Being under doctoral instruction to avoid heavy lifting, there was to be no question of garden activity this weekend. I mean, I tend to take such advice like a lot of impatient patients, but I tried picking up a pen earlier and it made fluid come out of my nose, so continuing to do nothing much of anything was the order of the Sunday.

So instead, we made time to have a light stroll for fresh air by the river in Knaresborough, an historic town down the road a short way. It’s a lovely place, with an imposing viaduct, a proper ruined castle and lots of touristy attractions.

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Knaresborough Viaduct, from the riverside

One of the most well-known of these attractions is Mother Shipton’s Cave and the Petrifying Well. It’s a nice, if currently pricey, walk.

In the 15th century, noted sayer of sooths Ursula Shipton detailed a series of rhyming predictions for the coming times, many of which retain a certain weird resonance. Carts moving without horses, people communicating round the world in the blink of an eye, ships of iron that do float, men travelling beneath ground in long tunnels, sort of thing. Sci-fi visionary Shipton lived in a cave just by the river, in the shadow of the castle, next to the Petrifying Well. I know, great, isn’t it? The Petrifying Well is named thus because of the way it appears to turn ordinary items to stone. This is an effect of the calcium rich water dripping over into the grotto.

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Actually, I almost didn’t make it down to the Well, as I was petrified, frozen mid-step, on reading the sign on the walkway above:

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Clearly I’m not the first person to have spotted this. I’d just about stopped scoffing and pointing it out to my largely indifferent companion’s (that was a JOKE, about PUNCTUATION) when I turned the corner to the cave of Mother Shipton herself.

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Ahem!

While reading, I felt a vague chill steal over me. Then I started hearing this sort of quavery coughing noise…

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AHEM!

Not quite sure what it was…

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A-HEH-HEM. "Fathers"?

No wonder the old lass looks so disgruntled.

When loons do wield th’apostrophe,

Disgrac├Ęd will my memory be

.

Still, with an impressive 200-odd year old Beech Walk, great views up and down the river (prime front garden gawking to be done with the too-expensive-for-the-likes-of-you manses along the banks opposite) and some nifty tree surgery throughout:

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…it’s well worth a dander through the Mother Shipton’s entrance, if you’re there. Just don’t take a pedantic pal, or they’ll be fastening their coats, looking ill at ease and muttering about the spectral hacking of a disappointed crone. They’re sensitive like that.

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"No, hold on, Greymalkin, stop... They'll do what?"

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