This is an ideal time to see a well dressing on your visit to the Peak District. All over Derbyshire, between May and September, village communities come together to create well dressings; intricate and beautiful pictures made entirely from flower petals and seeds. The origins of the tradition are said to lie either in pagan tradition or in giving thanks for the purity of the water drawn from certain wells during the period of the Black Death. These days, the Christian Church has adopted the old folk tradition as a way of giving thanks to God for His gift to us of water.
Making the well dressing involves “puddling” the clay which means putting it in an old tin bath or tank and working it with hands or feet until it is smooth and the right consistency to hold the materials for the picture. The clay is then pressed into a large board, which has been soaked in water and then the design is pricked onto the moist clay. After this, whole groups of people are mobilised to find flowers, seeds and berries of the right colours to press into the clay forming a mosaic of petals depicting a Biblical scene or other topical event. This year we are likely to see well dressings associated with the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the Queen’s 90th birthday and even some with a football theme amongst the children’s wells perhaps.
This year, Litton Village’s well dressing week runs from 19th – 27th June and begins with a blessing service in Litton Chapel at 3 pm. The village will be decorated and during the week, in addition to the two well dressings, visitors to Litton will be able to sit outside the village shop with an ice cream or afternoon tea, taking in the scene as the schoolchildren perform maypole dancing.
There is a full calendar of well dressings here and you should be able to visit one or more villages during your stay with us to appreciate this beautiful local tradition for yourself.
(With grateful thanks to Visitpeakdistrict.com for the photos.)