Continuing on a watery theme - I had dear old friends for the day yesterday and we reminisced about past times when we both lived near to each other in another part of the country. Now, luckily, they too have moved North so that now we only live about forty miles apart - they in The Lakes and we in The Dales - and a wonderfully scenic forty miles it is too. So we see each other frequently again. Yesterday my oldest friend was sixty so we had a celebration meal. As there was snow lying we sat by the wood-burner and chatted all afternoon, and the subject of rivers came up.
There is something about water which seems to attract us all. Maybe in the UK it is because we are an island, although I suspect that it goes deeper than that. All our settlements were originally built upon water - we needed it to cook, to drink, to wash, to wash our clothes, to keep our cattle alive, and I think that, deep in our psyche we still hold that memory.
I have spoken often about our beck here and how it had a string of mills along its banks until the end of the nineteenth century. and how the Cistercian monks walked its banks and relied on its constant flow to water their sheep, and how the Scots cattle drovers paid a half penny per head of cattle to use its waters on their way through to market. But this was not unique - this same pattern of use, certainly in the UK, could be applied to any watercourse. And I have seen similar situations where little mills are still in use in the Atlas mountains of Morocco, the Taurus mountains of Turkey, the streams on the Greek islands - man has always utilised a water source
to his advantage.
And so we got to talking about another watercourse which my friend and I both knew well. The River Worfe is a tributary of the mighty Severn river - it is a tiny little river which flows through the beautiful countryside of Shropshire - arguably England's greenest county. It has glorious walks along its banks and in years gone by we have done them all. We have spied kingfishers, herons, pied flycatchers along its banks; we once found a slow worm (the only one I have ever seen) on the footpath; and on one occasion we had a little adventure.
Strolling along on a Sunday afternoon, we happened to spot a sheep in the water, up against the bank, standing still, its head down - obviously stuck and just as obviously resigned to its fate - it had decided there was no hope and it would drown.
One of us ran along to the nearest farm while the other two or three crossed the bridge and went back to see if they could help it out of the water. Its fleece was saturated and it was very heavy indeed. Luckily the farmer was in and he came straight away and together we pulled the sheep out onto the grassy bank. We smiled yesterday as we remembered that long before we got its feet firmly on dry land it had turned its head to nibble away at the grass. These little incidents stick in the memory and make up the fabric of life for me at any rate.
My previous husband loved the river and in particular the area around a village called Rindleford, where there was a mill and a miller's house. In the time of Richard II it was a fulling mill but it eventually became a corn mill. At one time it was also used for crushing linseed for oil.
My husband painted the mill in oils and it hangs on my staircase today as a constant reminder of those happy days. I thought you would like to see the painting - in the photo above.
One man, Dr D H Robinson, made it his life's work after his retirement to write a book on this little river and it is full of most interesting little snippets of information. Here is just one story:-
One miller, who had been moved to an old person's home in the nearby town of Bridgnorth, had a son who now worked the mill and who was a notorious drunkard. When the old miller died the son went to fetch the coffin in his pony cart and then left the cart with the coffin outside the inn. He then drove home very drunk and got the card stuck in the middle of the river where the poor old miller was forced to lie in his coffin throughout the night. Rather a fitting end I think to a man who had lived all his life on that river and must have loved it.
There is something nice about sitting with old friends on a snowy day in a warm room, with a cup of tea and a wealth of old memories. Wish some of you could pop round - the kettle is always on and the teapot at the ready.