Pre-amble: Lancaster – Wray

The pilgrimage walk of Easter 2010 was from Chester to Sunderland Point and the grave of the black ‘servant’ Sambo. This route traced a line for a potential Glasgow – St Asaph trail as far as lancaster.

It is therefore appropriate to begin the 2011 route, which continues the Glasgow – St. Asaph trail, from the slave memorial in Lancaster.

Lancaster’s fortunes in modern times are said to have been created on a vigorous involvement in the slave trade and in recent years this has been recognised through the creation of a memorial and a town trail leaflet.

Such memorials do not occur without some level of debate:

Reader Betty Norton wrote that a monument… “depicting misery and shame is no enhancement to the city. It will turn visitors away.”

She suggested rather that Lancaster should make more of St George’s Day by having ‘a balloon release, morris dancers and special stalls’.


They also raise the question

‘How does this issue enlighten the present?’. … a regret at the actions of our forbears – nice sentiment, but nothing else? Or is there some other purpose? We seem rather good at doing the ‘remembering’ and ‘supporting’ as for example the regular popular gatherings at Wootton Basset (which has been itself recognised by grant of the title ‘royal’ to the town). But with what effect? ‘Support’ is important in itself – and maybe sufficient for the Wootton Basset action – but that hardly applies to memorials of a departed trade in ‘human trafficking’.

Presumably, the remembering involved is in some way intended to charge us, in the living present, with a determination to avoid and eliminate such action. Even just the ‘stating of regret’ (which in some way the Lancaster memorial marks) is a means of planting an idea, of reinforcing a moral position, in those who casually pass the site.

From the memorial the route leads away from Lancaster and into the valley of the River Lune.

The area in which this walk starts is one where names of Scandinavian origin are becoming standard. To the south the naming  has a clear Saxon basis but in the valley of the Lune this changes. The OS map demonstrates this in the Forest of Bowland, with southern streams as ‘brook’ whilst to the north equivalents are ‘beck’.

This aspect – that of names reflecting (and to the visitor ‘introducing’) a detail of ancient past, may lead to wider issues.

As with almost any randomly chosen route in the British Isles, this route contains a host of references to people and societies, activity and industry, diggings, delvings and connections – all, in attempts at understanding, beyond anything more than that from an imaginative response. This, inevitably, becomes a mildly ‘Romantick’ reaction but one that may suffuse the body corporeal engaged in the process. Consequently of no real certainty of real understanding. Such, though, is ‘where we are’ and evidence of this response (and possibly ‘engaged understanding’) is found in the myriad of texts produced during the last two centuries. This route, with its passage into the landscape beloved of profoundly significant English poets and painters, has more than its share of such speculations.

Connections: the ‘Lune Valley Ramble’ (a rather unsettling term – even though this article is a ‘pre-amble’!) starts in Lancaster and is followed. ‘Ramble’ seems to reduce the route into something comfortable and easy. Fine for this age – but failing to imbue the modern ‘rambler’ with any sense of depth about the route they `are using. All the ‘Effort of Ages’ reduced to a route for pleasure seeking ‘ramblers’ – unfocused, wanderers…’ramble’: ‘to be desultory, incoherent or delirious’  as the  Chambers Dictionary of 1972 puts it.

This walk starts on the route of the ‘Ramble’ which is initially based on the very solid structure of an old railway line. Now a route for wanderers but one built for very determined purposes – bringing the industrial classes across the Pennines from Leeds and Bradford to the healthy sea-side environment of Morecambe.

The “Leeds, Bradford & Morecambe Residential Express” became an institution, speeding the movers and shakers in the woollen industry to their offices in the morning and back home in the evening (lunch-time on Saturdays). “Bradford-by-the Sea” was born.

Long gone, now the line is for slower movement.  The area needs its ‘in-puts’. How does a place produce, generate, the necessary ‘in-come’ (interesting term) that will support and provide those who live in the area? The past, in the case of this line, was faster… now in some senses the line still serves the same purpose…. providing healthy rest and relaxation and continuing to bring people, hopefully with money to spend, into the area.

What mildly disturbs is that the ancient activities, all very ‘solid’, relating to purposeful connections between places (whether prehistoric traders, Roman commerce, mediaeval political movements, C19th expanding wealth creators) are now to be merely side-notes on leaflets encouraging a vaguely healthy activity such as a ‘ramble’. ‘Oh My People, Do not strive too hard, take your time’…. But please, please stroll along our route and maybe satisfy your stomach hunger in one of our pubs’. The ghost of a Midland Railway Compound charging along to the coast steams still, through and over these gentle people. One envisions its carriages full of Flint traders, Roman soldiers, Viking adventurers, Norman castle builders and the like, jostling arguing and leaning out of the windows to be the first to catch a glimpse of the sea.

The old railway line forms the route to the far side of Caton, after which a series of roads and footpaths lead to Wray and the end of day one.

William Gibson, one of the early Quakers, was born at Caton in 1629. He served in the Parliamentary army, endured much suffering for refusing to take oaths and pay tithes, and published some theological books. He died in 1684.

He was a friend of William Penn. One of his late works is called

A Christian-testimony born by the people of God in scorn called Quakers in London in their patient suffering the taking away and spoiling of their goods for non-payment of tythes to the parish priests’ Published 1679

He was the first purchaser of land in what is now Pennsylvania – but never visited his holding!

Wray is described by Pevsner (North Lancashire) as ‘A specially pretty village street’. The village has some fame arising from scarecrows and maggots.


[‘Pevsner’ refers to the ‘Pevsner Architectural Guides’ published by Yale University Press].

April 17th

Lancaster dep: 08.30

Lune Valley Ramble to Caton/Brookhouse (8kms), lane 550652 to Claughton lane 573670 Farleton, B6480 Butt Yeats (14 kms), ftp 600677

Wray (17 kms)

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