On the northern edge of the moor, on the route of an ancient pilgrimage path to Canterbury, lies this splendid example of understatement. There is no well house here, just a shallow hollow in the ground, covered by a large stone and a small granite cross. But the view northwards off the escarpment and the southern vista over the moor are fantastic. A lone tree growing from the field boundary behind the well frames a beautiful picture.
Like Fice's Well near to Princetown, legend tells of a couple who were lost on the moor under the spell of Pixie magic. On drinking from the well, the spell was broken and the couple managed to find their way to safety once more. It is not clear whether the same John Fitz embellished both wells with this story, in addition to constructing a well house over the long lost well at Broughthayes near Tavistock. Another Sir John Fitz is known to have lived at nearby Meldon Manor, and it is likely that this Fitz family is associated with the well here. Possibly an interesting case of synchronicity.
The waters, like those at Fice's well, were considered to be effective against complaints of the eye, and local youths and maidens would visit the well on Easter Sunday to enquire of the naiads about their future love lives.
The cross stands less than a metre in height and is just fifty centimetres across the arms. A small cross is carved between the arms. The cross is likely to have once been much taller than that which we can see today. W.B. Bridges (1839) recounts a folk memory that the cross was brought to this spot from St. Michael's Chapel which once stood at Halstock a quarter of a mile to the E. This Mediaeval chapel disappeared in the fifteenth or sixteenth century.
Often the best wells are those which remain unadorned by extravagant buildings. Such wells rely on their location, history and natural ambience. This well scores highly on all counts. It is in a magnificent location with beautiful views, plenty of history and an air of tranquil mystery. Definitely a great place for a picnic.
|SX 591 939 (191).|
|1 mile SE of Okehampton, 20 miles W of Exeter.|
|From the main road through the town, take a minor road (George Street) south past the hospital and under the A30 bypass. The road bends sharply to the right and the verge widens. The cross can clearly be seen to the north of the road 250 metres past the hairpin.|