Ribble Illusions

Yesterday I had a most uncanny experience. Approaching the river Ribble from Castle Hill, I found myself facing a long stretch of tide marked wall that gave the appearance it had dropped away into nowhere. I was struck by a sudden sense of vertigo. The Ribble couldn’t have disappeared, as if had fallen into a void, surely?

River RibbleOn closer inspection, seeing the reflections of the grilles and staircases, and catching subtle fluctuations in the surface of the water, I realised this was an illusion created by a combination of its stillness with the markings on the stone.

River Ribble, reflection of a grilleRiver Ribble, stairsTo my relief at either end of the concrete barriers, the ‘true’ water level was clear.

River Ribble, water level

River Ribble, water levelDrawn  to stay a while in meditation on the strange appearance and disappearance of the river, which occurred as I shifted my eye-line, I was gifted with the sight of several birds. Common and black headed gulls and terns circled, their darker shadows mirrored in the water. Another bird, which I think may have been a grebe or even a black throated diver flew in. Diving with quick flips of its tail it emerged, for the most part, triumphant with white-silver fish, which after a brief kerfuffle vanished down its throat. Finally, a heron arrived to land majestically on a piece of flotsam.

Heron, river RibbleFor me this goes to show that even where it is channelled, the Ribble is a magical and mind altering place. I give thanks to the river, all its visitors and inhabitants, and its goddess Belisama.

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5 thoughts on “Ribble Illusions

  1. So, if the upper horizontal lines are memory traces, the lower ones are reflections upon memory traces? The second photo shows that vertigo moment really well. Now you’ll have some memory traces of your own at that spot.

  2. It goes to show what we think we see, what people and places try to project to us are not necessarily what is the truth of the matter. People, individually and in relationships, seem to do this quite easily — the pose, the pretense, the show for the outside. When a place does it that is much more disconcerting perhaps because it is more unexpected.

    I had an experience on Iona many years ago when my friend and I walked to the west of the island and the machair at the end of the track wasn’t there. I mean this is the huge grazing field, the ‘raised beach’ where the golf course is, but it wasn’t. We could not explain it, but I’ve never forgotten how disorientating and disconcerting it was . . . and no we weren’t in the wrong place geographically. Can’t explain, turned back and the next day it was back. But Iona is not like most places.

  3. May I ask you; I’ll be heading down to the region round the headwaters of the Ribble in the spring, for a journey that’s a wee bit similar in character to some of those you undertake. Have you done much digging into the folklore of that particular region, where Lancashire shades into the Yorkshire Dales?

    1. I’ve walked the Ribble Way from Gavel Gap but that was a long time ago. The folkloric story furthest upriver connected with the Ribble I know is about the malevolent water spirit Peg O Nell. I’m not too well clued up on Norths Yorks folkore but have looked into some West Yorks stories such as the Spectral Huntsman of Cliviger Gorge who is connected with the northern phenomenon of Gabriel Ratchets.

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