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Whispers Of Chalk Stream

Chalk Stream Stories and Song

Chalk Stream Stories and Song


On the 21st February 2024, Helen and Sharon from @Attention2Place organised an evening of chalk stream stories and songs at the Bishop’s Sutton Village Hall as part of the Whispers of Chalk Stream Project.

We were delighted to welcome people from the village and further afield. Attendees came from Bishop’s Sutton and Southampton, Clanfield, Fareham, Alresford, Swanmore, Marchwood, New Forest, Kingston-upon Thames.

A cosy setting for the evening


We set out to create a cosy atmosphere in the hall and as ever we had a range of information boards celebrating the project launch, stories and storytelling, nature journalling, winter, and a creature feature: the kingfisher.

The stream was ever present throughout the evening – flowing continuously through tales and tunes… thanks to the technical expertise of Alastair and help of Taz, one of our friends.

Alastair K Daniel, Storyteller


The evening began with stories from Alastair K Daniel, an international storyteller. Alastair’s website is  (Alastair can be contacted through the ‘Click here to contact Alastair’ button on his website).

Alastair invited the gathering to contribute and shape the tales that he shared. Alastair explains his creative process.

‘Whispers of Chalk Stream’: the stories and their origins by Alastair Daniel


‘The process of creating a set of stories that are connected to a particular place is always interesting. A village with the history of Bishop’s Sutton will have stories seeping from its stones, but such tales of place are often fragmentary and lack key components that make a satisfying tale for the telling. To create a set of Chalk Stream Stories that would work in performance, I have therefore tried to create a story tapestry formed from a warp of threads taken from the landscape (the river and its wildlife, local history, familiar buildings, and the memory of buildings long gone) and a weft of elements from tales of Hampshire and wider afield. Through this overlaying of varied yarns, my hope is that Bishop’s Sutton (and the chalk stream that runs through it) will not only be recognisable, but also be seen with fresh eyes. 

The first step in the process of choosing stories for ‘Whispers of Chalk Stream’ was to take a walk along the river from its source to the church. The order of the tales this evening follows that walk, from the field where the water springs from the ground to the Norman porch of St Nicholas’s and beyond.’

King John's Trout


The stories began at the source of the stream with: King John's Trout. Water that springs from the ground has often been regarded as sacred and, in British folklore, there is a belief that trout caught in holy water should not be eaten. In ‘King John’s Trout’, I have combined this tradition with fragments of both the Grimm’s fairy tale ‘The White Snake’ (in which eating a magical creature grants special knowledge) and Celtic legends in which salmon is a source of wisdom. 

These elements are blended with the landscape of Bishop’s Sutton (as the source of the Alre) and the history of the Palace (which King John visited three times in 1205, once in 1208 and twice in 1212).

The Devil And The Vole


he next story was set between the ford bridge in Water Lane and the bridge in Bighton Lane. The Devil and the Vole is a tale based on the ‘Devil and the Hedgehog’, an English variant of the Aesop Fable ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’. Variations on this story of an unequal race are found all over the world, with the identity of the competitors reflecting local wildlife (if The Devil can be regarded as English fauna).

The Wisest Woman


Following this Alastair told the tale of The Wisest Woman. Originating in Tartary (central and east Asia), he relocated this tale about the search for wisdom to Hampshire and the water meadows on the banks of the Alre.

The Butterfly Bishop


The story of The Butterfly Bishop told of Holy man and warrior, * Bishop Peter des Roches of Winchester (1205-1238), who was resident at Bishop’s Sutton. To turn this most well-known of the legends surrounding Bishop des Roches into a balanced narrative, Alastair drew both on local lore and the way that the water that courses through the landscape connects the village to Winchester. *including campaigning on the sixth crusade alongside the Bishop of Exeter.

The Endless Tale


In The Endless Tale Alastair told a tale he has known for many years in its incarnation as a north Indian story from the time of the Moghul Empire. While researching stories for ‘Whispers of Chalk Stream’, he found an English version of the same tale, and it was not difficult to locate a retelling in Bishop’s Sutton with one of its most significant buildings, the granary, at its core.

The Winchester Valkyries


According to Dr. Eric Lacey (University of Winchester), there is an Anglo-Saxon tradition of Valkyries appearing on the water meadows just outside Winchester. In The Winchester Valkyries Alastair didn’t think that it’s too much of a stretch of the imagination to place fear of these fearsome supernatural creatures in the settlements along the Itchen and Alre.

