Sunday, 5 June 2011

Writing Memories on a Lichfield Walk

Soaring Heaven on Earth is a somewhat overly dramatic title for a walk on the northern edge of the city of Lichfield. This was not a walk I anticipated would bring any great satisfaction. I like a distant sound of traffic and little or no tarmac. However this proved a pleasant albeit brief distraction, particularly so when I found myself reunited with areas of my native county which I had visited previously when compiling four of my books: Staffordshire Place Names, Staffordshire Privies, South Staffordshire Street Names, and the forthcoming Paranormal Staffordshire.

I started the route at a different point on the walk, solely because parking was impossible on that day. Soon I was trying to recall the meaning of a number of street names as I started off at Cross Keys, itself taking the name of a former public house, itself named from the symbol representing St Peter. Passing through Lloyds Walk, named after the bank which owns the land, I turned into Dam Street, a reminder of where the water flow feeding the mill was controlled. Here is Dame Olivers, the school where Dr Samuel Johnson learned his first lessons.

Nether Pool is of lesser importance than Stowe Pool. Crossing Bird Street, known as Byrd Street in 1506 and named after a local family, we come to Beacon Park, a name transferred from Beacon Street which we shall encounter very soon.

Skirting the park we approached Townfields, the name explains itself. It was here that a former resident allowed me to photograph the building which had once served as the privy before modern plumbing was installed. The solid brick building certainly smelled better when I photographed it, for one wall and the roof were covered in honeysuckle and its heady sweet perfume.

Shaw Lane is an old name found in the landscape, one referring to 'the enclosure', leads to Beacon Street, which was known as Bacon Street until 1836 and tells us this was where meat was cured. Along here is Erasmus Darwin House where I heard of the unexplained events of cellar lights being turned on moments after being turned off for the night. Another man in period costume appeared to a member of staff and was thought to be playing a role for the museum until she realised he had vanished and that no costumed characters were on site that day.

A side road on the left is The Close, the road associated with the cathedral, and here another phenomenon seemed keen to allow aromas of cooking to permeate into the upstairs of one person's house when nobody was cooking. The buildings on either side seem to frame the magnificent Lichfield Cathedral with its three spires known as the Ladies of the Vale. Briefly touching Dam Street again we turn left along Reeve Lane, a reeve was a Saxon officer appointed by the lord of the manor to see to the running of the estate in his stead.

This path brings us to the single circuit of Stowe Pool, from stow which has several meanings and is best defined as simply 'place' as 'special place' makes it sound of greater significance than it actually was. The path leads off and up the ramp and back to my waiting car.

The walk brought back memories of facts and narratives I would never have remembered had I tried to recall them from a question or a reminder of a name.

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