Martin’s Bowland Blog

Martin’s blog will cover things that have been happening in Bowland that may have been missed by the national or local press.

Suggestions and comments are always welcome from locals and visitors alike.

The views and opinions expressed in Martin’s blog are personal and do not represent those of the Forest of Bowland, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Lancashire County Council or any other partner in the Forest of Bowland Joint Advisory Committee. They are generally light hearted in tone and should be treated accordingly.

Martin Charlesworth - volunteer, and former Community Projects Officer for Bowland.

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Round the haymeadow with Rambling Sid
Mon, 2 Aug 2010 2:53pm

Rambling Sid Rumpo used to make up quaint old English words and customs on Kenneth Horne's Comedy programme called Round the Horne when I was young. I got into conversation with someone on Friday night about haymaking who refuses to be named so I've chosen to call him 'Sid' and his equally reticent wife 'Doris'. Sid says that in the 60s, they used to cut the edges of the field with scythes to get every last bit of hay. He said this was called 'piking'. He added that when it was going to rain you all set off with rakes and raked up the hay into 'foot cocks' and stood them up against each other to better withstand the rain. If it was going to be really wet then you were told to get 'Rittling'! This meant to put more 'foot cocks' on top of those already stood up. (I hope you're following this.) If that wasn't bad enough, Doris claims that in Chipping (where else?) the call was 'Come on lasses, get out there and get cocking up!'

Now I'm not 100% certain of all this; part of it sounds familiar. I need some verification and authenticated sources. Send me the whole truth and nothing but the truth! (I also asked Rambling Sid to tell me about his time at HJ Berry's and he said 'No!')

Thought for the day - Zeitgeist and the Art of painting railings
Fri, 30 Jul 2010 11:32am

Zeitgeist is not a word that I tend to use being unsure of what it meant, until yesterday that is. James who was painting on my left, took German at school and said that 'Zeit' means 'time' whilst Liam to my right added that 'geist' means 'spirit' and hence 'Zeitgeist' means 'The spirit of the times'. Liam who read my notice on the railings on Higher Road, Longridge and phoned me to volunteer some time is a member of the Zeitgeist movement UK who envision a world 'where all people work together in a spirit of co-operation and not competition.' They also think that money, and the pursuit of it, is a problem. All of us think this to some extent but the Zeitgeist movement is forthright on the subject and would like to abolish it! They have a rather better thought out agenda than my simple 'Food for work!' offer in the article below but there's a degree or two of commonality and my old friend Tolstoy would have approved. Check the link for the whole Zeitgeist movement story.

So that's the word and thought for today 'Zeitgeist'. It's never going to be printed on banknotes but learn it now in case the cash machines do get turned off! (picture above is not of Tolstoy but James Slater who indulged in a spot of face painting as well as railing painting.)

When the cash machines stop working...........
Fri, 23 Jul 2010 9:14am

When the cash machines and Chip and PIN cards cease to function and we run out of cash*, we'll have to re-learn bartering skills. Leading the way and preparing for this eventuality is Longridge where I am piloting a 'Paint the railings in return for food' scheme. Last year I was trying to get volunteers to paint some stretches of railings there but didn't have much success. The weather militated against it as well to be fair. This year, I thought we could have a reward system for volunteering. Every volunteer-hour will collect 1 point and when we've done 20 hours we'll have a raffle (1 point = 1 ticket) with a prize of a £30 meal voucher for a local Longridge restaurant.

Longridge railingsJust to make it plain, this is not the launch of 'the Big Society'. However, some of my heroes do have the prefix 'Big' applied to them; Big Brother (the one in the book), Big Bill Broonzy the legendary blues guitarist and last but certainly not least Big Willie, the Glaswegian who rode the 37 bus in the song by Michael Toner, famously sung by Hamish Imlach.  

If you are interested in joining this innovative, ground breaking and exciting experiment then contact me on 07989 258675 or email martin [dot] charlesworth [at] lancashire [dot] gov [dot] uk These part-painted railings are on Higher Road Longridge on the road to Jeffery Hill and the Forest of Bowland.

*The Economist ran a scary article recently about 'Cyber war'.

Tolstoy, hay making and the price of wool
Sat, 10 Jul 2010 10:58am

I'd been thinking of Tolstoy recently (all to do with hay meadows and scything, it's a long story!) when I came across a picture of him this morning as I was reading 'Bibby's Quarterly' from 1904/5. Here's what the article says about the beliefs of this famous author and father of 13 children; 'All should learn to work with their hands. To eat and not to work is a crime against society. All should live simply.' Tolstoy came to hold these beliefs after he turned 50 whereupon he renounced his former lifestyle and gave away his estates and fortune and then worked as a peasant as long as his health permitted. There's a photo of the great man surrounded by men in beards and women in fur hats with a comment that many of them (not Tolstoi and his family) had moved to Christchurch after being expelled from Russia. 

