Just before New Year, Chris (my green-man-hunting friend) and I went down to Salisbury to see if we could track down the four green men listed in Clive Hicks’s book The Green Man: a field guide. On the way we stopped off at various small churches along the Wylye valley, and this was very enjoyable, but we found no more green men to add to our image bank. It was all rather depressing, the more so as we had had several similar trips recently without a single green man to encourage us.
Then we arrived in Salisbury, walked down to the Cathedral and slipped in through a side door, finding ourselves close to the main crossing. We tend to think we’re good at spotting green men now, and knowing there was one up in the crossing somewhere, we set off squinting at bosses and other carvings. I got out my binoculars and immediately found a foliate head. That was one. I left Chris swearing slightly at the impossible task of photographing something so high up, and wandered on to see if I could find the chantry chapel where Hicks lists another green man.
I found it in the aisle to the north of the high altar. It actually had seven different foliage-spewing beast-heads on it. Great! Eight already and we’d hardly started. Chris joined me and we quickly found yet another in the baptistry. We moved on to the choir stalls and I found a little foliate head, then tipped up the only misericord we could reach (strictly forbidden) and there was another!
Then we were stuck. We knew there was at least one more in the building but couldn’t track it down. In the end we found a cathedral guide and asked her, and she took us to a tomb to the south of the high altar – we had walked right past two fine spewing heads. Perhaps we were not quite so good at this as we thought. On the other hand, she also showed us the green man among the bosses in the crossing – the one we thought we’d already found. No, we’d found yet another green man that she did not know about – so honours were even.
Then we decided to take a break and have coffee. We now had a bag of around 14 green men, and the information that there were more in the misericords that we could not access. We wandered into the cathedral shop and I found a book which had pictures of several more green men that we had missed in spite of our careful searching. I made notes…
We were straight back into the cathedral and very swiftly found the spewing beast-head on the base of a pillar in the Galilee chapel, the five different heads on a single monument near the crossing, and the strange baroque beastie on a wall memorial. By the time we left, we had photographs of 20 or so green men, and Chris had made an exhibition of himself by lying flat on his back next to the crossing altar so as to photograph the green man among the bosses in the tower. Who is that man? Nothing to do with me.
And then we found St Edmund’s church and there was another one on the north wall.
So these will appear gradually on the Wiltshire Green Men website, along with such pearls of wisdom as I can muster in description. They will take our grand total up to over 100 green men in Wiltshire located and documented so far. Our cup runneth over…