Cheshire Folklore: The Legendary Floating Island of Redesmere

 

 

The Floating Island of Redesmere

Redesmere Lake is an artificial lake situated not far from Siddington in Cheshire.  The lake is about half a mile long and was originally constructed to feed water to the ornamental lakes of Capesthorne Hall.  A local legend that tells how there was once a floating island on the lake that was alleged to move around the lake though today it is not visible as such. Although the idea of a floating island may seem fantastic they are a natural phenomenon found in many parts of the world.

The name Redesmere is believed to mean reedy marsh or reedy pool and some say the island was made of reeds and peat and even said to have trees and bushes growing on it. It was eventually thought to have and eventually joined with the east bank.  Old maps do show an island in the lake which according to tradition was said to float,  though it may have been simply floating upon the surface being more a  stationary feature than a mobile one. Whatever the truth of the floating island may be it plays an important part in a legend that is attached to Redesmere and a version of that story is presented here.

Sir Reginald

There was once a bold  and loyal knight named Sir Reginald who had fought bravely and ferociously for King Henry V and distinguished himself at the Battle of Agincourt.  It is said he always fought hard, asking for no quarter and gave none in return.  His pennant could be seen fluttering wherever the fighting was the hardest and the fiercest.   His deeds upon the battlefield were held in high esteem and he was a man of good and impeccable character, a stalwart friend, and a fierce enemy.   Indeed, he may well be seen as a good and honest knight and the best of his order,  yet he had a flaw in his character that was often troublesome.  You see, he had a terrible quick temper which when things were not going his way would come to the fore leading him to make rash decisions he would later regret.  Then, he was prone to sulking alone and brooding upon what might have been.  Still, despite these faults, he was always a man of his word, even though it may have been too hastily given.

The Fair Lady Isabel

In a cottage quite near to Redesmere, there lived a very fair and beautiful lady whose name was Isabel.  For Sir Reginald, she was as lovely as sunlight and as mysterious as moonlight.  Indeed, all who knew her agreed her sweet and good-natured mien was a delight to behold.  Sadly, she lived a solitary life in virtual social isolation, her family and friends strangely absent.   Alas, for poor Sir Reginald for his heart was quite taken by her and he dreamed of marriage to her one day. Now there was a mystery as to why the fair Isabel lived alone in poverty in a humble cottage when she had been born of a noble line and was, in fact, the heiress of vast and valuable estates.

Sir Hugh

The answer to the mystery rests with another knight, though not so noble, whose name was Sir Hugh.  He had cheated Isabel out of her rightful inheritance and forced her to live in the lowly cottage near Redesmere.   Now, when Isabel told Sir Reginald of the secret of this mystery he was outraged.  As was his character and without forethought, he vowed vengeance and that he would reclaim her lands and rightful inheritance from the dastardly Sir Hugh.  He quickly gathered his men and attacked the stronghold of his enemy, but  unfortunately, even though he had the best and most noble of intentions, in his hot-tempered haste to right a wrong, he did not prepare properly and Sir Hugh soundly defeated him.

The Death of Sir Hugh

Although Sir Hugh bested Sir Reginald his victory was to prove to be short lived.  Not long after his victory, Sir Hugh faced a grimmer and more deadly enemy which none have ever defeated. It was at Christmas time while he was drinking and feasting and celebrating the festivities with all his men at arms and cronies.  Sir Death gatecrashed the party and  swiftly and unexpectedly struck Sir Hugh down as he downed a goblet of wine in one go.  All his friends and men were shocked at the suddenness of his demise and fled in fear. The former servants and guardians of Isabel’s felt empowered to at last claim for her what was rightfully hers and at last, she came into possession of her estates and inheritance.  Of course, they made sure they too were reinstated to their former status.

Fytton

Now the restoration of Isabel to her rightful inheritance with estates and riches also brought her to the attention of many who began to notice just how beautiful and desirable and indeed, rich and unmarried she was.  Such is the way of the world  that she found friends and suitors appearing out of nowhere to tell her just how wonderful and gorgeous she was and how much they adored her.

