THE WINKLE STONE
Fairwarp has a very special link with the past. – The Winkle Stone
It is highly probable that other communities within the Weald also, at one time, celebrated this far from unassuming rock – but it is possible that Fairwarp is the only place still celebrating the stone today. For in Fairwarp, they recognise this traditional English custom of the month of May, and celebrate the tiny winkle with aplomb it being the main component of the village’s Winkle Stone.
It is a tradition that has largely fallen into the sediment of time due to its more popular team member, May Day with its associated maypole, fairs and such like. But Fairwarp has kept the tradition alive over the generations.
Fairwarp is the only village completely enclosed by Ashdown Forest. Some villagers refer to it lovingly as Timewarp and the tradition of touching the Winkle Stone certainly comes from the past.
If you’re unsure about Winkles (or periwinkles,) they are a small edible snail. They have dark, sometimes banded shells, and, whilst commonly found by the sea, freshwater winkles are to be found in overgrown, stagnant water, muddy pools, creeks, ditches and swamps. Fairwarp had and still does have a number of areas of boggy swampy land where these creatures have lived for millions of years. To the poor of Fairwarp, whose livelihood and existence has long been tied to the land, they were a regular supplement to their diet. The use of winkles was such a normal addition to the villagers’ food supplies that the almost daily task of collecting them is sometimes overlooked in the record books. However in compiling the history of Winkle Week in Fairwarp we hope to make sure that their legacy is remembered.