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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006
    Croxteth's pioneering people
    Yesterday's blog got some interesting responses (I know, I know, I really must get my comments fixed). Particularly from Adrian who adds to the definition of 'edgy' places those which are on borders. Border town people can be difficult to organise. Partly because (in a rural area) they run not on industrial time or commuter time but on 'dairy time', which may be part of the reason for the rural distrust of things urban.

    These stimulating thoughts add something to my thinking about this place, which is miles from the Mersey and is actually border country - doubly so. For, standing on the edge of the city boundaries, our parish straddles two estates and the boundary between Croxteth and Norris Green actually severs the church building itself.

    Higginson and Wailey are mostly concerned with ports, so to them the Mersey / Irish Sea are the waterways which most define Liverpool. That's indisputable, but Adrian's email (I know, I know, I really must get my comments fixed) talks about the unsettling effects of inland rivers on those who live nearby them - he observes that the people of Bangor on Dee have been 'very river affected for the last week or so (with the road to Wrexham closed by 3 feet of flood water for much of the past week)'. Their state of mind has been understandably dependent on 'the level of Lake Bala (which feeds the Dee), levels of confidence in the river engineers who control the Bala flood gates, tide levels at Chester (which determine how easily the Dee runs out into the Irish sea), and wind levels (which can affect both the tide and might just push a high level river over its bank).'

    This got me thinking about our region's other river - one which winds its way around the outer ring of our city and which forms the outer boundary of our parish: the Alt. This was once pioneer country, and the Alt was the route by which Vikings arrived here - the name Croxteth deriving from Croc's Steath - Croc's landing place. As I wrote here, they must have found this to be reasonable territory for farming and husbandry, 'low-lying, relatively flat and drained (not always successfully) by a network of brooks, most since culverted and hidden to sight, but remembered in place-names: Deysbrook, Tuebrook, Fallbrook.'

    Here today the Alt is little more than a shabby stream, its deep cut banks overgrown with brambles and fenced off from housing developments, but I wonder if in trying to recover some of its historical significance (and in doing some psychogeographical retracing of its tributaries), some of the spirit - and the struggles - of Croxteth's pioneering people might also reemerge?