You may not realise it but we’re in the middle of Well Dressing season, and many of our Derbyshire promoters have been or will be busily involved with this fantastically creative tradition, which is unique to the area.
The tradition dates back many hundreds of years, but no one seems to be quite sure why or when it started. Ask the question and the answer will be different in every village you go to. Some say that it began in Pagan times to appease the rain God, some, like Tissington to give thanks for the purity of water during the Black Death, some like Aston on Trent only started in the 1990s.
The Well Dressings are placed on wells or springs around the village and feature wooden frames filled with clay which are then decorated with flower heads, seeds, gravel and leaves to create fantastic works of art.
They take up to seven days to create, and an enormous amount of backbreaking work, often by a large number of people from the community who come together every year. The finished product lasts five days before the clay cracks and the flowers start to wilt.
The Well Dressing is often accompanied by a weekend of festivities including a ceremony to bless the well. At Tideswell the whole week is called the Tideswell Wakes, or locally as the Tidza Wakes, and features all manner of activities including a carnival, dancing in the street, a Fell Race and a performance of monologues from a local history project.
Some Well Dressings are pictures of flowers and nature or reflect the local landscape, some choose a theme and create a picture based on that. At Pleasley our Fieldworker, Frances, visited as they were putting the finishing touches to their Martin Luther King inspired picture, in Ashford- in-the-Water the theme was the 50th Anniversary of Dr Who and for some reason in Tideswell the dressing was of Salisbury Cathedral!
There’s still time to see a Well Dressing in situ, the season extends until the end of September and they appear in villages all over the Peak District and surrounding areas. Of our promoters, Belper and West Hallam are this week and then watch out for Wormhill, Taddington, Bamford and Great Longstone.
For a full calendar of events and to find out more visit: http://www.welldressing.com/calendar.php