Healing Well: OS Grid Reference – SE 1028 3907
From Bingley, take the B6429 road up to Harden. After going up the wooded winding road for a few hundred yards, stop where it levels out. Cross onto the right-hand side of the road and walk up the slope a little, veering to your right. You’ll notice a small disused building just off the roadside, in overgrowth, with a pool of water. You need to be about 100 yards up the slope above it!
Archaeology & History
This is a beautiful old place. If you walk straight up to it from the roadside, past the derelict building, you have to struggle through the brambles and prickly slope like we did – but it’s worth it if you like your wells! However, if you try getting here in the summertime, expect to be attacked on all sides by the indigenous flora! The waters here emerge from a low dark cave, in which, a century of three ago, someone placed a large stone trough. When I first came here about 25 years ago, some halfwits had built an ugly red-brick wall into the cave which, thankfully, someone has had the sense to destroy and rip-out.
Shown on the 1852 Ordnance Survey map and highlighted as a ‘spring,’ Harry Speight (1898) gives a brief mention to this site, though refers us to an even earlier literary source when it was first mentioned. In John Richardson’s 18th century survey of the Craven area, he makes reference to an exceedingly rare fern, Trichomanes radicans, which was later included in Bolton’s classic monograph on British ferns of 1785. In it, Bolton wrote that the very first specimen of this plant was “first discovered by Dr. Richardson in a little dark cavern, under a dripping rock, below the spring of Elm Crag Well, in Bell Bank.”
The waters from here come from two sides inside the small cave and no longer run into the lichen-encrusted trough, seemingly just dropping down to Earth and re-emerging halfway down the hillside. But the waters here taste absolutely gorgeous and are very refreshing indeed! And the old elms which gave this old well its name can still be seen, only just hanging on to the rocks above and to the side, with not much time left for the dear things.
- Bolton, James, Filices Britannicae: An History of the British Proper Ferns, Thomas Wright 1785.
- Speight, Harry, Chronicles and Stories of Old Bingley, Elliott Stock: London 1898.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian