The charming remains of a Medieval baptistry chapel and holy well are hidden away on well moor, just outside Madron (now less of a moor, more of a wet woodland). Steeped in history and folklore, these sites are really popular with local and incoming visitors alike all year round.
This is one of the sites on my work program with the PLP, and I am tasked with coming up with a management plan for its continuing care. Several interventions over the years have happened here to either try and improve access to or condition of the monuments but it remains a tricky set of sites to manage. The well in particular is very hard to find unless it has been very dry and the wet area more passable as it has been this summer.
It will be my great pleasure to tell you all about what we have been discovering about the site and its immediate landscape over the coming months in several blogs. The fabulous reconstruction drawing by artist Phoebe Herring can be seen on the reconstruction drawings page of our website here.
This first blog is to celebrate the beginning of access works to the well; the volunteers, led by Matt cleared the overhanging and encroaching vegetation along the path to the well itself. This is a wet route and quite hard to follow due to fallen tree trunks and large boggy areas; we are hoping to install some well-placed stepping-stones to improve access whilst intruding as little as possible on the wild look of the woodland and the atmospheric approach to the well cherished by many. (Although I expect that welly’s will almost always be needed to get there with dry feet!) It looks like historically in fact there had been some granite stones along this route which is very interesting and suggests its always been a bit of a tricky route.
Whilst we were there, we also did some clearing up of the baptistry building ‘precinct’ that had a few overgrown corners. This work which we were planning anyway had been jumped forwards in the calendar by a series of increasingly concerning fire incidents in the cistern of the chapel itself, a problem that has been getting steadily worse over the summer and particularly the autumn of this year. The problems caused by this is now so great that it has caused irreparable heat and smoke damage to the fabric of the building which is a great shame.
Both chapel and well are Scheduled Monuments of national importance, protected by law under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and the fire damage constitutes an offence under section 28 of the Act.
The Devon and Cornwall Heritage crime officer has now erected some signage around the vicinity in an attempt to raise awareness. Historic England are also monitoring the site and we at Penwith Landscape Partnership are working with them to try and improve conditions here on this popular site.
Signage on such cherished, remote and atmospheric sites is always controversial but the damage has now meant that something has to be done and this is one on-site initial awareness raising solution that is being tried. All being well it will only be short term; for a great many years nothing like this has happened, the signs are not huge or permanent in nature and we hope they will serve as a reminder to whoever is causing the damage that they are damaging a heritage site.
Look out for future blogs on how we are progressing with our works at Madron well.