4.12. Water:  Limestone and Gritstone

Apart from a brief excursion to Downham on the northern slopes of Pendle Hill, all previous attempts to locate the Green Chapel have been in limestone country, Wetton Mill in the valley of the Manifold [KASKE70] (p.111-121) and Ludchurch [ELLIOTT97].  The descriptions of streams in the mountain country of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, particularly in Fitt 4, are vivid but far from typical of the streams of limestone country where much of the water travels underground (as in the Manifold valley of Derbyshire.)


Brokez byled and breke bi bonkkez aboute,
Schyre Schaterande on schorez, þer þay doun schowued. (2082-2083)

A balȝ berȝ bi a bonke þe brymme bysyde'
Bi a forȝ of a flede þat ferked þare;
Þe borne blubred þerinne as hit boyled hade. (2172-2174)

  --Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

This is surface water which cannot penetrate the hard rock underneath.  The scenery described in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight close to the Green Chapel is certainly not limestone country, it is the gritstone scenery of the western Pennines further north.  The point is further confirmed on line 1710 during the third (fox) hunt, where “a strothe rande” (an edge of a wooded marsh) is far from the well-drained valleys of limestone country.

The Bowland Forest area where James Cottrell probably spent some of his youth in the family homes is not limestone country[19], there are a multitude of fast flowing streams dropping from the heights to marshy and wooded valley bottoms.  The countryside thereabouts was much more heavily wooded in the fourteenth century than it is now, and provided deer for hunting into the eighteenth century [WHITAKER72].

[19] There is a localised outcropping of limestone in the Whitewell Gorge area, but overall Bowland Forest is hard gritstone country.