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Golden Frogs

Golden Frogs

Many years ago in a time that only legend remembers there lived a poor woodcutter. He dwelt in a humble tumbledown cottage in Bovey Tracey, to be exact in Church Street. Although far from being rich the family were content, their only child was all the riches they wanted. Every morning as the first rays of the sun appeared the woodcutter would make his way up to Beara Cleeve Wood to cut hazel rods. He was proud of this wood, he had coppiced it well and the moorland craftsmen would travel for miles to buy his stakes and wands. One late autumn day as he was cutting hurdle spars he noticed the sky turn a livid mauve colour, the trees began to shiver in the strengthening wind, the woodcutter knew that these portents were announcing an oncoming storm. He gathered his tools and made his way back to the cottage. That night the storm hit with a vengeance, the wind seemed to find every crack or gap in the house, the draughts blew the peat smoke swirling across the room, the rain lashed horizontally against the door beating like a steady drum roll. The family huddled around the fire for warmth. It was then that the woodcutter noticed that the child was sweating feverishly, the boys eyes had sunk deep back into his ashen face. This was not good, the woodcutter swept the lad up into his strong arms and carried him to his small cot in the corner of the room. The night passed slowly and the child became sicker and sicker, there had been talk of the plague in Plymouth which troubled the woodcutter deeply. On such a night help would not be forthcoming. Suddenly they heard a feeble knocking, it was coming from the door, to say he opened the door would be an understatement, he simply lifted the latch and the howling wind did the rest. There on the doorstep was a tall figure dressed in a long blue cloak. He called for his wife and together they helped the storm lashed stranger into the house. They removed the wet cloak to reveal a very pale and exhausted woman. The woodcutter gently helped her over to the settle and sat her down in front of the fire. He put on a couple of fresh peat turfs which fanned by the wind soon began to glow. His wife ladled some hot milk into a cup and gave it to the lady. She could not help noticing that the lady had a warm gentle smile as the milk was eagerly accepted. Before long the colour returned to the strangers face and she asked the woodcutter why he kept checking the small child in the corner. He explained that they were fearful that the boy had caught the plague and so without wishing to be rude, he thought it best the lady left as soon as possible. She slowly stood up and walked across to the small bed, pulled back the quilt and laid her hands on the child fevered brow. Immediately he stopped tossing around and the fever just vanished. The lad drifted off into a peaceful slumber, at the same time the storm died away and once more the peat smoke wafted lazily up the chimney. The woodcutter and his wife were overcome with gratitude and explained to the lady that although they were poor she could ask of them whatever she wished. The woman picked up her cloak and wrapped it around her shoulders and as she walked to the door she slowly turned and smiled. “Just so you do not think my visitation was a figment of your dreams I will leave you with a clear sparkling spring in your garden and in it will live a host of golden frogs”. With that she vanished into the night. The following morning the woodcutter went outside to find a clear sparking spring with golden frogs swimming in its crystal waters. To this day the little street where the stranger vanished into the night is called ‘Mary Street’ and every spring sees the coming of the golden frogs.

A second version tells of how on a stormy evening in late Saxon times the local sexton was carrying buckets of water to his house. This stood next door to the church and the water was for use during the services. He was mumbling and moaning to himself about how murky the water was when suddenly there was a load knock on his door. On opening the door he saw a strange lady stood on the step, she was cold and soaked and clearly exhausted. Immediately he invited her inside and sat her down by the fire. He could not help noticing how serene and beautiful she was despite being so bedraggled. As it was nearly supper time the sexton and his wife asked the lady if she should like to share their meal, the offer was graciously accepted and they all sat down to eat. During the meagre meal the stranger asked why the couple were so solemn and was told that they had just buried their first and only child who had died of a fever. The lady smiled sweetly and reassuringly told them that despite this tragic loss they would have many more children and even more grandchildren. She then asked for a cup of water, on receiving this she examined the cup and asked if the water was also for use in the church. The sexton replied that sadly it was but it had come form the only source of water available. The woman stood up and said, “this water is too dirty for holy water and too foul for the font” she then walked to the door and asked the couple to follow her. They walked up the small lane and stopped halfway, the lady stood for a moment gazing into the cloudy heavens and when she looked down a cool, crystal clear spring gushed forth from the ground upon which she said “this spring will continue to issue pure, cool water for my church throughout all generations”. She then turned and walked away never to be seen again. From that day on the small lane became known as Traw (trough) lane. The spring was later enclosed with stones and a stone trough was hewn to catch the waters. A population of golden frogs also appeared and lived in the pool and could be seen as late as the 1800’s.

A third, shorter version is that one morning the Virgin Mary was seen walking down Traw lane when she stopped at the spring and took a drink from the spring which fed the well. Ever since that day the waters were used for baptism in the local church.


About Tim Sandles

Tim Sandles is the founder of Legendary Dartmoor

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