Further on in Bibby's Quarterly is a piece from Spring 1905 about the 'Wool outlook for 1905'. "It is a very long time since English sheep farmers had prospects so bright for their coming clip,...". This was all to do with droughts in Australia and the reduction in surpluses. The price per pound of fleece in Jan 1902 had been 4d (that's 4 old pennies) per pound and the price in Jan 1905 had risen to 12d (one old shilling). Is anyone prepared to do that maths on that and uprate it to todays prices? Perhaps we'd better not. 

A weekend of Cats, Rats, Bikes and Mice
Mon, 28 Jun 2010 10:16am

At the weekend, keen cyclists not only lapped Pendle several times on closed roads (Sunday) but also sallied forth from Barley to Hornby and beyond (Saturday) passing the 'Cat and Rat' Festival at Hornby. Hornby has had a village festival before but this was a special one with added feline and rodent interest!

Why Cats and Rats? All to do with the history of Hornby Castle and an old tale of a cat that helped rid the infested castle of its plague of rats. It was a lovely day; the weather was glorious, there was a marching jazz band, a vegetable stall, bric a brac stall, pottery stall, a fancy dress competition, sack races, egg and spoon races, coconut shy, whack the rat, home made cakes, tea and lots more.

The Tug of War was a mini world cup with girls vs boys, girls vs mums, boys vs dads, and ending up with what appeared to be everyone vs everyone else. A truly lovely day and it seemed all of Hornby was there. They have a packed programme of events for the rest of this week and the organisers have done an excellent job. The Pendle cycling festival was even more scary though than the Cat and Rat festival. On Saturday there was a 'Cyclo-Sportive' event (aka Pendle Pedal) open to all cyclists;150Km or 80Km over Pendle, Waddington Fell and Longridge Fell. On Sunday, a closed 7.5 mile route saw our internationally known cyclists fight for the British National Championships. Everyone was 'playing cat and mouse' according to Emma Pooley as reported in Cycling Weekly.


Capturing a cloud and other thoughts on what makes Bowland special
Wed, 16 Jun 2010 8:35am

After they flattened the pit in Ackworth, the village where I was born, it never felt the same. In particular after they built 200 identical houses clad with honey coloured stone that would never be blackened with soot. There would be no soot from these new houses because they had no chimneys! I think in retrospect that the developer must have thought, 'Let's make a clean break with all the dirt and grime that used to be here. No one wants to burn dirty old coal, everyone wants North Sea Gas or Electricity'. It was cleaner but it felt that bit less like 'home'.

These memories came back to me when deep in conversation with Dave Padley, the Countryside Officer for the area, and a local resident in the Coach and Horses, Bolton by Bowland, last Friday. We had just been in the Village Hall where we had got local people's views on 'What look's right in Bolton by Bowland?' (which will contribute towards a Design Guide for the AONB). I was shouting above the uproarious laughter of the crowd, 'What makes a village like this and this pub so vibrant and so happy?' 'There's no one thing', said the young woman who had been born there and had aunts, uncles, cousins and nieces all over the Ribble Valley. When she planned to move away from the valley, a local sage had prophesied, 'You'll be back; you'll go away but you'll always come back' and true enough, she had returned. She said that the secret of the village was, 'a good pub, a shop, the school, the church, having your family scattered around the local villages, your children playing in cricket teams, football teams, even taking gates off their hinges (and then returning them) at Halloween and pinching peas from peoples gardens and getting into trouble.'

On Saturday there was a Festival Bowland event at Slaidburn. It was billed as a walk around wildflower meadows with a couple of experts – Jon Hickling of Natural England and Geoff Morries, former county ecologist. Slaidburn was heaving with crowds of people milling around the steam fair and we quickly moved out of the village into the woods and meadows. We left the fairground organ music fading away and it was replaced by the noise of a softly bubbling stream and bird song. As time passed we made our way along the footpaths uncovering an increasing variety of flowers and grasses that have been there for thousands of years. They never went anywhere; but they have gone from almost all the other meadows and hedgerows round about. As we walked, Jon and Geoff talked about so much more than flowers and their names. It was quite simply a celebration of all that was best about the English countryside in June.

And another memory comes back to me of a conversation I had a couple of years ago with Wilf Blezard, former worker at HJ Berrys and landlord of the Talbot Hotel and Sun Inn at Chipping. A member of the Boddington family quietly asked Wilf one afternoon after observing the lunchtime surge of pints and pies and good humoured banter delivered by Wilf and Marie at the Talbot that once sold more beer than any other Boddington's pub, 'What makes this pub so good, Wilf? Is it our beer, is it Chipping village or is it you?' Perhaps it was all three.

