It was, when I think about it, one of our ‘raids’; one of those rapid incursions which usually happen we visit somewhere an event is about to start. Like the wedding we almost gatecrashed, although we were to be fair, invited in to look round as the guests assembled and the vicar, rehearsing the nervous groom, very kindly interrupted the proceedings to tell us about some carvings in the chancel…That was the day we began to understand the significance of the Jester in the medieval wall paintings… and we left the church looking like a pair of startled rabbits, leaving congratulations floating on the air behind us.
We had lunched at the Greyhound before pointing the car in the general direction of the snowy hills of Wales. It was mid-afternoon and we had some vague idea of finding a place for the night in Holywell where we were heading in search of the town’s namesake.
The legends of the well tie in with so many of the areas we have looked at in the books. The well sprang up, according to the tales, at the site of the near martyrdom of St Winefride. Her Welsh name was Gwenffrewi , which means ‘white/fair’ ‘peace/reconciliation’, a curious coincidence when looked at a little deeper. ‘White’ was often used to denote a sacred place… and there was certainly a divine reconciliation in her story.
Winefride was born in the 7th century, daughter of Tyfid ap Eiludd, a Welsh nobleman and his wife, Wenlo, herself a sister of St Bueno. Winefride caught the eye of Caradoc, but refused his advances, choosing instead to devote her life to the service of her God. In a fit of rage Caradoc drew his sword and beheaded her. The severed head rolled down the hill and where it stopped a spring began to flow.
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