The Nailbourne Flows Again – Canterbury Kent

Out and about in the county of Kent last weekend, I am reminded  of the  legend about the Nailbourne stream which flows through the Elham Valley not far from Canterbury which takes us back over 1500 years to the 6th Century AD.

St Augustine, sent by Pope Gregory the Great to bring Roman Catholicism Christianity to England must, at times, have had quite a struggle on his hands dealing with superstitions, myths and, of course, the local Pagan gods  The story goes that at the time of his arrival, there was a terrible drought  throughout the countryside. It is said that the people of the Elham Valley worried that this was a direct result of upsetting the ancient Anglo Saxon gods, and in turn they were less than happy about the concept of Christianity. Now, Augustine, it is claimed, decided action was needed, so he went, with his trusty staff (a stick rather than a team of employees) into the Elham Valley and having tapped the ground and prayed for a source of water, he was rewarded with a spring bubbling up at the very spot where he had been kneeling.

The Nailbourne in full flow Barham February 2014

However, Thor and his pals, on seeing this, were angered, and to prove that their power was the greater, brewed up a great storm which flooded the valley, destroying the crops  and bringing misery to the dwellers.  As a result, the people were none too happy with Augustine.  In order to appease the people and to avoid out and out conflict with Thor et al, Augustine determined that the spring should stay bubbling cheerfully underground and only be allowed to flow in full every seven years.

Not sure if anyone is counting, but I think it might have been over-performing this last few years.  When I wrote this, it was well before we saw The Nailbourne in full flow again just after Christmas in 2019 and it reached its peak in February of this year.  Certainly this year has been a year of woe !

However,   at a time when Covid and  winter weather, is causing problems in many parts of the world, and we look for signs of improvement, we welcome the promise of spring when we see the snowdrops and catkins poking through the ground alongside the rushing waters. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, and we look forward with optimism.


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