Friday, 5 June 2015

A June walk in the Ribble Valley

     This month I'm meeting you in Whalley, because I have a dental appointment. A while ago I was stopped by a television camera crew in Whalley, and interviewed about the proposed hydroelectric plant to be sited on the weir. I'm all for renewable energy, as opposed to burning fossil fuels, but they always tend to impact negatively upon the landscape, and as in so many cases this project fails to enhance the view. I noticed this chap sitting on a wall by the weir. This is definitely not a native duck. He must be native species somewhere, but it isn't here. I assume that he, or she, belongs to one of the cottages nearby and is allowed to roam freely. He's playing it cool and pretending that I'm not  taking his photograph.

     In the novel, The Lancashire Witches, by Harrison Ainsworth, Anne Redfearn, one of the witches who was hanged at Lancaster, is dragged down the lane to the weir, where she's ducked in the river as a punishment for harassing parishioners  while attending church.
I'm not sure if there was once a ducking stool sited at the weir, or if they just threw her in, I can't remember, as it's been a long time since I read the story, but ducking was a common punishment for people accused of witchcraft. If they drowned they were innocent and received a Christian burial, and if they didn't drown they were deemed witches and hanged for witchcraft, or burnt at the stake.
      There is usually a heron fishing in this fast flowing, shallow water, but not today. Perhaps he doesn't fish here anymore since the hydroelectric plant has been built? But at least they've built a fish ladder so that migrating fish can come up the river to spawn. 
      Some of the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that there aren't many leaves on the trees for early June. I have a confession to make, I actually took this picture in May, but I didn't get the opportunity to use it.

   Honeysuckle has begun to appear in the hedgerows, it's a climber which scrambles through the hedge for support, but it's not quite ready for bursting into flower, as it's been a particularly cold April and May. 
    This appears to be the red and cream variety, but there is also a yellow and white variation, which grows in equal quantity. The flower of the honeysuckle, once it bursts from its buds, appears quite exotic for a British native, and honeysuckle plants are being sold in garden centres and supermarkets, but if you want want for your garden, just break off a non flowering runner and stick it into a pot, it's that easy.

     Let's wander through Abbey Mews, and take a look around the ruined Whalley Abbey. In the abbey grounds is a cafe,  a gift shop, and a small museum. Displayed there is a history of the abbey, with an impressive scale model of how the abbey looked in its heyday.
     The Cistercian monks from Stanlow Abbey, on the banks of the river Mersey, often suffered severe flooding, it appears, and in 1296 Henry De Lacy, the tenth Baron of Halton, agreed to move the abbey to Whalley at his own expense. I assume that he owned lands in and around Whalley, as he was also the 7th Lord of Bowland, and probably owned pretty much everything for miles around. A pub in Whalley still bears his name, with his armoury depicted on a pub sign above the door. 
   The abbey closed in 1537, as part of the dissolution of the monasteries ordered by King Henry the Eighth, and the last abbot of Whalley, Abbot Paslew, was executed in the same year for high treason. Harrison Ainsworth, in his novel, tells us that he was captured, by men and dogs while attempting to escape by wading across the river Calder.

     In the crevices of  the stone walls, and paths,  grows Ivy leaved toadflax. Reference to my idiots guide informed me that this is a native of southern Italy and Sicily, but it must be as tough as old boots to live in Lancashire. The book informs me that it's a very invasive species, and has colonised almost every country in the world. I've only ever seen it growing in sunny positions. Perhaps it uses the residual heat from the stone walls to form a micro-climate? As stone walls  heat up and retain  heat like a storage heater.

     This is a picture of the manor house, built within the grounds of the abbey by Sir Richard Assheton of Lever in 1553. The abbot's house, and the infirmary, built by Paslew, were demolished to make way for the manor house in the picture. The house passed into the hands of Sir Richard's nephew Sir Ralph Assheton, my 10th great grandfather, on his death, as Richard died without issue. 
     In the 17th century most of the remaining church buildings were demolished, and in some instances only the foundations remain.

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