A witch, a cave, a cauldron and a church
Mother Ludlam's Cave is steeped in mystery... and a little bit hard to find.
Following Google Maps initially led me down a quiet road studded with multi-million pound mansions proudly perched behind high-security fences. Reaching a dead end, we consulted the map to see we were on a small hill and the cave must have been just below us, behind one of the houses. We turned the car around and wound back down the hill, parking at the visitor car park for the well known site of Waverley Abbey.
Setting out from the car park on foot, I was hesitant to follow the Google map instructions to walk straight into someone's front yard. Reassured by a humble wooden sign indicating a 'Public Bridleway' that I'd not noticed while in the car, I walked down the neatly pebbled driveway and found that behind several cars was indeed a public footpath and gate leading into woods.
A brief and battered sign explained that the cave was no longer open to the public, following a partial collapse of the stone roof. Now relatively undisturbed by the public and with it's own natural fresh water spring, the cave is a perfect habitat for three native species of bat - Natterer’s, Daubenton’s and Long-eared. The cave was eerily quiet when I visited and sadly no bats were in sight, but my exploration didn't end here.
The cave is named after the local legend Mother Ludlam, a witch who made the cave her home and was known to lend kitchen items and tools to impoverished locals in need. Legends surrounding Mother Ludlam incla-witch-a-cave-a-cauldron-and-a-churchude that she was a witch and had even had The Devil himself appear and demand to borrow her magical cauldron - which was taken to a church for safe keeping.
A mere 11 minute drive away the church of St Mary the Virgin in Frensham is indeed home to a hand beaten copper cauldron that locals have associated with the legend of Mother Ludlam. The church also happens to be home to native bats as well.
A more plausible, although less exciting, explanation for the huge cauldron's presence is that it was used in the making of church ales. When I visited St Mary the Virgin, the cauldron was tucked in a dimly lit corner of the church with no signage or information to indicate it's history or any significance.
The church website also held very little detail about the cauldron, not even including any images, which I would say warrants it as one of Surrey's best kept secret sights.