Because Mum wasn’t very well for much of last month, we weren’t able to go on any Big Adventures with our friends from Red Bus Days Out, and so I’m going to tell you about a Little Adventure instead. This one took us to Thornton-in-Craven, a lovely old village about ten miles from where we live.
One popular attraction there is the Thornton Hall Country Park, but our main reason for going there was to take some photographs of a gravestone in St Mary’s churchyard to add to an article one of Mum’s friends was writing. It was a glorious day and Mum had remembered to charge both her phone and her best camera so she could take plenty of photos. But her plan to photograph the gravestone was soon hit on the head as she realised that the majority of the graves were at the other side of a stout fence with no means of access.
Not being one to give up easily, Mum thought of climbing over – until she saw the strand of barbed wire half-hidden behind the top rail of the fence. She then thought of wriggling through between two of the lower rails, but couldn’t manage it as the rails had been placed too close together – at least, that’s what she said, but, because I’m an honest little bear, I can tell you it was because she was too fat.
Having made the effort to get there, however, Mum and me decided to have a look around the bit of the churchyard that was accessible and she started telling me about the different wild flowers that were coming into bloom there.
The first was the milkmaid. This pale pinky-purple flower is also known as lady’s smock, cuckooflower (because it comes into bloom around the time the first cuckoos arrive) and mayflower (but not to be confused with may blossom, which I’ll tell you more about in my next post). Although it looks pretty, however, old superstitions say that, if you pick it, you’ll be bitten by an adder before the year’s out. You’ll also start a thunderstorm and, if you bring it into the house, it’ll attract a flash of lightning, so it’s best to leave it where it is.
Mum then showed me the lesser celandine, a low-growing plant whose shiny yellow flowers seem to glow against its dark-coloured leaves. One of its other names is pilewort because it was said to cure haemorrhoids. When I asked Mum what they were, she said I’d have to ask a bear with a sore bum. As I know that bears with sore bums are very bad-tempered, however, I decided not to bother. She also told me that it’s rich in Vitamin C and had been used in the past to prevent a disease called scurvy – and, although the poet Wordsworth is most famous for his poem about daffodils, he liked the celandine more and wrote three poems about it.
After that, she told me about the dandelion, which is said to have got its name from the French dente-de-lion because its jagged-edged leaves look like a lion’s teeth. It also has another from the French which is very rude and I’m not going to put it on my blog – I’ll just say that when Mum was a little girl she was always told not to pick dandelions as they’d make her wet the bed! On a nicer note, dandelions are said to be the only plant which represents the sun (with its bright yellow disc of a flower), the moon (with its silvery-white seed-ball) and the stars (with its seeds which are carried on a tiny white parachute as they blow away on the wind).
We then went to look at the Holy Well which is lower down than the church and is protected by a small octagonal building. As its water was said to have healing properties and Mum was still suffering a little bit from the Big Bug she’d had, I thought I might sprinkle some on her and make her better. Then I thought that, because the well is below the level of the graves and people have been buried above it for over 1300 years, it might not be as wholesome as it seems and so I didn’t do it after all. Other people don’t seem to look at it that way, however, and a sprinkling ceremony is held there once a month.
The Holy Well at Thornton-in-Craven is sometimes also known as St Mary’s Well, after the church. There are many more holy wells in Yorkshire, however, and those which have names are nearly always called St Helen’s Well. This is said to be after St Helen, the mother of Constantine, the first emperor to allow Christians to freely practise their religion in the Roman Empire. But, as many of the wells are older than Christianity, they might have originally been called after an ancient goddess, Elen, who is sometimes depicted with a woman’s body but a deer’s head, complete with antlers.
I find that image a bit scary – but not as scary as Xonita who has just gone into the Guinness Book of Records as the World’s Biggest Teddy Bear. She was made by the people of Xonacatlon in Mexico in a bid to bring more tourists to their town and took three months to stitch together. She’s about 20 metres/65 feet tall and weighs four tonnes/nearly four tons. That makes her 130 times taller than me and over 70,000 times heavier, which I think is very scary indeed!
That’s all for today as I’m now going to help Mum to finish writing When Daffodils Bloom – or, at least, she’s going to sit at the computer and type and I’m going to sit next to her and poke her with a pointy stick every time she tries to break off and do a Sudoku puzzle, or check her emails or look on Facebook to see what her friends are up to. But I’ll be back soon to tell you more about May Day, past and present, and to let you know how Mum’s getting on with her writing.
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Follow my next blog: 33. A MAY DAY MISCELLANY – PART II