Bayards Leap


The traditional tale of Bayard’s Leap, describes how the brave, blind warhorse Bayard helps to rid the village of Ancaster of Meg the wicked witch.

 

 

Bayards Leap, A Legendary Romance of Lincolnshire - The Legend


There once was a witch who lived in a cottage here and she tormented travellers as they used the road across the heath. She lived in a hut by the side of the heath road with her two children, her "cubs". The name of this witch was Old Meg.

So much did she torment travellers and locals that something had to be done about the matter. She 'witched the corn and she caused cattle to die of sudden and mysterious illness.

In Ancaster, so the legend goes, there was a war veteran, a knight, a soldier retired; of some renown was this soldier for his great and valiant deeds. He took it upon himself to rid the countryside of the evil old woman. In order to carry out the task, he would need a horse, the very best he had, and to this end the decision must be made as to which of his horses he should take. One evening while feeding his animals and having led them to the pond to drink, he made the decision: He would throw a pebble into the water and the first horse to raise its head would be the one he would take on his mission.

As the pebble landed in the water, the first horse to raise its head was "Blind Bayard", his oldest and most trusted horse, battle worn and weary but loyal. Now the knight knew he could not take Bayard, he was "blind-as-a-bat". So he tried the same thing on the following evening, when again Blind Bayard lifted his head as the stone hit the water. On the third evening, when Blind Bayard lifted his head, the knight knew that it must be that he should take the old horse with him.

The following morning he saddled Blind Bayard and donned his mail-coat and armour and rode out to Meg's hut. "Meg, Meg, come out and show yourself." He called. Meg shouted back at him, "I'll buckle me shoes, and suckle me cubs, an' I'll soon be wi' ya laddie".

As soon as she came out, the knight took a strike at her with his sword, the blade cutting through her breast. Maddened, she flew at Blind Bayard’s flanks and dug her finger and toe nails into his flesh. As Bayard leapt into the air, he left a single horseshoe behind. At his second leap he left a second shoe a hundred yards distant, at the third leap he left a third shoe another hundred yards distant. Finally, the knight took a mighty thrust at the old witch clinging to Bayard's flank, the sword pierced both the Old Meg and Bayard.

The thrust was so severe that it killed Blind Bayard on the spot and he fell upon the witch killing her too.

According to legend, the horse, the knight, the witch and her two cubs are all buried under the stone which lies at the south side of the cross roads. The "Leap" of Blind Bayard was supposed to have been three hundred yards altogether between the place where he left the first shoe and the place where he died. On what this legend is based, no one will ever know. The field to the north of Bayard's Leap was at one time used as a jousting field.