Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Haywood Hall, St Mary and the River Mummas

Published:Sunday | December 6, 2015 | 12:00 AMJoan Williams
Joan Williams
A copy of Joan Williams' book, Tour Jamaica.
The water was cloudy as work was being done on the ford.
The river was much cleaner on our return as a nice bridge had replaced the ford.
Nine-year-old Christian.
Fellow cyclists Alrick, Bernadette and Barry, members of the A Team. Barry is my 'editor' for this series of articles.
Fun & Thrills bodyguards?
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A few months ago, we enjoyed a lovely cycle outing from Kingston to Heywood Hall in St Mary.

This excursion was arranged by Alrick Robinson, businessman, son of St Mary and senior member of the Fun & Thrills Adventure Club.

Heywood Hall is approximately 36 miles from Kingston and four miles from Port Maria. The river there is a tributary of St Mary's Paget River.

We always scout our excursions as a club prerequisite to ascertain the suitability of route and venue, and I accompanied Alrick on that mission.

There we met Norma, an absolutely beautiful jet-black young woman of around 40 years of age who said she is a photographic model living in Germany.

She was born at Heywood Hall, as was film star Esther Anderson of The Avengers series. Norma is now developing her family land at Heywood Hall to become an ecotourism park. She has already cleared a large section over

the river and separated it into lounge area, cooking area, stage, bathrooms, etc.

On that scouting trip, we learnt the legend of the river mummas of Heywood Hall.

RIVER MUMMAS

River mummas are Jamaica's equivalent of mermaids, but live in rivers rather than in seas and oceans.

Typically, these are said to be ghostlike, beautiful women who occasionally rise from the river's depths to bask atop the rocks while combing their long, flowing hair. According to the folklore, if you look directly at a river mumma, it can bring all manner of bad luck, including you falling into the river and drowning.

Some children at Heywood Hall claim to have seen river mummas. In fact, Mr Ellis, who oversees the Heywood Hall operation, as well as Norma, who has returned to Germany, both told us they had seen river mummas when they were children!

We were advised that the river mummas live in the 'bottomless' area on the eastern side of the ford. The water was cloudy on that side, though, due to repairs to the ford, so I guess that is why we saw none that day.

I was very happy to have gone on that scouting mission that day, however, as it was apple season, and those in Mr Ellis' backyard were large, juicy, and sweet.

Even when I slid on the way to the trees and ended up covered with mud from head to foot, the pleasure of having the apples far outdid the discomfort of the mud!

When we headed out on the ride a few weeks later, we cycled via Junction road to Agualta Vale. As the sun was really hot and uncomfortable by the time we got there, and once you get on to the North Coast Highway there is no shade along the road, at Agualta Vale, along with some other lazy

riders, I jumped into a support vehicle. However, the Junction road is now a favourite of mine because of its undulating, paved, and well-shaded roads.

ONE BY ONE

On reaching the outskirts of Heywood Hall, however, we remounted our cycles and rode for the remaining two miles along the cool, shaded parochial road. On arrival at the picnic area, we saw that a few members of the

'A team' had already arrived. Soon, the remaining adventurous cyclists came in one by one.

In addition to the approximately 30 cyclists, there were a further 20 hikers, mostly outdoor lovers from Stella Maris. However, some of the hikers found the walk too sudden a change from sedate lifestyle, so one by one they boarded support vehicles. An active outdoor lifestyle will do wonders for your mind and body but one should move into it gently, then keep it up as a part of your healthy lifestyle.

At Heywood Hall, we enjoyed the location's lovely, large picnic area and the long section of river which had wonderful swimming areas above and below the central fording.

For brunch, there was delicious hot chocolate, potato pudding, cornmeal pudding, and blue

drawers, aka tie-a-leaf, all waiting on our arrival. Blue drawers is a mixture of sweet potato and cornmeal with other ingredients that make up puddings. It is cooked in coconut milk then tied up in banana leaves and boiled. Blue drawers is rarely seen these days and is a delicacy fading away. It was popular in our grandparents' time when people had time enough to make all manner of lovely delicacies. Most of these recipes are now lost to the younger generation, so I fully enjoyed it here in St Mary country.

I also had run dung salt fish for the first time and found it really delicious. In fact, in my book,

it is much nicer than run dung mackerel, but that might have been because I was so hungry!

Luckily, I went to the river early and had a wonderful swim and got back to the food early so I could get in a couple of domino games while the more tardy adventurers were eating.

This was a blissful morning in the St Mary countryside where I enjoyed the food, the great country chocolate tea and, of course, the ride, the river, and the camaraderie.

The star of that ride, for me, was a nine-year-old boy named Christian.

I bet that in 10 years' time, he will win the Tour de France if he continues at the rate he is going. For not only did he ride up the entire steep Long Lane to Stony Hill non-stop, but I hear he didn't even take a rest stop for the entire 36-mile journey.

Wow, I am impressed!