Our final stage of this fascinating walk began high on the Caton Moors. The well known, when viewed from the motorway, wind turbines were rotating rapidly in the strong wind as we passed. Up here today we had extensive views of the Bowland Fells, Ingleborough and Pennine fells north, the Lune Valley and Morecambe Bay, an exhilarating start to the day. In a picnic area we found our first tercet of the day, No 6. A lane coming from nowhere brought us down into Brookhouse and we explored the back lanes and pretty houses of the village, roses seem to be a specialty of the gardens here.
Across the main road we joined the Lune Valley Ramble into Lancaster along an old railway. All of a sudden humanity appeared – dog walkers, joggers and cyclists supporting the idea of good exercise and being able to participate in a safe and beautiful environment. Well done Lancaster with the help of European money! Two men were setting off cycling coast to coast to Bridlington, a route my son speaks highly of. They were an odd couple one young and fit on a classy bike, the other hoping to rely on his electric motor to get across the Pennines. I hope their enthusiasm saw them through although I suspect they will have been very wet at the weekend. We crossed the famous Crook Of Lune [painted by Turner] on an impressive bridge. More cyclists were passing the next tercet. For a break we sat on the banks of the river below a weir near Halton old station. A fisherman engaged us in conversation about all things Lancashire, No fish were caught. it was about at this time that the zip on Sir Hugh;s shorts malfunctioned causing great hilarity to the fisherman and great embarrassment to the wearer. Apologies to anyone in Lancaster whom we shocked or offended.
A pleasant stretch on a lane parallel to the motorway followed, large puddles where evidence of recent rainfall. We were heading for the castle but first we visited the prominent hill forming part of Williamson Park thought to be the site of the witches’ gallows, and now the site of the 9th tercet. We wandered through attractive parkland and climbed up the baroque Ashton Memorial for views over Lancaster and the surrounding areas. Then it was down busy streets across town passing the Golden Lion pub where the witches were supposed to have been offered a final drink on the way to be hung – an unlikely tale. Incongruously two walkers in shorts, with walking poles, marched through the shopping area and eventually climbed up to the impressive castle gates and the last tercet. A lot of restoration work is going on so we didn’t linger.
Thus we had completed a trail full of interest which deserves to be better known.
The complete poem
‘The Lancashire Witches’ by Carol Ann Duffy
One voice for ten dragged this way once
by superstition, ignorance.
Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.
Witch: female, cunning, manless, old,
daughter of such, of evil faith;
in the murk of Pendle Hill, a crone.
Here, heavy storm-clouds, ill-will brewed,
over fields, fells, farms, blighted woods.
On the wind’s breath, curse of crow and rook.
From poverty, no poetry
but weird spells, half-prayer, half-threat;
sharp pins in the little dolls of death.
At daylight’s gate, the things we fear darken and form. That tree, that rock,
a slattern’s shape with the devil’s dog.
Something upholds us in its palm-
landscape, history, place and time-
and, above, the same old witness moon
below which Demdike, Chattox, shrieked,
like hags, unloved, an underclass,
badly fed, unwell. Their eyes were red.
But that was then- when difference
made ghouls of neighbours; child beggars feral, filthy, threatened in their cowls.
Grim skies, the grey remorse of rain;
sunset’s crimson shame; four seasons,
centuries, turning, in Lancashire,
away from Castle, Jury, Judge,
huge crowd, rough rope, short drop, no grave
only future tourists who might grieve.
Sir Hugh’s own blog tells a similar tale of our progress – http://conradwalks.blogspot.co.uk/