Toad, Snake, and Long Crippler

Once, in a time that was and was not a time of transition there was a town that was not too big and not too small with a river running through it and a steep, steep high street with a castle on the top.


‘Twas a town of many great deeds, and always had been from the time, ‘tis said, that brave Brutus braved the oceans and sailed up the River Oak and found a place just perfect for people to make their home.


Some say ‘twas a home already and the three headed stream that ran through its ancient streets had drawn many to be healed for hundreds of years. Three headed stream, three lanes leading to three wells; Toad, Snake and Long Crippler.


In times long gone by guardians of the town were set to watch over the precious Leechwell, for many, ‘tis said, would still gather there to be healed in their eyes, aye and their skin too. Bathing in the waters that flowed down to the wells, or immersing themselves in the three sided pool that they flowed into, peoples of old could be cured, or so it is said.


When Maudlin Road still hosted a hospital the lepers, ‘tis said, would walk down their prong of the three headed lane to be healed, till times they grew hard and the hospice did close its doors.


Time it did move on, and the town forgot its precious healing waters, until one day the townsfolk planned a terrible thing; A Car Park, right over the place where the triple headed Leechwell flowed into its three sided pool.


And in a trice, those folk who had n’er forgot their town’s treasures, the folk that left ribbons and glass beads as offerings, as offerings have always been left since the beginning of times, to honour the places where peace on earth can always be felt, and the special feelings of all the ancestors kept safe, rose up, in defence, of the Leechwell.


Three in number, three lanes, three headed well, three sided pool, three named guardians; Toad, Snake and Long Crippler, the ancient place of worship was not to be covered by an inch of manmade concrete and hidden from view. And so it was that a band of well respected folk came together to protect the town’s treasure for once and for all, and worked hard over many a long evening for many a long year to write reams and reams of words on paper until one day news came from the Capital, far to the east of gold pieces to be sent to rescue Toad, Snake and Long Crippler, a reward for their hundreds of years of selfless service.


Little by little gardens were designed and planted, play areas began to appear, and herbs were procured to scent and teach in the little herb corner. Excitement grew in the town that was not too big and not too small, and the townsfolk gathered in the Car Park that covered the once proud market gardens that had fed the town for so many years before the coming of the Super Markets had brought metal box on wheels after metal box on wheels to the town and taken away all the money the townsfolk made, to the Capital, and beyond, to be given to feed strangely named things called Profit, Debt, and The Economy.


Gathered they, on the hard cold surface, peering excitedly towards the wall and through the gates that were locked tightly, like those of the selfish giant in the tale of old, and wanted to get in.


Excitement grew, built and rose to a fever pitch, and a procession appeared, with musicians a playing, and children a dancing, and amongst its number three giant figures, who entered through the gates and locked them once more.


All faces looked upwards, 200 or more there were, that fair autumnal evening, to see if they could gain entrance to the Leechwell gardens.  And then came the Mayor and his Lady, and with golden chains about his neck the leading man stepped forward from out of the crowd and was given a key, a large golden key.


The key to the gardens, the gathered folk breathed, and gasped and gazed….but the golden key could not open the gates…


Again, and once more, three times did the Mayor try to open the gates to the triple guarded wells of the people of the town that was not too big and not too small with a river running through it and a steep, steep high street with a castle on the top, and three times did he fail.


Till, suddenly three large faces appeared above the stone wall, and all could see that they were Toad, Snake and Long Crippler, aye and there were more too, Apple Tree and Woodpecker were present an’all.


Spoke out from her position beside the gates, The Mistress of Living Wisdom, called she to Toad, Snake and aye, to Long Crippler too to speak to the people of what they guarded. And as guardians of that magical place spoke they, and with them spoke Apple Tree, and Woodpecker too.


“We are the guardians of this place”

And the people and their children listened to their words and heard their plea – who would take care of the land and all who dwelt upon her, who would tend the gardens and take care of the creatures who lived on the plants, the grass and the trees?




And then a great cry went up


“We will”


Called out the children and their families


“We will”


“We will take care of the gardens and all who dwell in them”


And the gates, they did open and the giant creatures of the garden and the children who had attended them came out and processed around the waiting people, music played, and the people followed and the creatures went back into the garden, and so did the people, more than 200 of them, they filled the garden with joy like the little boy in the story of the selfish giant, and those who had been shut out in the name of Progress burst into the precious new gardens and the sins of the past were swept away and the joy of the families breathed life into the space.


Toad, Snake and Long Crippler smiled to themselves, and crept unseen back to their wells, high up above the garden in the place where three lanes meet a three headed well from where a three sided pool could be filled with healing waters as ever it had.


Cure eyes from their strain, cure skin from its irritation, salving balm upon a love sick heart, the three stone troughs are filled with their treasure as ever today as ever they were, and in this very garden the three sided pool nestles, awaiting the pot of gold that will cause it to be filled anew with those that need its help.


Filled with children, filled with hope, aye and a wishing well too, Leechwell Garden awaits your wishes to fill the future with joy, and the next chapter, of this story is soon to be told…



I wrote this tale to commemorate the famous healing well of Totnes, Leechwell Gardens, on the occasion of A Magical Autumnal Evening, a fundraiser for Totnes Lantern Festival, 1st September 2012.