The possibilities for glorious rebirth from apparent disaster (and of course the reverse of that, and of course of course all the countless in-between positions) are always present, especially in football. Quite what took us from being 0-1 down and missing a penalty to winning the game 3-2 is beyond me. It was baffling, beautiful and entirely needed.

While Leeds were being the end of me once more, we were attending the birthday party of one of my nieces. Went for a walk along the river before afternoon tea and cake.

In the image here, you can just about see where the level of the river has dropped. The weir a bit further down stream collapsed late last year.

The narrator here says two-three feet; it’s at least six feet in places at the moment. There are no plans to fix the weir as far as I’m aware. It’s keeping the water much fresher than it was, with a faster current, and the banks will cover over again. Today, the air was rich with wild garlic, and there were wood anemones, late snowdrops, early bluebells, celandine.

Plus – keeping a group of 10 kids busy for a couple of hours – the water finding its lowest level has revealed a trove of stuff in the silt. Presumably items thrown off the old viaduct: sections of railway, telegraph ceramics, bits of pottery… as well as more contemporary pieces of junk, like crusty bike frames, an abandoned boom box, fishing rods, plastic bags full of nameless sodden items.

Along the river bank, and along the cycle path that now runs across the viaduct, the trees had made that switch from incipient new growth to plump, visible buds, the colours changing, spring blossom out or arriving. The clocks go forward tomorrow.

Something about all of this going on offers a reassurance that is also baffling, beautiful and entirely needed.

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.


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.


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:



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.



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



Not quite sure what it was…


A-HEH-HEM. "Fathers"?

No wonder the old lass looks so disgruntled.

When loons do wield th’apostrophe,

Disgracèd 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:


…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.


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