“I can see it, I can see it!” said my five-year-old as she leaned over St Baldred’s well. I held her hood as she strained to touch the water.

The small well was covered in vegetation, and the steps down to it were likewise overgrown. But its discovery was made all the more special by the attempts of nature to conceal this hidden treasure from East Lothian’s ancient past.

I always find such ancient sites more interesting when they lie half forgotten and neglected. It preserves their special nature and provides a sense of exploration to their discovery.

Once a special place becomes popular then it often loses its magical quality. You see, I have a word which I have made up: touristification. For me, this means the destruction of a special place when it becomes famous.

I don’t mean destruction in the literal sense, but rather destruction of the atmosphere, of the essential spiritual quality of a special place by it simply being over-visited because of its fame.

There can be financial benefits to this, process of course. Rosslyn Chapel has been restored on the tide of Da Vinci Code hysteria, and Loch Ness is a major pillar of the tourist industry. But the process strips the very essence of a place that people want to experience.

For example, go to the fairy pools or the fairy glen on Skye in the summer and instead of a magical experience in a special place you’ll meet masses of people, cars and campervans parked all over the place and litter everywhere. A visit in the summer holiday season to these once tranquil and unique locations actually now depresses me.

In contrast, the simplicity and quiet neglect of places like St Baldred’s Well means it retains a timeless quality and atmosphere. But of course, like most special places, there is not much to actually see; it’s what you feel that makes the impression.

I remember I once took a group of people to an abandoned village in the Highlands which had been cleared. The ruined walls of the houses were still standing, and the place was full of atmosphere.

We stood in what was once a family home, the remains of a simple blackhouse. Generations would have lived their lives in the very spot we now stood. I could only imagine what tales of sorrow and joy had taken place within those now ruined walls. It was a powerful feeling of connection to the past.

One of the group felt it too. “There are so many footprints of memory here,” she said, “I can imagine what it was once like and almost see the families sitting by the fire.” But another member of the group was less impressed. “We came all this way to see a pile of stones?” she said.

It wasn’t really a question, of course. I think if I’d brought her on this trip to see St Baldred’s Well she would have said: “All this way to see a muddy hole.” But Manja, my five-year-old, was certainly impressed. I admit it is easy to impress a five-year-old, but we should remember they have something to cherish that many of us have lost: a sense of discovery and an imagination that sees the magic in simple things.

We sat nearby for a picnic and as we munched on our sandwiches she asked: “Is it a magic well?” “Well, maybe, it was once,” I replied.

“So was this man a wizard then?” she asked me.

“No, but he was a holy man,” I said.

“A holy man? Why did he have holes in him?” asked Manja.

I smiled: “He didn’t have holes in him. Holy means, er, special.” “Why was he special?” she asked.

“Because he said that God had sent him to show people how to believe in him,” I told her. “And people said he performed miracles.” “What’s a milicle?” asked my five-year-old.

“Well, amazing things that happen that are done by God,” I replied.

“You mean like magic then?” she asked.

“Yes, I suppose,” I told her.

“So he was like a wizard? she said.

“Yes, I suppose,” I said to her.

“What milicles did he do?” she continued.

“Lots, according to the stories,” I said.

“Tell me some,” she said, as she slurped her juice.

So I did: No one really knows where St Baldred originally came from. But one of the stories about him says he lived on the Bass Rock.

In those days most people travelled by water, either on river or the sea. So there were lots of boats on the sea almost all the time. And it was dangerous. The rocks and the storms meant lots of boats were shipwrecked. And when St Baldred lived on the Bass Rock he often watched as storms made huge waves.

The tides meant that sometimes rocks were just hidden under the water, and one of these large rocks lay between the Bass Rock and the coast. Its position was right in the middle of the route taken by boats. In calm weather during daylight it wasn’t a problem, but in storms or darkness the rock was deadly. Many boats had their hulls ripped by it by high tide, and at low tide strong winds could blow a boat onto it.

St Baldred saw how this rock made the lives of local people dangerous. And so he decided to do something about it. He ventured along the coastline and spoke to some local fishermen.

“Take me to that rock and leave me there,” he said.

The fishermen were horrified.

“But when the tide rises you will be swept away,” they told him.

“I have faith,” he said. “God will help me move the rock.” The fishermen knew the saint was a Godly man, and so they agreed. It was a dangerous journey, not easy to find a place to drop the saint off. But he managed to scramble onto the rock.

He stood on its highest point and raised his arms to the sky. Then he gave a nod, and what happened next was a miracle.

The great rock rose up in the water. Then it began to move as if it was floating, just like a boat! What an incredible sight as this great mass of rock moved slowly through the sea! The saint remained on the rock as it headed for the shore. Finally it slowed down and came to rest, much closer to the shore than it had been before, making the channel between the Bass and the mainland much wider and safer.

The people who saw this miracle fell to their knees, giving thanks to God. Then the Saint came ashore and the people kissed his feet and thanked him. “Wow,” said Manja, “is that true?” “Well, it’s a legend,” I said “which means it’s a story that has been told and retold, so who knows. But there is a rock called St Baldred’s Boat close to Seacliff Beach. People say that was the rock moved by St Baldred.” “Wow, I wish I could meet him,” said Manja.

“Well he died a long time ago, but we can kind of go see him because inside that church there is a stain glass window of what he might have looked like,” I explained.

We headed for the church but it was unfortunately locked. But I promised we would return to see it.

When we got into the car, Manja asked: “Another one dad, another story about a milicle by him.” I thought for a moment as to whether I should tell her about his final miracle, which took place after his death. I decided I would.

Manja’s cat had recently died and it had been buried in the garden. It had led to a discussion about death, and how we remember people who have passed away and why that is important.

So I told her the tale: When St Baldred died he was loved by the people here. But their adoration of the saint was such that the different congregations he had served each wanted him to rest with their church. The followers from Auldhame, Tyninghame and Preston all laid claim to his mortal remains.

Such was the passion that no agreement could be found, and the atmosphere grew dark as disagreement developed into conflict.

Just at the moment when that conflict seemed to be on the edge of violence, we are told in one version of the tale that an old man appeared. He had an air of authority, and told the assembled worshippers that they should leave the body at Auldhame, where he had died, and pray all night for an answer.

When morning arrived the prayers had been answered, but not in a way expected. Three bodies lay where the previous night there had been one. All three looked exactly the same. All three were in the exact image of St Baldred.

And so all three parishes took the body of St Baldred to rest with them, which is why it is said he is buried at Auldhame, Tyninghame and Preston Kirk.

“That’s a clever milicle,” said Manja. “It was sharing, wasn’t it? All the people who loved him and who were sad could have a place to remember him, like I can with Meow and Granny Liz.” “Aye,” I said, “it was very clever.” She had one final question: “You say I’m special so does that mean I’m holy as well?” “Everyone who is nice is holy,” I said to her.

I write this as she sleeps. A five-year-old often has more wisdom and insight than any adult. One day I will tell her about St Baldred’s Cave, St Baldred’s Cradle, and St Baldred’s Whirl. The saint has left his name all over East Lothian. We don’t even know for sure when he died. Some say 608, others 756.

But after all this time does it really matter? His life obviously touched many people and he is credited with bringing Christianity to this part of the world.

And who is to say he didn’t ride a great rock in the sea, and turn his body into three? It would make a great movie for sure! But then the movie would destroy these places with touristification! So let’s be thankful that the memory of St Baldred remains within the county he served all those years ago!