Lake 32, September 2021 #1

Lucy is Leaving

Well dressing featuring Hardwick Hall

Time to begin my third (and final) month’s residency on the lake. I have to be away during the last week in September so began work on my final script early to make sure it would be ready in plenty of time. Again, this will be a radio piece entitled ‘Lucy is Leaving’.

Jane arrives at Lake 32 with her partner Andrew where they offload the Well Dressing created by Jane’s daughter Lucy (about to leave for university) which supposedly commemorates a former teacher who has recently died. Lucy (whom we never meet) wants her mother’s new partner Andrew and her father Peter to transport the dressing out to its new home on tiny Oz island.

IT consultant Andrew is not keen on spending time with Jane’s ex, hearty outdoorsman Peter, with whom he has little in common. Peter is similarly reluctant to spend time with ‘new boy’ Andrew. But Jane insists: she is struggling to come to terms with Lucy (her only child) leaving, and if Lucy wants it to happen this way, that’s good enough for her.
Andrew and Peter make the best of things and get to grips with moving the dressing, the first time they have spent any time together. Slowly, they begin getting to know each other, even open up about themselves, their worries. About Jane, about the highly intelligent but slightly odd Lucy. Each has a secret they have never shared before.

When they finally position and unwrap the Dressing, both Andrew and Peter are deeply moved by its beauty and impressed by the work that has clearly gone into it. And while we never meet Lucy, it becomes clear that there is a lot more to her than meets the eye.


Well dressings are a long-established tradition, originally a means of giving thanks for clean water supplies. Typically constructed from wooden boards covered with clay, the designs pressed in, built up from natural items such as leaves, petals and twigs. The tradition supposedly dates back to Roman times, but took on special significance in the 17th century, following the Plague.

I wanted to incorporate a Well Dressing before, it was one of the things I mentioned in my original application for the Dialect/Lake 32 Residency project, but circumstances (i.e. COVID) led me in different directions during my first 2 months. I was reminded of them by recently re-reading Jon McGregor’s ‘Reservoir 13’ which is full of references to Well Dressings, not as a major part of the plot, but as something that happens as part of village life, the usual cycle of events. I found the dressing above here.

Now felt like the perfect opportunity to use them.

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