From Bad Back To Baptistry

Let’s go back to last Saturday’s entry, and take another look at that list. 

Out of those thirty-two things that a man ought to know how to do, I can claim a total of twenty-nine. The things that I don’t know how to do are as follows: treat frostbite, perform the Heimlich manoeuvre, and whistle with my fingers. 

However, when I count up the things that I know how to do and have actually done and done properly, I can claim only twenty-five. The things that I know how to do but have never done are as follows: treat a snakebite, survive a bear attack, do a deadlift properly, and perform the fireman’s carry.

Twenty-five out of thirty-two? That’s not bad, is it? I’m cheered by this confirmation of my manliness – until my chronic back pain comes on with a vengeance. It starts on the left in the small of my back and shoots down and around my left knee, and then I’m just a poor, pitiful wretch again, whingeing and whining and making life miserable for those around me. 

Alas, all my moaning doesn’t make me feel any better, and neither does a handful of industrial strength opioids. What to do? I can’t sit here any longer: I’ve got to get mobile. Let’s try a short walk and some fresh air.

I park on Limey Lane, just above a stretch of muddy puddles. There are still drifts of snow on the sides of the path, and the causeway beyond is wall-to-wall mud and mire. I squelch my way to the gate at the end. Which path to take? Straight up to the Rossendale Way? Too far for a bad back. First right is round the reservoir: too familiar. Second right is above and alongside the reservoir: too uneven for my faltering footsteps. I settle for the third way, along Limersgate, supposedly an old packhorse trail, worn down by centuries of use.

As the track levels out, to the right there is an excellent view of Clowbridge Reservoir and the hills on the opposite side of the valley. Ahead lie the remains of an old farmstead, substantial in its day, now nothing more than a foundation and a few stones. It’s bleak and blustery, and the sky is grey, but I feel at home here.

A little way on, and I’m looking down on a small stream. To the right is Pumping Pit; coal mining went on in this area from 1612 until 1936. There is plenty of information on the internet for those who are interested in such things. I press on, through mud, rushes, and a small flock of solemn-faced sheep, crossing the stream and turning left, where my thoughts are turned towards manliness once more.


A young man in yellow waders is up to his knees in the water, shovelling huge slices of rotting vegetation onto the bank. I’m impressed by his energy and his strength. We exchange a few friendly words, but then he gets to work again, chopping and slicing and heaving the sods skywards. There’s one kind of manliness that I can admire.

A few yards up the hillside is evidence of another. It’s the open air baptistry that once belonged to Gambleside Baptist Chapel. A nearby signboard tells something of its history, and its restoration in 1995. I’m glad that it was done, even though the weeds are encroaching once more. Last used in the 1870’s, it still sits there as testimony to the faith of those who were willing to go down into its icy waters, then rise up again in acknowledgement of their new life in Jesus Christ, their Saviour and their Lord.    

I’m impressed. I go on my way, bad back forgotten for now. Christian manliness? I need to know more.

To be continued.