Sunday, 5 July 2015

A July walk in the Ribble Valley

     Today I asked you to meet me on the car park at Marles Wood, because we are walking along the banks of the river Ribble to the village of Hurst Green. A stepped path leads through the wood and down to the river bank, with a fence on either side to limit erosion. Because light has been allowed to enter by cutting through the woodland, foxgloves now grow along the stepped path and in the perimeter of the wood. 
      Foxgloves, or Digitalis, can, I'm told, be used in the treatment of heart conditions, but as an overdose could be fatal, self administration is not recommended by this author. I do love them and grow them in my own garden, along with a cultivated white variety. They look good growing together but I much prefer the wild native.

     This part of the river is called the sail wheel. Some people even refer to Marle's Wood, as Sail Wheel Wood. At this bend in the river the water travels in a vortex, rather like the water going down a plug hole. I assume that this circular motion of the water accounts for the reference to a  wheel, but what a sail wheel is I have absolutely no idea, unless it's a reference to the wheel of a sailing ship. I'm not even sure if I've used the correct spelling of the word.
     Today we have a fisherman. You can just about make him out through the trees. People seem to fish here often, perhaps it's easier to catch the fish just before they disappear down the plug hole?

  We are now walking along the Ribble Way, a designated ramble from its source at Ribblehead, to Lytham StAnnes, where it enters the Irish sea. I've just been watching a kingfisher diving from a branch and catching small fish. I've had numerous attempt to photograph it, but unfortunately it's too fast for me, and too far away to get a decent picture. I did get a picture of this ewe  and two well grown lambs, they appear to be trying to get out of the sun in the shade of a fallen tree. There hasn't been enough sunny days to satisfy me this year, and I have no intentions of staying in the shade when a sunny day does come along, but then I'm not wearing a fleece.

     We've reached the footbridge, which will take us across the river. There's a sand and gravel beach close by, which is popular with picnickers, and with children who want to paddle with their fishing nets, and jam jars, while attempting to catch minnows.
     The suspension bridge was built in the 1950's, and replaced a ferryman with a rowing boat. I don't know how much foot traffic travelled between Dinkley and Hurst Green in the 1950's but I wouldn't have thought his business enterprise to have been very lucrative, even before the construction of the bridge.

     This plant is called Woody Nightshade, and is sometimes referred to as deadly nightshade.  It's a member of the potato family with  similarly shaped, but differently coloured, flowers. The red berries are extremely poisonous, and they are reported to have been used by the Pendle Witches to induce sickness, and kill livestock, in retaliation for a refusal, or verbal abuse, received while begging. Thrushes eat the berries without any problems at all, and distribute the seed for the plant. This must be part of a symbiotic relationship between the plant and just one species of  birds, as the thrushes seem to be immune to the poison.

  We are now at Hurst Green and visiting Stonyhurst college. It was once the family home of the Shireburn family, before becoming a boarding school run by Jesuit monks. It's most famous old boy, worldwide, must be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes novels. Inside the college you can discover the names of other boys in his year,  Moriarty is one of them.  
     The son of JRR Tolkien also attended the school. It is thought that his father wrote his Lord of the Rings  trilogy while visiting his son at Stoneyhurst, and used locations within the Ribble Valley in his stories. There is a Tolkien trail in the Ribble Valley, but I haven't followed it. Perhaps I will, very soon?

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