Lost Watercourses and Resacredization

Link to my first article for Gods & Radicals: ‘Lost Watercourses and Resacredization’. Here I trace the lost watercourses of my locality and explore telling the stories of my landscape as an affirmation of the sacred and means of defying capitalism’s commodification of nature.

Gods & Radicals is a web-site set up by Rhyd Wildermuth which aims to unite pagans in beautiful resistance against capitalism.

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The watercourses of my local landscape were once considered very sacred. The river Ribble was venerated by the Romano-British people as Belisama ‘Most Shining One’ ‘Most Mighty One’. The boundaries of the settlements of Penwortham and Preston were defined by freely flowing streams whose deities would have been regarded as powerful guardian spirits.

Life depended on clean, pure water drawn from wells rising from underground sources. Rows of women queued on Petticoat Alley to collect their morning’s fill. Many wells possessed miraculous and healing properties. Ladywell and St Mary’s Well were important sites of pilgrimage. Mineral springs on New Hall Lane were renowned for curing eye ailments.

The brooks that form the perimeters of Penwortham can still be walked. However not a single glimpse of fresh free flowing water can be seen in Preston anymore. Every water course has been culverted. They can be traced by following signs: Syke Hill…

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4 thoughts on “Lost Watercourses and Resacredization

  1. I like the word Resacradization. Here in the mountains where i live the streams are pretty much free flowing. The gun club up stream temporarily dams Board Run that flows past me to stock with trout for kids to fish, which i disagree with, but the trout escape and come down here to my deeper pools and i have it posted No Trespassing so they can’t come down to get them back so the rainbow trout live free here and reproduce LOL. The Nagas/Naginis of the water are sacred to me as you know. I have a low wood bridge that is attached to a chain which i call my Zen bridge as when the water rises it just breaks free and floats to the right then i can winch it back into place, having had three bridges wash away the last 12 years. Live and learn. Nothing can resist the flow of water as you know. In the small town near me the culverts are open for the mountain waters to flow into the half million year old rivers that were from the glacial melts and here before the old old old Appalachian mountains. Live and learn. Blessings on your efforts as a Druid bard Pagani to break the dams politically. I am a little more eco-radical here but cannot write about that……

  2. I have often pondered my attitude to the artificial shaping of my own local River Eleri which runs for about 25 miles from the mountains to the sea. Once the source spring fed a stream that fell through a steep gorge to the valley below before running on as a wider river. Now the gorge has been dammed and the spring is under a lake used for the local drinking water supply, though some still falls through the gorge and she winds her way down through fields and woodlands quite naturally until the final couple of miles over flatter lands to the coast.

    For the last mile or so she was diverted in the nineteenth century into a straight channel into the the estuary of another larger river. Before that she wound sinuously directly into the sea. This was done to drain the corner of a large bog to make agricultural fields. It was unsuccessful and the fields, though they are lost to the bog, are now managed as wet meadows with pools as part of the larger Borth Bog nature reserve. The straight channel looks like a canal rather than a natural river but sand martens nest in the embankment and there are reed beds all along the other side.

    I have used an old map to track the previous course of the river and followed it by trespassing on the golf course which now occupies part of the land. It seems that some of the old river channels are being used as wet bunkers on the golf course. Although I regret the changes they are small compared to the culverting and other indignities detailed in your piece. Does she mind that some of her source water comes to our taps? I think she does not mind this too much. That her beautiful curves have been straightened in her last stretch to the sea? I’m sure she likes this less, so I will continue to honour her chosen route to the sea in spite of disapproval from golfers.



    1. Yes, similarly I don’t think Belisama minds playing her part in nourishing us with drinking water, although we may have used more respectful methods… the place where the Ribble was straightened to make the docks always seem like a thin place: https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/ribbleillusions/ whilst I’ve been to where her last curve once was I haven’t walked it exactly and with intent… all concreted and built over… will have to do this at some point. Unfortunately may be harder to trespass into buildings than on a golf course!

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