St Conga’s holy well
St Congar was a 5th century welsh abbot who left Pembrokeshire and came as bishop to Somerset. He founded a monastery on Cadbury Hill at Congresbury in Somerset, the place being named after him. One legend says that his staff took root when he thrust it hard into the ground and the yew tree which grew from it can still be seen today. He travelled to Cornwall where he lived as a hermit at St Ingunger near Bodmin. His holy well is still there but all remains of the reported chapel are long gone. He apparently died on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
We went looking for the holy well which is still in existence. This was not easy despite it being marked on the OS map at St Ingunger Farm. Isn’t it amazing that 1500 years later his name still marks the landscape despite there being no village or hamlet, just a gathering of farm buildings. We eventually found where the water emerged from the spring and formed a pool and small gully but it was June and the vegetation high, so it was impossible to see any stonework.
However, as we do in these places, we paused to pray and listen to the Holy Spirit. I’d been aware of a riot of birdsong throughout our time and this is often an indictator of God’s lingering presence. In fact the place felt peaceful despite nowadays juxtaposing the busy A30. Whilst praying I became aware of a red angel standing in the stream who placed his hands on our heads as we worshipped. I found the words of an old song coming to mind which is based on the scripture Habakkuk 3:2 ‘Oh Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, Oh Lord. Renew them, renew them, in our day and in our time make them known. And Lord in wrath, remember mercy’. So as I stood looking down at the water, this was my prayer in song, Lord revive us, renew us, may we see your works of miracles again, in our lives, today.
As we were driving out of the farm we noticed a small granite well structure abutting the driveway. On inspecting, it turned out to be another well. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t the site of the holy well but it still looked old. However, there was no sense of God there, so we moved on.
St Ingungar is in the parish of Lanivet near Bodmin and very near to the long distance path, The Saints’ Way. This goes from Padstow on the north coast to Fowey and was a route used by pilgrims and traders to avoid taking ships around the treacherous waters of Land’s End. Many of the Celtic Christians travelled this route from Ireland and Wales through Cornwall to continue on to Brittany. They erected wayside marker crosses to guide pilgrims and also near holy sites. There are numerous in the lanes around Bodmin, which was a major Celtic monastic hub. Many still remain in situ in Cornwall, having escaped destruction in the Reformation and being reused by farmers as gateposts!