TI was recently contacted by Tor, who has, very kindly, given me permission to reproduce her painting of Reffley Spring, ahead of her other works. She said
“I am an artist and I am doing a project – Book and Exhibition - to paint and write about all the rivers of Norfolk and would love to have a look at the remains of Reffley Spring.
Rivers are such a big subject and springs are important, especially the west Norfolk chalk springs. I've come across springs turned into duck decoys and ponds and seen them bubbling out from beside the road or forming boggy swamps but I haven't come across one that has such a traceable a history of human veneration. One or two of my rivers pictures are on my website.” www.torfalcon.co.uk
Tor provided more information about her painting of Reffley Spring, and the Project it is a part of, which provides a fitting introduction to this History of Reffley’s Illustrious Spring:
“I am in the middle of a project to draw and to write about all the rivers of Norfolk. I spent March, April and May exploring and drawing the chalk streams of west Norfolk. What particularly struck me was the number of springs I came across. The west Norfolk chalk ridge seemed to be liberally leaking crystal clear water into rivulets and pools everywhere I looked. Trying to draw these springs was difficult, how to depict transparent water, trembling slightly, over gravel and chalk, often in dappled light? My drawings generally failed to convey the exquisite beauty of the springs but I couldn’t fail to fall under their spell. Drawing began to feel like an act of worship, everyday I was amazed by the precious resource bubbling up, pure and clear, from beneath my feet.
All this got me wondering why we don’t celebrate our springs. As I looked into it more, the name Reffley kept coming up, and it confounded everything I thought I knew of the west Norfolk chalk springs. For a start it’s a chalybeate spring, the water is full of iron, black and tastes unpleasant. It certainly wasn’t the sort of spring I had been drawing but its history was so rich and surprising that I wanted to go and see it.
Although the stone basin and a few bits of vandalised obelisk sitting in black soupy water are all that remain of the spring, in my head were the stories I had read of the covert gatherings in dangerous political times, of the fun and the feasting that once took place here. Funnily enough, with only the faintest trace of the Temple and the Obelisk, my imagination was free to wander. In actual fact, in front of me was a gloomy little scrap of woodland alive with tame muntjac and squirrels. A succession of pigeons came to drink and a blackbird patrolled the spring proprietorially. Two boys raced past on bicycles, the one at the back shouting “I’m going to murder you, I’m going to murder you”
It didn’t conform to my ideas of a special place where people give thanks for water so freely given. It has a much more complicated, much more human story. And its history, like its waters, only add to the complex nature of the river system. I am going to have an exhibition of my drawings and will include them in a book about The Rivers of Norfolk. Reffley Spring will definitely feature, it’s an extraordinary part of the river Gaywood.
Further details of Tor's projects when available, will be posted on her website, and added here when available.
REFFLEY SPRING (c) TOR FALCON 2018