One weekend in December 2016 I drove into Lancashire to locate the odd grave but the main destination was Pendle Hill. I know witches fly off the top of this 557m high mega-mound at Halloween so I thought Iíd go and park up in Barley village at the bottom and have a walk.
I ate a cheese and onion sandwich in the car under the pub sign bearing a witch. The trials of the Pendle witches in 1612 are among the most famous trials in English history. Twelve women who lived around Pendle Hill were charged with the murders of ten people by the use of witchcraft. One died in prison, ten were found guilty and executed by hanging; one was found innocent. In those days people believed in witchcraft and between the 15th and early 18th centuries about 500 Ďwitchesí ere execution. Most were probably making a living from healing, begging, and extortion. When I asked the web how long it took to die from hanging the number of the Samaritans appeared. The brain is starved of oxygen within 4-6 minutes and the kicking stops.
I had a stroll around Barley village with Pendle Hill in attendance at all times like a sentinel giant. Six of the Pendle witches came from one of two families but Iím not sure if theyíre buried in the local churchyard. Time was running out though. On the drive over Iíd been into Blackburn to hunt out two graves and I knew the sun would go behind that big hill at about 4:30pm. I decided to head to the war memorial, salute, then head up and up the big hill. I had to pause to admire the K6 telephone kiosk that still worked (60p minimum call - I can buy two jars of lemon curd for that.) About 60,000 of these 8 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet red beauties were manufactured and installed around the country from 1936 but only 10,700 remain.
There was a big circular walk up and round the hill. I walked up a path by a stream that took me through houses and passed a man who was burning rubbish in a field. I like the smell of a fire but he was burning a stained mattress. He said you can only dry them out in the sun so many times (had waterproof hotel-style mattress covers not reached Barley?) A stained ram had been busy with the fields with the sheep and left its efforts on their backs in green (itís usually red or blue dye.) Rams have a split in their hooves and also a split in their upper lips to allow them to pluck specific leaves off plants Ė but I have never seen this. They donít like to walk in water or through narrow openings. They can stomp their foot and chase dogs - but I have never seen this either.
I walked clockwise up the big hill listening to an Enid Blyton Famous Five audio book set in Cornwall. As I rose up and up the broadening view of Lancashire was at odds with the Cornish coast where the story unfolded. I could remember the story from childhood. Soon it was over but as I like stories set in holiday locations I flicked through my mp3 player and found a Bergerac audio book set across the island of Jersey. It seemed odd being able to see about 12 miles across the Lancashire horizon to Nelson and Burnley yet, in my mind, be scooting around St Helier and St Breladeís Bay in Jersey.
It was almost windless as I ate the Caramac up at the trig point. A lone dog looked lost and I started to get worried as minutes passed with no sign of a guardian. A manís head appeared at the cliff edge and it sprinted across to him. On the top there were a few different paths so you could jump on one to avoid saying ďhelloĒ fifteen times to fifteen people. As you can see I assassinated most people so I could have the hill to myself but a young lass of about four reached the top without getting on the dadís shoulders once so I let her live. I was even kind-hearted enough not to shoot her parents while she looked on.
By the time I meandered down the wee-stained mattress was just a series of black springs. I was having had a wee in a stream when a family of four appeared round a hedge. Iíve got a good control over my internal bladder valve that allows me to turn off flow immediately.
I got down into Barley before the sun dropped behind a hill and took the temperature with it. The village is probably prettier in the summer but the hill had been rather featureless I can only see myself returning to Barley if thereíre famous bones in the graveyard.