One such suitor was one rather young and very handsome fellow of very dubious character who claimed he was some distant, long lost relative by the name of Fytton.  He made it his business to insinuated himself into her society and into her affections.  Somehow he forgot how he had previously distanced himself from her when she was naught but the socially isolated lady of the humble cottage by Redesmere.

Because of her isolation, Isabel had no friends to turn to for support or an older female relative who could be her mentor and guide her with unfamiliar or complicated matters such as those of the heart.  It is also fair to say that her sudden good fortune in coming into riches after so long in poverty went to her head a little.  Isabel had little experience of men and the way of the world and responded to the flattery of Fytton and his advances, but it is probably fair to say that talk about their relationship by others was certainly exaggerated out of all proportion.

Sir Reginald’s Oath

After his defeat by Sir Hugh,  Sir Reginald had taken to his castle and shut himself away in shame and embarrassment at having been bested by the man who had so badly cheated the woman he loved.   When he heard of how his foe had been vanquished by death he had cheered up.  Then he heard how Isabel had at last come into her inheritance and how this dishonorable young man, Fytton was wooing her his mood plummeted once again.

Although the accounts he heard were exaggerated he took to sulking angrily and acting in a completely  inappropriate and childish way.  His squire, who had served him faithfully and accompanied him at Agincourt, at last, took it upon himself to berate his master in the hope of jolting some sense into him and he was probably the only man who could have done this.  Even so, although Sir Reginald respected and liked his squire and did listen to him, his temper got the better of him and he rashly swore a solemn oath  saying,

“Until the island moved along
The bosom of the mere,
He would not look upon the face
Of Isabel de Vere.”
Anon
After uttering this vow Sir Reginald fell into sickness and took to his bed.  His condition quickly deteriorated and he fell into a state of unconsciousness.  Now, although Sir Reginald had been well and truly beaten by Sir Hugh his courage and devotion had not gone unnoticed by Isabel. Hearing about his sickness shocked her out of her own naive and foolish behavior and she rushed to be at his side.  With outstanding dedication and devotion, she nursed him back to health and he was delighted to discover that Isabel carried deep feeling for him.

As he his strength returned under the care of Isabel and slowly his memory returned he realized he had been very rash and foolish and one thing that troubled him greatly. Despite his many faults, Sir Reginald always did what he said he would do and the oath he had sworn, though done rashly and with little thought, now bound him and he explained the situation to Isabel.

It broke his heart as well as hers but he believed that he would have to distance himself from her or break his vow and so he asked her to leave.  Reluctantly she agreed. From then on he became a more thoughtful and gentler man and the legend says that when those in heaven who look down saw how he had changed they decided to help.

The Island Floats

A great storm blew across the sea sinking and wrecking many ships before it hit land.  It then ravaged across the land uprooting trees and blowing roofs off buildings in its path.  When it hit Redesmere the island was taken by the wind causing it to float across the mere to rest in a different position.  As soon as Sir Reginald heard about this wonder he quickly made haste to tell his true love of the floating island which released him from his rashly sworn oath,

“And there, although his tale of love
Was a wondrous tale to tell,
Yet must the good Sir Reginald
Have told it passing well;
For when ’twas o’er, the lover pressed
A willing maiden to his breast,
And lo I a fond kiss told the rest
To his fond Isabel.”
Anon

And there, I will leave the reader to decide for themselves of the truth of the legend of The Floating Island of Redesmere and perhaps to create their own ending for the bold Sir Reginald and the fair Lady Isabel.

© 26/10/2016 zteve t evans

References, Attributions and Further Reading

Copyright October 26th, 2016 zteve t evans

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2 thoughts on “Cheshire Folklore: The Legendary Floating Island of Redesmere

  1. Very cool, Zteve. I’ve read (and loved) Neil Gaiman’s story, “The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains,” which features a disappearing island (and a cave!). I never realized that this idea appeared in Cheshire folklore. It’s also in what else? Conan and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. Nothing is truly completely new now, is it? Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • Yes its peculiar how similar themes and motifs seem to appear in folklore around the world and inspires writers and artists to produce great works. Thanks for commenting Leigh, appreciated!

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