Tales from the Riverbank: Bob's Tale
Our earliest readers will remember Bob's extraordinary tale of how his life and career were very literally intertwined with the Ribble's Broadgate mudflats from the May 06 Tales From The Riverbank, and Bob has written to us about his recent return to the Ribble mudflats in Broadgate...
I have just been looking at your blog of the rough weather on the river. This morning, on impulse, I climbed over the wall at Broadgate and made my first return to the river bed in forty-eight years. I took these pictures which shows that the river is not always a dirty muddy place. No doubt the storm water cleaned it all up, but I had an nostalgic half-hour walking up the river bed toward the New Bridge before the incoming tide made me turn back.
On my return home, I wrote a one-page article on the river, opposing the barrage & contacted the Lancashire Evening Post asking if they would like to publish it. They have not replied yet... but here it is for the blog...
THE RIVER RIBBLE, BROADGATE.
22nd January , 2007
The morning of Tuesday, January 22nd, 2007 was one of those beautiful winter days when the sky was clear blue and free from cloud. The lawn had a covering of light frost and the water in the pond was frozen over. There was a distinct icy chill when I set off on my weekly visit to the Preston City Market.
On my way back, thinking about the plans to build a barrage across the River Ribble, I decided to take a walk along the banks of this splendid river which the developers are seeking to flood for ever.
Parking along Broadgate, I recalled my schooldays when every possible leisure hour was spent playing amongst the mud, sand and stones of the river bed. I was not alone in this, summer evening and week-ends often found dozens of children down on the banks either building obscure structures from the thousands and thousands of house bricks which littered the river bed. Those were the first dozen years after the end of World War II. A lot of the terraced houses alongside the river had been fitted with brick air-raid shelters. Once the war was over, and despite the fact that most people wanted to keep their shelters as handy “outhouses,” the authorities in their “wisdom” declared that they should all be pulled down (probably at great expense). The resulting rubble and bricks were simply dumped into the river where they gave endless hours of enjoyment to the local children.
I recalled that the last time I had been in the river bed was in early 1959, shortly before I went off to Merchant Navy training college at Wray Castle on the side of lake Windermere. When I climbed over the wall 48 years ago, I clearly remember thinking that that part of my life was over and never again would I enjoy the pleasures of the river. I was then aged 15.
Most of the time these days, the river bed is heavy with mud, but I was delighted to see that the day of my visit was one of the periodic times when everything was bright and clean with sand where there is usually mud. No doubt a result of the fierce storm of the previous week.
Placing my hat and coat in the car, I leapt over the wall. Maybe not with the agility I displayed forty-eight years ago, but easily enough, nevetheless. I scrambled down the sloping stonework finding myself on a rather pleasant mini beach. Having heavy boots on, I had no difficulty in walking along the uneven stones and took a nostalgic stroll along the river bed in the direction of the New Bridge.
Everything was as I remembered it and I enjoyed the clear, fresh air and absence of traffic noise. Even the thousands of bricks were still there, many of them worn smooth with the passing of over sixty years.
Occasionally, I would come across some interesting piece of mechanical junk embedded in the stones reminding me of finding my first old radio set in the river well over 50 years ago. It was that radio set, plus a general love of water, that set me off on what was to be a 31-year career as Merchant Navy ship’s radio officer.
As I approached the New Bridge, it seemed that the tide was coming in. This is never a very rapid process and there was no danger of me being cut off, but I made a leisurely return to the small beach where I had climbed over the wall.
There were no other footprints along the bed, other than those of birds, none of whom seemed to resent my intrusion. There were no signs that any children had played down here for many a long year – too dangerous I suppose, in an age where it is more fun to fight a battle on a computer monitor against grotesque space aliens without the fear of any fatal or painful consequences.
Had the tide not have been coming in, I would have stayed a lot longer. Returning over the wall was easier than going over from the pavement because of the build-up of general rubbish behind it - another sign of the times! The whole visit was invigorating and enjoyable. Nevertheless, I find it sad that there are plans to drown it all with a barrage. There were similar plans fifty odd years ago, but they all came to nothing.
It seems clear to me that a river that floods its banks from time to time when there is nothing in it to restrict the water flow after heavy rain will be even more likely to flood if a great barrage is placed in it to increase its depth!"
Bob's life-long passion for the River Ribble, its mudflats, and its relationship with his sea-faring career extends to his absolutely fantastic miniature shipwright's skills - see Bob's Blog and his model ships at www.miniatureships.blogspot.com
- and on Thursday, 8th Feb, Bob is giving a short lecture in the public library at Kingsfold starting at 10.30hrs concerning his recently published book RMS ST HELENA & THE SOUTH ATLANTIC ISLANDS...
You can see more Tales and Pictures from the Riverbank here.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your own Ribble Tales...