Twitter feed .... sadly it is so true. 





24 March 2017

St Helen's Well, Santon Downham....

"In Thetford forest, not far from Santon Downham, can be found St Helen's Well on the path from that village to the picnic spot at Two Mile Bottom.  The Anglo Saxon church of St Helen once stood on the verge of heathland forty feet above the river and twenty yards from the spring itself although the holy well, which was probably a place of pilgrimage in Christian and pre-Christian times, was destroyed long ago.  In the eighteenth century it was known as 'Tennant's Well' and later as 'Tanner's Well'.  Far below lies the pool surrounded by Hazels which at times dip their branches into the water just as they did in the Irish tales of 'The Salmon of Wisdom', although in our version no Salmon is visible, for the wisdom is to be sought by other means.  To reach the pool from the path there is a gentle grassy walkway to the left, or a precipitous clamber down the side of the quarry on the right.  Once there you are likely to lose all sense of time and emerge several hours later thinking that only minutes have passed.  St Helen or Helen of the Roads (also known as Elen of the Ways) is considered to be one of the oldest native deities.  She is associated with travel, water from her well can be used for magic relating to physical journeys, but also to help with pathworkings and with quests to seek ancient knowledge".  Source:- Pagan Federation of Norfolk


It is indeed a peaceful and lovely spot ....







Ribbons have been tied to one of the Hazels, like those tied to the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill.....



Ribbons and offerings ....








I should have a black cat .....























I wish I had known about the 'gentle, grassy walkway' before I tackled the 'precipitous clamber'.... although it was so worth the climb......


Looking down onto the pool from my clamber up the side of the quarry...


The trees standing guard near the pool ....


22 March 2017

Blood Hill Prehistoric Burial Mound, Santon Church and St Helen's church near Santon Downham ....


The path leading to Blood Hill Tumulus, off the Forestry Commission track which joins the A134 opposite the Two Mile Bottom picnic spot....


This round barrow was being emaciated by the open and sandy conditions of The Brecks, famous for sand-blows before the 20th century forestation of the area, and for decades a forest ride went over the top of it, nice to know that our heritage is respected (not!)!!  The actions of rabbits probably haven't helped much either and have taken their toll.  However, it has since been protected, fenced off, and an information board placed there.  A Medieval hamlet of Thetford, called St Helens, is close by.

The burial mound was built in the late Neolithic or Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago to mark the grave of an important person, or group of people....


The word barrow comes from the old English beorg or beorge meaning 'mound of earth'.  Originally this mound would have been 15 foot high surrounded by a ditch which covered an area of 115 feet.  In 1905 when the barrow was first recorded it was 8 feet high and situated in open heathland as it was when first built.  The mound is now only 20 inches high and the ditch has silted up.  In Saxon times Blood Hill was one of the features used to identify the boundary between the Hundred of Grimshoe and the Borough of Thetford.  The Hundred of Grimshoe is thought to be named after an ancient burial mound used by the local community as an open-air meeting place.  The word 'Grim' is the old Norse nickname for the God Woden and 'Hoe' means hill or mound.








The path or ride leading from the side of the tumulus...


The track back to the main road....



 

Santon church (Santon meaning 'sandy place').  Before the work of the Forestry Commission in creating Thetford Forest (the largest low-lying man-made forest in Great Britain), the light soil had become a menace.  Huge sandstorms are said even to have diverted the course of the river so that one farmer was unsure whether his farm was in Norfolk or Suffolk! I bet that upset him (knowing the current friendly rivalry between the two counties!).  There is no mention of a church at Santon in the Domesday Book, the first rector is recorded in 1311.  The Medieval church may have been on the present site, or reasonably close by.  By the time of Elizabeth I the church was in decay, however, repairs were undertaken by Thomas Bancroft and the church was reconsecrated on January 6th 1628.




The Little Ouse....





St Helen's church and holy well Santon....
The church of St Helen stood on this site overlooking the River Little Ouse 900 years ago...
A spring known as St Helen's Well is just beyond (mental note to visit next time).  The original holy well has been lost during the Christian times.
The possible ancient significance of the spring and the hill may explain why St Helen's Church was built here before 1066.  Sites such as these were often a focus for Pagan cults.  As late as 1016-35 laws were still being made banning the Pagan worship of springs.  Building a church on the hill and dedicating it and the spring to St Helen would have claimed the site for Christianity.  The choice of St Helen, a popular dedication for holy wells may possibly be linked with Elen a Celtic water spirit.


The church of St Helen, a small settlement with one villager and plough were recorded in the Domesday Book as the property of Archbishop Stigand before 1066.  He is shown on the Bayeux Tapestry standing next to King Harold at his coronation.  The church had gone out of use by 1368 and fell into disrepair and the stones taken and used elsewhere.





Objects found nearby dating from Stone, Bronze and Iron ages through to the Saxon and Viking periods show that this distinctive site has been attractive to people for thousands of years.  Pieces of Roman tile, pottery and mortar show that a substantial villa once stood between the hill and the river, the railway cutting was dug through the hill in the 1840's.













Source:-  information boards at the two sites, Santon church information booklet and The Megalithic Portal.

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