The Faerie Tree

These places really do exist, you know.

On the edge of Bodmin Moor, distant even from its nearest town of Launceston, far, far from the madding crowd, there is a village where the river runs through it.

It is a river I never heard of until I went there: it is called the River Lynher, and the village North Hill.

But even 100 years ago, when young men from the village were sent to fight in a Great War, that village and its lithe river were everything some people ever knew.

You didn’t travel far. The next village, perhaps, or even a trip to Launceston for market day. But people then had neither the means nor the inclination to leave what is clearly a corner of Paradise.

The village sits upon the hillside, an ancient church dominating the place with a four-square granite-block tower, the houses scattered next to the tiny crossroads and a hostelry called The Racehorse reflecting the interests and obsessions of at least one member of the local gentry.

And if you take a footpath across the cow fields, you find they plunge downwards without ceremony, through green fern-fronded dry stone walls and down steep home-grown flights of steps, into a dark forest, down, down, at last, to the holy well of St Torney.

St Torney is the name of the church and the name of the well; but no-one knows who he was. He is one of the breed of old Cornish Bretons who sailed across the seas to bring that peculiar brand of Christianity, the heady old mixture of belief and superstition which sanctified springs which bubbled up from beneath the ground.

I always go looking for the spring, though is is all but hidden from view by overgrowth these days, a little stone arch at the riverbank. There was once a ‘ceremonial way’ linking the village church and the well. And the local people of long long ago not only blessed the holy well, but fixed upon a nearby tree and hallowed that too.

I say hallowed: the tree is nor saintly exactly, but they call it The Faerie Tree. Folks would come down here to the holy water and post flowers in the roots of the tree, and weave stories which are forgotten, largely.

As I walked with the family along the river I did not know which was the Faerie Tree. But I stopped and photographed it in admiration, all the same, and later, when I sat with my sister in law who knows the village like the back of her hand, she said:” That’s it. That’s the faerie tree.’

And here it is.


43 thoughts on “The Faerie Tree

    1. Oh, Penny, I have been following your adventures with the munchkins on Facebook, and thought of them as I wrote this. They would love that village, and the wood, and the faerie tree.

  1. Not all that far away from the tree and the well – unfortunately will be leaving tomorrow morning, so there is no time to visit, but there will be next time!! Thanks Kate!

    1. It is a very beautiful place πŸ™‚ Arthurian, even. We don’t have your light – and there isn’t a day go by when I don’t look at your beautiful pictures and envy you that – but every now and then, this place comes up trumps.
      Hope all is well – I am so sorry to be so very absent. I shall pop over a little later to catch up.

      1. One day, if ever we start traveling again, we’d love to visit your Arthurian haunts to see if Arthur and Merlin are hanging about. In the meanwhile, if you decide on a Sun Fix, Tampa International Airport is just a hop skip and jump for our Gulf island. Keep us in mind.

        Swing by SLTW when/if you have the time. I can’t imagine how you get done all that you do.

    1. Andra, if we can ever tempt you down there, it just rocket-assists creativity ( not that you are in particular need of that!!). Hope all is going well with the book promotion. I’m about to download my copy. I have been looking forward to reading it immensely.

  2. Mist and ferns and brambles and that wee opening at the base of the tree; I half expected to see a small sprite peering from within. Such a magical place, Kate. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. That’s a stunning tree. It really does look like it could be home to all sorts of characters!
    Do you think there is a link between springs and churches as a rule? Yesterday I heard that houses near me were built on springs, and the church is not far down the hill from there.

    1. Heather, this is just exactly your kind of tree. I’d love to see you visit it and create something on the strength of your visit. Or perhaps to see it in all weathers, portrayed just the way you do. I think you might be onto something with the link between churches and springs.There is something about a spring which mystifies people; perhaps the appearance of such crystal-clear drinking water from deep in the earth where they cannot reach.
      Oooh. Project!

    1. Hope, you would have totally loved it. That place is bursting with Creation, and you realise just how much, far from being a one-off act a long time ago, creation and ingenuity at cellular level are going on all around us every day. Hope you are well. x

  4. “It is a very beautiful place, Arthurian, even.” I know what you mean, Kate, there is a magical atmosphere conjured up in our imagination, even for the more prosaic-minded like me! Wonder if the medieval or early modern mind saw a door or two in among the tree roots and pictured Little People scuttling in there?

    Thank goodness though that the tree hasn’t been decked out (yet) with rags and offerings tied to the branches, Irish-style — this imported custom introduced in modern times by children of the 60s soon gets out of hand, rather like the padlocks on too many railings of city bridges, disfiguring a more pristine site.

    Oh, what a killjoy I am!

  5. I believe in faeries, and I want to live there so I can see some. I’ve wanted to live there since I was a tot and all I knew about it was going to London to see the Queen and Dick Whittington’s cat. Texas just isn’t faerie country.

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