May 20, 2011
The Claife Crier has to be the best-known spook in the Lake District, and, as is commonly pointed out, the only ghost named on an OS map. Sadly, neither he nor his residence are listed on my modern road map but still… here’s the story.
Claife Heights copyright Stephen Dawson
A long time ago, a monk from Furness Abbey, whose job was to save the souls of immoral women, fell for one of his clients. He followed her back to Claife Heights on the western shores of Windermere, but she rejected him. He took this badly, spent a lot of time wailing, and finally dropped dead. But didn’t stop wailing.
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May 18, 2011
Not that long ago – until only 150 years or so – if your cattle came down with murrain or foot and mouth, there was a solution. The ‘need fire’.
Each household extinguished their hearth fire, then a new, communal fire was lit using friction, either with flints or by rubbing sticks together. Damp wood was added to the fire to create a lot of smoke, then the village’s cattle and swine1 were driven through the smoke in order of age. The householders then lit a brand in the communal fire, and re-lit their domestic hearth.
The cattle-curing aspect may be the last surviving memory of something much more significant. Today, we might wonder if the smoke or the heat had some affect on the micro-organisms that were causing the illness, and hence if there was some logical, albeit hit-and-miss, basis for believing this might work. And perhaps this is true, but, of course, knowledge of bacteria is recent, and this tradition is not. Two hundred – and two thousand - years ago, people feared the cause was otherworldly.
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May 11, 2011
Whenever The Time Team‘s Phil waxes lyrical about flint knapping, arrowheads and axes, you can hear the TV audience willing the producer to hurry up. They just look like uninteresting flakes of dark grey stuff, which you often wouldn’t realise were anything special if you dug them out of your vegetable patch.
Copyright Michael Greenhalgh
Langdale axes, now – that’s another matter. Made from greenish Borrowdale volcanic stone from the central Lake District, even the ‘rough-out’, unfinished axe heads look purposefully-shaped. The polished ones are amazing. They can be 11 inches long, with roughly parallel sides about 3 or 4 inches wide, an oval cross-section, and an almost glass-like sheen where they have been smoothed to perfection over many weeks.1 They are very hard, resistant to breaking, and often much bigger than their flint equivalents. There’s no mistaking these for natural stones; the skill and deliberateness of their manufacture sings down the millennia.
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