The Nun's Priest's Tale: Chanticleer And The Fox


Alastair finished the evening with a rousing performance of The Nun's Priest's Tale - Chanticleer and the Fox. This is one of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’, but is a story which goes back to the writings of a French monk in the early 11th Century. Of course, Chaucer’s pilgrims were travelling from Southwark to Canterbury along the North Downs, but Alastair thinks that we can be certain that if Chaucer’s pilgrims entertained each other with stories, those making their way on the longer route from Winchester to the tomb of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral would also have passed the time sharing their tales.

Songs Of The Chalk Stream


Mark and Tina are an acoustic guitar duo, singer-songwriters, and interpreters of songs. They shared all original songs, written and adapted especially for the evening.

Part One


Whispers of a chalk stream - A folk song inspired by walking the River Alre from the source at Bishop’s Sutton, and listening to the local voices and stories of the project launch on 31st January 2024.

Red Moon - A folk-blues ballad, narrating the redemptive power of nature to turn a tale of love lost, into a new beginning.

Dragonflies - How memory evokes re-imaginings of place, time and childhood around the central image of a chalk stream.

Part Two


Like an Arrow - Mythical musings on the idea of journeying, chalk streams as an arrow of time through lost kingdoms.

Woven with the water - A little anthem on the stories, song lines and kin that make up a river that runs through our lives.

Ode to the River Alre - We close with the same lyrical poem 'Whispers of a chalk stream' but set to the traditional eighteenth-century folk tune of 'Lowlands of Holland', with a nod to Steeleye Span on arrangement.

You enjoyed it!


We received some lovely feedback:

‘Thank you for a lovely evening, a much-needed tonic. I had forgotten what it was like to enjoy nature and the simple pleasures of listening, looking and being absorbed in a good tale. Thank you! 🙏🏽 ♥️’

‘What a beautiful evening last night! It really was out of this world. Last night really soothed my soul and filled me with creative joy ❤️ ’

‘Thank you Helen and Sharon for a wonderful evening .Tina and Mark with their lyrics, music about the chalk stream was beautiful to listen to. Tina, Mark and Alastair’s stories brought Bishop’s Sutton and our chalk stream alive 😊. After listening to Alastair, l don’t think l will ever see the Bishop’s Sutton chalk stream  in the same way again😂 He was very amazing. Having the large screen with the water flowing / candles also created a wonderful atmosphere and all your information was beautifully laid out. Your kingfisher looked very proud 😊 we had a fun evening and thank you to Michael, Aaron, and Hannah for looking after our refreshments 🌈 ‘

How you responded


Guests responded to the question:

What have you most enjoyed about this evening’s stories and songs?

Any new information? new ideas? New thinking? New inspirations? New feelings towards the chalk stream?

Creative inspirations and memories of streams.

Very enjoyable unique experience. Thank you!

King Arthur in Winchester and Valkyries.

Telling stories is a great way to connect with our river.

Stories and meeting people.

The way stories and songs brought the landscape and stream together. Both evoked an emotional dimension and the value of place to all those interactions.

A really novel approach to promoting local interest in the natural environment.

I now want to walk the stream, find the source and wander through the water meadows. It’s made me see and think about the countryside around me and wonder what stories they hide…

I really loved the talents you collected for the evening. The video of the chalk stream really brought it together.

Ambiance, evocative, emotive, immersive, entrancing, enigmatic, enthralling, enchanting, inspiring.

A fantastic evening. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

I loved how the stories and songs were tailored for the village. Very special. Need more of this :)

Excellent evening once again - looking forward to the next instalment.

Helen and Sharon are grateful to ...


Special thanks to Alastair K Daniel our storyteller for this evening, and Tina and Mark our musicians and singers. What an amazing night with stories and songs written and performed particularly with chalk stream and Bishop’s Sutton in mind. We feel truly grateful to have such talented friends.

Thank you to all who attended, participated and were generous in their feedback. We loved having your company on a very special evening.

Thank you to the Watercress and Winterbourne Community Grant Scheme and National Lottery Heritage Funding for making the evening possible.

Many thanks to all who helped to set up and pack away the hall. Michael, Aaron, and Hannah for refreshments and Taz for helping Alastair with the technical set up.

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