Summer has arrived! Wind, rain, plummeting temperatures, soggy fields, mud – February was better. We had a walk around Keasden and Mewith a couple of weeks ago. The weather then , however, was perfect for walking; calm and warm with high cloud protecting us from the sun. Unusually we had a couple of dogs on our walk. It was hot enough for them to leap into streams and even a bath en route….but rather than have me describe the walk I thought it would be good to hear from someone else so here is Margaret’s account of our walk –
“It was a pleasure to be back in Keasden, especially in fine weather: I have spent many hours wandering around the valley and on the moor in the pouring rain, carefully mapping the vegetation, so it was wonderful to be able to point my eyes forward and enjoy the views – and what stunning views we had! The Three Peaks were visible in the distance and our route gave us views across open moorland, traditional meadows with high, drystone walls and green, wooded valleys.
Although we had to view the Three Peaks from afar, we were accompanied by two four-legged friends. Finn the Border Terrier, a well-bred chap who marched merrily along and Dill, the Ormskirk Heeler, a veteran of countless days of fieldwork, who demonstrated his ability to seek out water troughs, other people’s food and other creatures’ former-food.
We assembled outside St. Matthew’s Church and began our tour with a look inside where we quietly admired the lovely old building. Our next stop was the old Temperance Hall, recently purchased with a view to conversion into a camping barn.
Our route took us to Mewith Head Hall, a fine old building with a fascinating history. Additional research has revealed it sports ‘slobbered water-shot masonry’ a fact Martin wishes he’d known at the time, but has referred to in his new play, “Dog on an Old Tin Bath’. More of that later, but our tour guide was able to tell us something of the history of the building, including its association with the Quakers and as a home for displaced Austrian Jews fleeing the Nazis.
We ate lunch on a grassy slope, close to a ‘refurbished’ property, while marvelling how kind the weather had been to us. The return journey to the church gave us plenty of opportunities to study the local flora. Many of the plants we found were used in the past to treat all sorts of ailments, so I have listed a few here, along with some quotes from a Nineteenth Century herbal.
Bedstraw: “it should be gathered when the flowers are not quite blown, and dried in the shade. An infusion of it will cure the most violent bleedings of the nose and almost any other evacuations of blood.”
Salad Burnet: “…is called a cordial and a sudorific, and is recommended in fevers. They put it also into cool tankards, like borage. The root is a good astringent; dried and powdered it stops fluxes.”
Cuckoo Flower / Ladies Smock / Mayflower: “The juice of the fresh leaves is to be used; it is an excellent diuretic and is good in the gravel and all suppressions of the urine. It also opens obstructions, and is good in the jaundice and the green sickness; and is a course against the scurvy.”
Eyebright: “This plant has always been famous for dimness of sight, but whether experience warrants the character that is given of it is uncertain. The juice is very diuretic.”
Mouse-ear Hawkweed: “A decoction of the fresh gathered herb is excellent against the bleeding of the piles: and the leaves boiled in milk may be applied externally.”
Self-heal: “The dried herb made into an infusion and sweetened with honey is good against a sore throat and ulcers of the mouth.”
Sorrel: “The leaves eaten as a salad (sic), or the juice taken are excellent against the scurvy. The seeds are astringent and may be given in powder for fluxes.”
Tormentil: “the root is cordial as well as astringent, and operates a little by sweat: this decoction is therefore very serviceable in fevers, attended with purgings.”
Thanks must to go George, our intrepid guide, who lead us along paths we would otherwise have not recognised as paths, while entertaining us with anecdotes from the perspective of a pioneering chap, bringing civilisation to the natives in the form of broadband and sensible waterproofs.
Martin’s play, ‘Dog on an Old Tin Bath’ will premiere in Slaidburn Village Hall at Michaelmas. Without giving too much away, the Reverend Ebeneezer Soberside takes on the Parish of Mewith–with-Broadband, only to find the verger, Bartholomew Spout has sold off the Temperance Hall to his cousin, Jude the Obscure from deepest Dorest who plans to turn it into a camp barn. Worse still, the good Reverend has to deal with his attraction to the daughter of the local squire, who lives in a fine house with slobbered watershot masonry. Squire Teazle sees the Reverend as a good man to reign in the wayward behaviour of Myrtle and invites him to supper in the hope his knowledge of rusticated shafts and moulded flanges will inspire her to take more interest in the preservation of the family home. Myrtle only has eyes for Bartholomew’s cousin Jude, but when she discovers just how obscure he is, she runs away with a group of travelling players after being swept off her feet by their leader’s impressive iambic pentameter.”