The Mermaids of the Peak District
by Ben Johnson
Believe it or not, but the land-locked Peak District is said to be home to not one, but two mermaids!
The first is rumoured to live in the appropriately named Mermaid’s Pool, situated just below Kinder Scout in the High Peaks. This site was thought to be popular for ancient Celtic water worship rituals for two reasons; firstly, the water is salinated, a peculiarity for an inland lake. Secondly the nearby waterfall of Kinder Downfall often appears to have the mythical quality of water flowing upwards on a blustery day.
The waters of the Mermaid’s Pool are believed to offer healing qualities to those brave enough to bathe in them. For those looking for eternal life, the best time to visit is at midnight at Easter, the only time of the year when the Mermaid is said to appear. If she looks upon you fondly then she will grant you the gift of immortality. Make sure you catch her on a good day though, otherwise you can expect to be pulled into the pool to your death!
Mermaid’s Pool near Kinder Scout in Derbyshire. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. Author: Dave Dunford
The second mermaid is said to live in Black Mere Pool on the south-western tip of the Staffordshire Peak District. There are two conflicting legends which explain how the mermaid arrived at this unexceptional inland lake. The first states that she was brought here hundreds of years ago by a sailor from the nearby town of Thorncliff, in a tale that is effectively a rather charming love story between water nymph and seafarer. However, after the sailor’s death the mermaid became angry and – unable to return to the sea – started to haunt the lake.
The Black Mere Pool mermaid – a case of a broken heart, or something more sinister…?
The other legend is slightly more sinister, and tells of a beautiful young woman who rejected the advances of a local man named Joshua Linnet. Unable to accept the rejection, Joshua accused the woman of being a witch and – being a rather persuasive chap – he managed to convince the local townsfolk to drown her in Black Mere Pond. With her final breath however, the young woman muttered a curse against Joshua and three days later his body was found by the pool, his face covered with claw marks. It is said that her spirit still haunts the pool in the form of a demon mermaid…
Even today, livestock are said to refuse to drink water from Black Mere Pool, and that birds will never fly across it. Although many have claimed to see the mermaid over the years, the last recorded sighting was in the mid nineteenth century when a group of locals attempted to drain the lake to see if the pool was indeed bottomless as claimed. Shortly after they began digging at the southern end of the pool (where a drainage ditch can still be seen to this day), it is said that the Mermaid appeared from the lake and threatened to flood the nearby towns of Leek and Leekfrith unless they ceased their activities immediately. Needless to say they quickly packed up their shovels and headed back to lower ground!
Please try our UK Travel Guide for details of how to get to the Peak District.