Croxton Well Dressing – let the Clog Dancing begin!

Well dressed: the 2013 Boughey Well at Croxton
Well dressed: the 2013 Boughey Well at Croxton

I’ve never seen such a crowd in Croxton!” commented retired County Councillor Henry Butter on the folk who flocked to the village’s second well dressing on July 6th. This year, besides the Boughey Well on the Loggerheads road, villagers and schoolchildren had decorated five outlying wells to form a Croxton Wells Trail.

The Boughey Well’s theme was the countryside code.  Its three-panelled design used wool from Jacob sheep, melon seeds, peppercorns and beech nuts to depict a horserider, an angler and a dog walker.  Pink carnations formed the dog’s tongue.

The well was opened by Cath and Duncan Lawton, proprietors of Croxton Garage and the newly re-opened village shop.  Blessing the well, Rev. Doug Heming and Methodist Minister Rev. John Day thanked God for the gift of water and urged people not to waste or pollute it.

The opening launched a programme of events with clog dancing by Beggar’s Oak on the lane beside the well. In Croxton’s Millennium Wood, visitors browsed displays by the Turner-Hodgkiss Nature Reserve and Croxton Garden Guild, watched pole-making demonstrations by Forest of Mercia and tried their hand at tying fly-fishing bait. Eccleshall Scouts’ provided a barbecue.

 

Spring in their steps: The Beggars’ Oak Clog Dancers from Armitage helped celebrate the occasion
Spring in their steps: The Beggars’ Oak Clog Dancers from Armitage helped celebrate the occasion

Nearby St Paul’s Church was the venue for an afternoon concert featuring Broughton Community Choir, Eccleshall Handbell Ringers, Ken Langford, a children’s choir from Hugo Meynell Primary School and folk music by the Tern Valley Tinkers. The musical items were interspersed by poems which local people had written for the occasion.

Preparations for the well-dressing started last autumn, when seeds and other dried natural materials were collected, sorted and stored and the design planned. In the last week of June, the boards and frames on which the well dressings are mounted were ‘thrown away’ for seven days into the River Sow in the Langot Valley.

This is to saturate the wood to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the clay which is then plastered onto it and which the decorating materials are stuck onto.  The design is then pricked out into the clay and marked with wool, coffee beans and alder cones.

The frames were taken to a barn, where 40 volunteers in teams of up to seven spent five-six days painstakingly infilling the designs with petals and other natural materials. Each petal has to be placed separately in an overlapping arrangement to allow any rain to flow off the picture. The village menfolk carefully put the completed panels in place, where they were displayed for seven days.

Sponsored by local businesses and individuals, the 2013 well dressing brought together community groups and a wide range of local people. “The weather has been kind, the turnout is fantastic and we have built on last year’s success,” said organiser Ros Langford.  “However, because of all the effort involved, the well-dressing will be a biennial event in future.”