Archive for the ‘Whithorn Unbelieving Pilgrimage’ Category

Another few snatched miles of local walking – drifting north, away from home, maybe even away from 50…

My ‘no pubs next to stations’ rule is easy to follow at Burscough Junction, as the ‘Junction Hotel’ is derelict, though a notice on the door referring to ‘peaceful re-entry’ by the owners suggests it might soon stir into life. I walked into town, and failed to join the canal at the Waterfront which had a strange, dark, neglected dead-end garden.


I found the path on the other side of the bridge. A large factory was also derelict, rooks flying around the top of its chimney. I wonder what was made here – and when it will become apartments.


Soon I found the Ship Inn, aka the Blood Tub – does anyone know how it got its name? And walked up to Rufford in alternating cloud and sun.


Saw a heron, thought through some vexatious work stuff, and got the train back.

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“IN the pale moonlight, the Wanderer lifted the latch of the field gate and crossing a meadow, passed through the woodland. The day had been an eventful one, the times were unsettled, the markets unreliable–verily it was a comfort to a tired mind to walk the meadows at nightfall.” So begins A Romance of Burscough Priory, a story published in 1928 by that organ of wonders, the Ormskirk Advertiser – collected in book form in Lancashire Legends, republished in 2005.

Reader, I was that Wanderer. Markets are indeed uncertain and days therefore eventful for a marketing director. I walked away from Edge Hill University (my place of employment) with some misgivings, as I could easily have stayed on into the evening doing more work. However with members of the team working away at crafting images of the campus:


and others hosting a social networking event, it seemed allowable to leave them to it and walk a while in ‘the hour for sweet repose and reflection’.

I headed into Ruff Wood and started off in a northward direction. This may turn out to be a one-off evening stroll, or it might be the start of a longer trek – I have a vague ambition to walk to Fleetwood, take ferries to Ireland and on to Stranraer, and walk the pilgrim route down to Whithorn. But later for that. Tonight I was just aiming for Burscough. Beyond the Ruff I traversed bland fields familiar from my lengthened, cardio-friendly commute into work.


I joined Lady’s Walk, down to the crossroads with the disused railway and, like the Wanderer, crossed into the woods.


I had not expected it to be rough going, walking a couple of miles between familiar towns, but I found myself in boggy and confusing terrain.


My clothes became spattered with mud – I felt like Will Eisner’s Spirit in terms of action-packed sartorial disehevelment.

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I scribbled some notes about sense of place – thinking how genius loci co-exist, the spirit for a particular field-corner containing those for individual blades of grass, say, then connecting to all field-corners everywhere.


Back in the Romance, the Wanderer ‘became conscious that a hooded figure stood silently behind him’, a ‘ghostly companion’ who explains the history of Burscough Priory, including some very specific details: ‘The nave was nigh upon one hundred feet in length…’ I proceeded in the lengthening shadows, alone but not wholly lacking in ‘a sense of unreality and…a profound stirring of the soul’ as I watched fitful autumn sunlight touching the fields, sheds and railway tracks.


In fact the landscape and the momentum of the walk were so beguiling that I forgot to look for the actual Priory ruins. Instead I walked into Burscough, had a Spar sandwich and found a pub to go to (the Hop Vine, recomended). I sat outside, under a giant hood covering a smoking area. With its windchimes and bamboo lining, this space had a sort of new age feel. Perhaps the smoking places that have appeared outside many pubs inns and taverns have some shamanic purpose – the superficial resemblance to tropical beach bars conceals a deeper identity aligned to sweat-lodges and temples where sacred smoke is shared.


I pored over the map, wondering how I could possibly not have bothered to look at the Priory. (Later I missed another opportunity on the train back.) A stray memory surfaced, of a dream I had back in my 20s. I was in some kind of science fiction mission, in a group exploring a planet, walking through forest laden with equipment. We were welcomed into a community with people in white robes and given nourishing vegetarian food. It was a peaceful place, filled with silence and golden light and (as is the convention) there was temptation to stay forever – but my dream-self was thinking ‘No, it’s too soon – I need to go back, back through the forest, back to earth, back to smoke roll-ups made from corner-shop tobacco, to explore the hidden pubs of Hove seen from trains amongst the house-backs, to figure out why pubs right next to stations are never any good but the next nearest ones are often OK [a vast cascade of such stuff] – not to the best things but to those things.’

And then ‘the dreamer awoke, to find himself in his own century…and the life and history of to-day’.

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