Close to the picturesque Derbyshire village of Hartington can be found in the limestone hills a stream which pours out of a well known as Ludwell. In the past these sources of water were the life blood of a community, because rainwater was absorbed into the pourous limestone found in this area. A well
which didn’t dry up especially when a drought was being experienced meant the difference between life and death for a community. This was one of the reasons that well dressing sprang up, it was a celebration of the life giving waters that came from these wells, and because large amounts of limestone can be found in Derbyshire that explains why most well dressings take place in this county.
To find Ludwell you need to take the road which leads from Hartington to Pilsbury. This is little more than a single track, although you can travel by car there aren’t many suitable places to park. When you follow the road you will come to a gate which you have to open and then close to stop any sheep from straying, there is a farm immediately on your left. This farm is Ludwell farm and the actual well is a couple of hundred yards further down the road on your left hand side. The road travels through a beautiful limestone valley and carries on for a number of miles before climbing up out of the valley close to the ruins of a Motte and Bailey castle.
After taking numerous photographs of the well I parked up a short distance from it, and after having a bite to eat I noticed the farmer at Ludwell farm loading a van so I walked over hoping to learn more about the well. I could see as I approached him that he considered me to be just another annoying tourist, however after talking to him for a while it turned out that he knew my brother-in law and also his neighbour. Consequently I ended up talking with him for about half an hour. Apparently Jack’s Father had given permission for a group of Potholers to explore the cave system where the waters of Ludwell gush out from, this he claims resulted in disturbances taking place underground which changed the quality of the water which he had been drinking most of his life. The other reason that he ended up banning the Potholers from further exploration was due to the fact that they had left some of the stone covers off the shafts, this resulted in him losing some of his lambs down the shafts and the rescue services having to become involved.
It seems that when you start poking around and creating a disturbance in the ground it provokes a response from Mother Earth, this was the case at Gradbach when coal mining activity created an orange coloured ochre stream which still pours out of the ground to this day and can be seen in this photograph.
Although Jack said that he had been drinking the well water for most of his life, he told me that he no longer drinks the water as the enviromental agency have tested the water quality and claim that there are small traces of lead to be found in it. So if you ever decide to visit Ludwell remember its safer to bring bottled water with you than sample its once health giving properties!
Ludwell farm situated on the Hartington to Pilsbury road.