Eating pigs in Bowland and the table decorations in Antwerp?
Sun, 6 Jun 2010 7:21pm

I met Jessica Elgot, the travel writer for the Jewish Chronicle, at the Bowland Wild Boar Park just outside Chipping a few weeks ago. There were several journalists there being entertained for a couple of nights in the Forest of Bowland, by the Gibbon Bridge Hotel in an enterprising marketing exercise. As we were at the boar park, the natural theme for lunch (or eating the Landscape as some people say) was the pig - sausages, bacon, ham, pork pie - although there was tuna and cheese and lots of fresh salad as well.  I remember feeling a little uneasy for Jessica! I said to the journalists that if they needed any background information or images then they should check our website and/or email me. I was, of course, keen for them to promote the AONB, the landscape and the food. Jessica wrote a very nice piece about her trip to the Forest of Bowland in the 'JC' as the Jewish Chronicle is called and you can read it here. Bob and Faye Kitching of Leagram dairy obviously left a lasting impression as did Byrne's wine merchants in Clitheroe. If you know where to buy the JC in Bowland then please let me know. I bought a copy in Manchester a couple of weeks ago and that's as close as it gets perhaps. 

Fast forward now to last week when I was in Flanders with my family and some friends. One day we went to Antwerp. The Rough Guide for Belgium recommended Hoffy's restaurant so off we went there for lunch. Hoffy's promised our 'Initiation to Yiddish gastronomy' and we had a wonderful meal - we all had something different, fish, veal, chicken with prunes, lots of interesting vegetarian dishes. One of the owners had a brother in law in Manchester. We didn't know exactly what we were eating but it was all very good. Laid out on the table before our chosen dishes arrived were several large pickled gherkins along with some rye bread, mayonnaise and some reddish sauce that tasted like horseradish. I have a vague feeling that some things in the Jewish culinary experience are symbolic and as I was half way through my second gherkin, I wondered uneasily if I was eating the starter, a symbol or maybe even the table decoration - we have flowers, maybe in Antwerp they have gherkins? Anyway, my initiation has begun - but there's obviously some way to go yet. 

Borders, signs and verges
Thu, 27 May 2010 6:57pm


There are few if any Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that have such a variety of original wayside artwork as our own. The boundary sign that once graced the road junction near the Halls Arms (or the pub formerly known by that name) at Knowle Green has perhaps been melted down.  Over the months, however, it has been replaced in stages by not one but now three complementary works of art. This individual interpretation of life on the borderline (the AONB boundary at this point bisects various villages and hamlets like Hurst Green and Knowle Green) is best viewed as the sun rises over the Ribble Valley illuminating the piece from the front as in the photograph on the right. Further along the verge is a clump of Sweet Cicely that is just at its best. Like Banksy and the Lord of Bowland, the artist to date has chosen anonymity.

Balsam bashing in Barley with the WI - Saturday 5th June
Tue, 25 May 2010 2:51pm

Himalayan balsam is a pest of a plant that grows up watercourses and damages the banks and shallows where invertebrates breed and fish spawn. It smothers native flower species and we'd be better off without it so please give a hand on Saturday 5th June at Barley. The local WI is keen to make a difference and anyone can do it. It's easy to pull up Himalayan balsam; it's got shallow roots and the more people that come along, the more will get removed. Meet at 10am Barley village car park, bring work gloves and finish when you’ve had enough! Although balsam itself is harmless, wear gloves and long sleeves to protect yourselves from nettles that may be around - although nettles get smothered too so there may not be that many. Background reading, although it's a bit of a horror story, can be found on the Environment Agency website. There's an article explaining river ecology here - from the Ribble Catchment Conservation trust.

Information superhighway discovered in field just outside Chipping
Mon, 17 May 2010 1:52pm

9 people met me in Chipping on Saturday morning to attend a masterclass in field drainage by Michael Neary, local poet and drainage practitioner, taking in the history of the subject from sod drains to stone soughs through to terracotta tiles and practical demonstrations of problems typical of old age; blockages, trouble with joints and such like. This photo of what appears to be a fibre optic cable is in fact drain rods used to clear blocked drains. In the field in question, Michael took us through the layers of drains put in at different times by different people and explained how a problem in one part of the system causes symptoms in another. A bit like a cross between engineering, economics, homeothapy and plumbing.

We only scratched the surface of this fascinating subject to be honest.


Landscape for life

Forest of Bowland

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