Myths of the River Stour and River Allen

Written and devised by members of the group at a workshop led by Jonathan Petherbridge.

The Story of the Mean Well Keeper and the Monster in the Well
A long time ago water was sold from a well in Wimborne town by a very mean man, Marcus Mean. Every year he increased the price so that the poorest could hardly afford to buy what they needed.

One cold night, a gang of Wimborne villagers met to plan a way to get affordable water. They hatched a plan for the very next day.

The next morning the gang visited Marcus Mean and demanded cheaper water. As he argued back the villagers slowly pushed Marcus Mean back towards his well. They told him to look down at the terrible monster at the bottom of the well 100 feet below until eventually they were holding him upside down over the well. Suddenly a water snake rose from the bottom of the well and opened its mouth wide.

Terrified at this, Marcus Mean accepted the views of the gang and promised to sell the water only to pay for his keep. From that day on all the villagers had plentiful water at a price they could afford.

Under Canford Bridge
I live under Canford Bridge.
I lure spiders to create a colony and when they have made their webs, my mate from Julian’s Bridge tricks the Blandford fly down and those who escape her clutches reach me.
What a feast caught in the spiders’ webs.

A beast lay in some waters, lonely and quiet. One day some ancient people came to live and the beast enjoyed the hubbub, the company. The rivers would breathe in and out the beast’s moods and seasons. Wimborne was born on a whim of the beast.

Occasionally humans would do something to irritate the beast and it would shake with anger, spreading the waters far and wide across the hinterland, acting as a warning to the people to respect the beast, care for the waters, tread gently across its hinterland.

The Story of the Serpent and the Never Ending Tanks of Water
There used to live a large and terrifying serpent in Dorset and the people who lived there believed that he was evil. He lived in a large building full of tanks of never-ending water and he lived alone. Nobody spoke to him or welcomed him into the town and he was very sad.

One day the town experienced a heat wave and the people who lived there became very hot. It was so hot that even their taps would not produce water. The people did not know what to do and the heat wave lasted three days. On the third day the serpent realised that he could come to their rescue and fill the town with a flow of water.

The townspeople were saved and rewarded the Serpent, welcoming him into the town and saying sorry. However, now that the water had been given away the serpent could no longer live in the building and so he flew back to another planet.

The Curse of the Spanish Song
A teacher called Alfonso came back from the Coach and Horses along the River Stour to his home at Canford School. He started to sing a Spanish song.

The Spanish song, unbeknown to him, was a curse for Cynthia the goddess of the Stour.
Whoever sang the song got hit over the head ten times, knocked unconscious and dragged into the Stour. When they emerged they had changed – men became women and women became men.

Claimed by the Stour
The river froze in early February. Thin ice spread from each bank and the children ventured cautiously on to it. One by one they crept back frightened by the creaking sounds beneath their feet. Only one, the youngest and the smallest, stayed on the ice, gazing down at the fish, unmoving and frozen below. “Look!” he shouted, “Come and see”. No one joined him. He stamped with his foot and broke the ice. They watched as he slipped into the river and below the ice, never to be seen again.

The villagers shook their heads sadly. “The river gods took him”, they said “that is the place and this is the time of year when they come. It will be safe now to swim in the river this summer. Remember him.”

Granny Dumble, the Witch of Wimborne
The organ plays…
Long ago there was a girl called Stouria. She lived by a pool shaped like a smile with her Granny Dumble who was a much sought-after witch. One year the sun shone so brightly that the pool shaped like a smile grew smaller and smaller until it was just a muddy splash. The villagers came to see Granny Dumble to ask for help.

Granny Dumble thought long and hard. She sent Stouria to fetch her special stick from its secret place at the back of her cottage. Dumble held the stick up to turn north, south, east and west. The stick quivered. The people gasped.

“Stouria”, Dumble announced, “you must go to the south. Stand on any side of the Hills of Coal not far from the Hill of Futle. Wait. A tall man called Wim will come along bearing a sheet of fabric. Ask him to give you some.”

How the Allen got its Name
There was once a stream called the Wim, which gave its name to the market town of Wimborne but it was overshadowed by the bigger, stronger River Stour, which it joined just south of the town. A rich merchant called Samuel Allen offered to help the little Wim but said that in return it must change its name to Allen.

The Wim agreed and Mr. Allen, who was a builder, began to build houses along the river, thus increasing its importance, whereas the Stour merely flowed through the meadows. There was even a school built by the Allen and a shiny new centre, which became the focus of the town’s activities. Thus the River Allen became more important to the life of the town than the peaceful Stour which had to be content with flowing round the perimeter.

The Peacocks: resurrection and immortality at the time of the Spring Solstice
Once in the late 90s…
In the town of Wimborne live a family of peacocks. They are shy and retiring birds most of the time but they are also watchful and concerned.

Each evening when the town becomes quiet they make their way down to the river at Eye Bridge where they gather and sing a lovely evening song. They are renowned for this song which sounds like waters gently making their way from up stream and through the reeds into town.

On certain evenings, it is said that their call brings into being the people drowned in the rivers of Wimborne who come out of the river on to the river bank to listen to the birdsong.

Sir Allen and the Blue Serpent
The blue serpent of the Wim River sleeps in his cave and guards the pure water that quenches Wimborne. The pure water of the water meadows. The serpent sleeping in the bore hole.
Sir Alan was his guardian knight armed with iron and stalactite. He was like King Arthur. He could turn the tap on.
The white bird has returned.


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