Stu­art Ma­conie

Tales of evil winged beasts, cursed fam­i­lies and newt drown­ings... All in a day’s walk for our in­trepid colum­nist.

Country Walking Magazine (UK) - - News -

ERE BE DRAG­ONS”. This was the stern and for­bid­ding in­struc­tion across the wild lands of the North on old maps; a sen­ti­ment prob­a­bly still har­boured by the Gile­ses and Hu­gos of the broad­sheet col­umns. But it’s only partly true. Al­though the UK has more dragon lore than any other coun­try, there are bits of Bri­tain where dragon leg­ends are scarce, like Lon­don, the West Mid­lands and Lan­cashire, it seems you couldn’t move in York­shire, Som­er­set or the Welsh Marches for the fire-breath­ing foe of St Ge­orge.

I walked in the foot­steps of a dragon this New Year. The Tale of The Mordi­ford Dragon is fa­mous in the Ross-on-Wye cor­ner of ru­ral Here­ford­shire and you can in­ves­ti­gate this on one of sev­eral cir­cu­lar walks pro­moted by Here­ford­shire coun­cil in leaflets and ex­cel­lent sign­posted paths. Once upon a time, a young girl called Maud was walk­ing through the woods when she found a tiny green crea­ture. She took it home to her par­ents who in­stantly recog­nised it as a Wyvern, a kind of dragon, and de­manded she kill it. How­ever she hid and nur­tured it, feed­ing it on milk, but the crea­ture soon grad­u­ated to chick­ens, then lambs, then vil­lagers.

Even­tu­ally the folk of Mordi­ford of­fered a con­demned mur­derer called Garston his free­dom if he’d kill it. Hav­ing noth­ing to lose, he hid in a cider bar­rel down by the the con­flu­ence of the rivers Wye and Lugg where the beast came to drink and shot it (through the cork hole) with an ar­row. In rage and pain, with his dy­ing breath, the wyvern in­cin­er­ated him. The tale still very much has cur­rency here. In 1811, the vicar took down a pa­gan­is­tic paint­ing of the crea­ture in the church, but the lo­cals painted one on the church wall in­stead. In 1875 the rec­tor found two of his el­derly parish­ioners try­ing to drown some newts be­liev­ing them to be baby wyverns.

Leav­ing aside the dif­fi­cul­ties in­her­ent in drown­ing a newt, let me also tell or per­haps re­mind you of the Lambton Worm. Once upon a time a lad called John, youngest of the Lambton fam­ily, was fish­ing in the River Wear on the Sab­bath (when he should have been at church). Curs­ing his luck and the river, he im­me­di­ately caught a strange black worm which he later dropped in the vil­lage well. Not a smart move!

You won’t be sur­prised to hear that the worm grew to be­come a dragon and the price Lambton Hear Stu­art on BBC 6 Mu­sic, 1pm to 4pm Mon­day to Fri­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.