Tuesday, 31 August 2010

The Devil's Punch Bowl

As September approaches, the heathers start to blossom and the east side of the Devil's Punch Bowl and nearby Hindhead Common in the southwest corner of Surrey turn from light to deep purple.

This beautiful area, which until the nineteenth century remained relatively isolated, has been at the centre of many stories and legends, including two that give a different explanation about the name of the valley.

One particular legend links two of the most famous natural landmarks in the southeast of England: the Devil's Dyke above Poynings in Sussex and the Devil's Punch Bowl. One day, while standing on top of the South Downs, the Devil, or 'the Poor Man' as locals used to call him, realised that more and more churches were being built in the Weald. Outraged, he swore he would drown them by digging a channel from the coast through the South Downs, between sunset and sunrise. Even though St Cuthman (or St Dunstan, depending on the version of the legend) begged him to spare the lives of the inhabitants of the Weald, the Devil began digging, throwing great lumps of chalk in all directions and by doing so created Chanctonbury and Cissbury Rings, Rackham Hill, Mount Caburn, and even the Isle of Wight. He was just about to complete his task when an old woman in Poynings was woken up by all the noise. She got up and lit a candle to see what was going on. Thanks to St Cuthman the flame gave out such a glaze that all the cockerels in the village woke up and started to crow to greet the new day. Thinking the sun was about to rise, the Devil fled, jumping across the Weald and leaving a deep valley as a footmark where he landed: the Devil's Punch Bowl.

The southern end of the Punch Bowl

However, according to another legend, the valley was created when the Devil, who was living at the Devil's Jumps near Churt, dug up lumps of earth to throw at Thor, who lived nearby in Thursley, during a quarrel between the two.

Hindhead Common

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