Water, Mud and Ruins: A Gothic Adventure

After the food, TV watching and general laziness of Christmas, it seemed like high time for a new adventure. So this weekend, I went for a long walk with two friends through Trawden and Wycoller in Lancashire. It was bitingly cold and, in places, it felt as though we might sink forever into the deep mud. There were moments when I wondered whether I was doomed to plunge head first into freezing water, just so nature could prove to me what a city boy I really am.

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But there were rewards for the discomfort. I love being near water and there are several fast flowing streams in the area. I particularly liked the dramatic waterfall that we found on a short detour. It was also a good spot to eat a muffin.

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The area has many bridges of all different designs. One of them looked as though Obelix from the Asterix series had dropped one of the menirs he always seemed carry across the water. There were simple stone ones and others with double arches. They all made good vantage points to watch the streams from.

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The walk brought us close to Pendle Hill, an area famous for its families of supposed witches who were executed during the reign of King James I. There is definitely something very gothic about the landscape. It was easy to imagine the Hound of the Baskervilles bounding across it, probably with Christopher Lee not far behind.

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Adding to the gothic feel of the experience were the beautiful ruins of Wycoller Hall. This was a manor house built towards the end of the Sixteenth Century. Over time, it fell into disrepair. By the time of the Nineteenth Century, it was partially restored and notable enough a landmark to inspire Charlotte Bronte – who lived with her sisters in the nearby and now entertainingly touristy village of Howarth – as the model for Ferndean Manor in Jane Eyre. This was among the books I studied for English A Level and while it is not a particular favourite, it still has a certain association for me from that time of my life.

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The ruins, like the surrounding landscape, have a stark beauty that seems made for a ghost story (of which the Hall apparently has several). To me, they felt placed outside of time, as though they had always been there and always would. Of all the things we saw, they were easily my favourite. Despite the cold and the approaching evening, they fired up my imagination.

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Maybe any long walk teaches you things about yourself. I was aware that in the places where there was little or no signs of humanity, I felt vulnerable and  somewhat alien. In the ruins or standing on the bridges, where nature and the man-made met, I felt at home. I never want to totally leave the city behind.

A few hours later, I was back home, ready for a hot bath and a hot chocolate. And thinking about my next adventure.

Damian

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