If you go down to the river at Middleton today, make sure you’re careful not to be dragged underwater by Mother Lumpkin…

East Anglian Daily Times: Weird Suffolk: Mother Lumpkins Hole near Middleton Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNWeird Suffolk: Mother Lumpkins Hole near Middleton Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN (Image: Archant)

It’s a sobering tale to keep children out of the drink: but is something sinister lurking under the water at Middleton in Suffolk? A persistent story spans the centuries that at Mother Lumpkin’s Hole, a deep hollow in the bed of the Minsmere River close to Rackford Bridge, something lies on the river bed waiting to claim those unwise enough to venture too close. Middleton, close to Yoxford, is three miles inland from the coast and consists of three distinct areas: the main village close to the Minsmere River and marshes, Middleton Moor on higher ground and Fordley to the west. It is the northern boundary of the village which concerns us today and the dangers that hide beneath the surface of the beautiful Minsmere River.

Website Hidden East Anglia quotes from Allan Jobson’s Suffolk Remembered (1969) and an account of Mother Lumpkin’s Hole “…which, according to local rumour, teems with carp as big as pigs, and pike the size of baby sharks.

“Here, a complete wagon and horses is said to have vanished into the hole. One who lived nearby has recalled that he was often warned away from the Hole, for fear that he be dragged in by the baleful monster that lived there.”

Minsmere old river and Minsmere New Cut diverge just after Rackford Bridge and the hole in question appears to be along the New Cut, which dates the story to after 1812, after the artificial drainage channel was built.

Could this have been a danger spot which parents sought to make into a no-go area for children? Might Mother Lumpkin be Suffolk’s answer to Jenny Greenteeth, Nelly Longarms or Peg Powler, terrifying river hags that drag children to a watery grave if they dare to come to close to the edge of a rivers, meres, bogs or lakes? Such creatures, or Grindylows, have been used for centuries as shadowy figures, or bogies, that conveniently frighten children away from areas where they could drown.

The 19th century folklorist William Henderson described Peg Powler as having green hair and “an insatiable desire for human life” and the froth or foam seen floating on certain parts of the River Tees, where she is said to haunt, is called Peg Powler’s suds. In other accounts, the river hags are more like sirens who lure men and boys to their doom by appearing as beautiful women in peril, leading their victims into the water to save them. Jenny Greenteeth is a common name in Liverpool and south-west Lancashire and is said to be a river hag who drags children or the elderly to their deaths: her name is also given to pondweed or duckweed.

There is a footpath which runs alongside the New Cut: if you take it, be sure to look out for Mother Lumpkin – hopefully you will see her, before she sees you.