River Wissey Lovell Fuller


May 2011

Ivor brings us an unlikely take about the Wissey Witches!

The new found warmth lingers and brings good cheer. A brightness gleams and sparkles on the water. The day is lazy and already there is a suggestion of summer. The weeds peacefully sway with the current and a multitude of fish busy themselves in the deep clear water. Early swallows swoop and dive in an endless circle. It is a perfect day to just watch and contemplate.

Here alongside the upper reaches of the river Wissey there is a particular fascination. It beholds a secret which has never been understood. The narrow stretch of water with its many meanders has a spot that always bubbles and boils with no explanation. It ripples and stirs and cannot fail to attract attention. It draws the eye. The mind mesmerises and wanders to discover a reason. Thus my tale of long ago begins and you must read on.

Times were hard in the the small village of Northwold and for sure every cupboard was bare. Health was feeble and farm yields no better. Nothing was wasted and still ends could not meet. Within the struggling community lived three remiss ladies (but perhaps this is too fine a description for they were full of bad intent).

Their names do not matter but together they were decidedly evil. Dressed in black they connived and conjured with magic. They made medicines and potions, poultices and dressings and sold them for gullible gain. If a carters horse had a bad gait for sure they would have a remedy to match. Every sickness and malady had its own secret cure. They even sold charms to attract a new spouse and misfortune and bad luck could be broken with a mixture of this and that! No one liked them but their trade was rife. The villagers were needy but all desperate for hope. Age old superstitions ruled and few risked to question the claims. Thus the many in debt made matters worse as they paid for a change that just didn't work. Meanwhile the three wicked persons continued to purloin their wares. That was until the villagers all turned.

A secret meeting of revolt soon became a public meeting. A room in a pub turned into a riot with untold fury. Sticks were waved and talk became shouts. The party of folk just grew and grew and together they marched from the West End down the length of the High Street and dragged out the accused. The noise and commotion awoke the entire village who then stood and cheered as the procession marched past. A man of the cloth made a feeble attempt to contain the mob but was brushed to one side. Down the far drove they threaded in file with the three victims held aloft each screaming their regret. Alas the die was already cast and like their cures it had little effect!

For sure the three women were drowned in the river Wissey. Strangely good luck and good fortune immediately returned to the village. The many folk responsible all pledged that details of the dastardly deed would not be recorded as they were anxious to avoid recognition and retribution. Thus the matter was forgotten for almost 200 years and a link of history lost!

People may choose to ignore but the river was a party to the truth and will never again run normal at that very place. The unrest within the water continues both day and night and over the span of years. So now we have a legend to explain the very matter and it shall be called the Wissey Witches. For anyone who doubts the place is plain to see. To lean over the nearby wooden bridge, when searching the deep water to watch the shoals of chub, could now have a new meaning but remember the truth is for you to decide!

Ivor Hook

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