Lady’s Well, Holystone, Northumberland: Words on a plinth claim St Paulinus baptised 3,000 people here in AD627
As we cross a shallow ford, the water seems more like a southern chalk stream than a Northumberland burn. Pebbles gleam through gin-like clarity. Monkey flowers trace the fast-flowing channel as we walk up through the dry field. Ahead on a slight rise is a copse set within a stone wall topped by a wooden paling fence. There’s a tinkling of massed goldfinches, wingbeats of song thrushes, pigeons crooning in the heat. The place seems full of birds, drawn by the ring of seven beech trees and the clear waters of Lady’s Well.
Within the cool enclosure is a spring-fed reservoir, apsidal in shape, reflecting sky and trees in its calm surface. This basin around the ancient spring may have been created by the Romans; it lies closely parallel to the Roman road that ran from Bremenium in Redesdale to the coast. The Celtic-style cross standing at the pool’s centre was added in Victorian times; carved words on its plinth, blurred by vivid orange lichens, tell of St Paulinus supposedly baptising 3,000 people at this spot in AD627.
Country diary: this spring-fed well may have Roman connections