The River Derwent
The river Derwent passes through the village of Cromford in the county of Derbyshire, the river is very dangerous having claimed many lives over the years due to its swift current. A researcher in folktales stated in 1904 that many of the local population were of the opinion that the river itself was alive and they treated it as some sort of Deity.
A washerwoman claims that she knew someone who mocked the river by describing it as a brook and shortly after they were claimed by the river. In 1970 a Ruth Tongue who was a Somerset author wrote about an account that she had heard about regarding an evil ash tree which used to grow on the banks of the Derwent. This ash tree had been named by the local population and was known as “Crooker”. The story goes that a man had been given a posy of flowers by three green women, I assume that this means that they were dressed in green clothing! He had been given this posy for his kindness to animals, he carried on his way along the banks of the river Derwent until he came to the ash tree which attempted to seize him with its branches and pull him into the dangerous waters of the Derwent. The ash tree attempted to do this three times until the man threw the posy of flowers at the tree whereupon it released him. It is said that he escaped and fled to the chapel which can be found by the bridge which crosses the Derwent in Cromford. This ash tree which was thought to contain an evil spirit was overcome when it tried to attack another passerby who thrust a stick of St John’s Wort into it and from that day on no more attacks took place.
While on the subject of the Derwent, there is a village called Derwent Woodlands that had used to exist in the valley where the Ladybower reservoir can be seen. The reservoir was created about 70 years ago and this resulted in the village and small church disppearing below its waters. There is a tale connected with this submerged church, it is said that in the past before the dam was built a new Vicar came to the parish and disapproved of the superstitious practices he found here.
It was said that on the last Sunday of December the previous Vicar had used to preach “the sermon for the dead”, in the empty church at midnight. It is said that the reason for this was that the Wraiths of the dead who were fated to die in the coming year would gather at the church to listen to the sermon. The new Vicar refused to carry on the ritual saying that it was Witchcraft, however due to his curiosity he went to the church on the last Sunday in December and sure enough he witnessed the Wraiths all gathered to hear the sermon, unfortunately one of the Wraiths was his and he died during the next twelve months!