The erotic, magical geography of Culbone Combe

Any footwalker can still discover the most striking topographical “source” [of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan] for somerset 081themselves: it lies in what might be called the erotic, magical geography of Culbone Combe seen from Ash Farm. Between the smooth curved flanks of the coastal hills, a thickly wooded gully runs down to the sea (the “romantic chasm”), enclosing a hidden stream which gushes beneath the tiny mediaeval chapel of Culbone, a plague church and “sacred site” since Anglo-Saxon and possibly pre-Christian times. The place is as remote and mysterious as ever, and even in modern times has attracted “healing” communities such as that run by the West Country potters, Wastel and Joan Cooper in the 1970s. In the late eighteenth century this mystical character of the combe was already recognised, when the family at Ash Farm donated an iron market-cross erected there in 1770 (see Culbone: a Spiritual History, 1977, by Joan Cooper.)

From Coleridge, Early Visions by Richard Holmes


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