Fun times keeping the birds at bay in lovely Wray

with Bob Clare of

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 19th April 2018, 10:30 am

Next Saturday sees the start of the Wray Scarecrow Festival. From April 28 through to May Day, May 7, there will be a wide range of activities celebrating aspects of village life. As more and more of us live in towns and cities scarecrow festivals are a way of reconnecting with our rural past. 
Scarecrows have been with us since people learned to cultivate crops - especially cereals. Early farmers quickly learned that planting seeds quickly attracted the unwanted attention of wild birds. The first record of scarecrows come from Ancient Egypt though technically these methods should be called ‘scarequail’ as flocks of quail were the problem. The Ancient Greeks built effigies of the God Priapus who was reputed to be so ugly no bird would linger in his presence. Through the Romans the idea spread throughout most of Europe. Jump to medieval England and scarecrows were actually young boys of nine or so who were provided with a bag full of pebbles and charged with keeping the flocks at bay. This practice came to a halt following the Black Death when the mortality rate of the plague was such that there was not enough man power - or perhaps boy power - to scare the birds. This was when crude effigies dressed in rags and worn out clothes made their appearance. 
In the early history of the United States and in Maoist China more drastic measures were taken to deter the birds when bounties were offered for killing our feathered friends. In both instances these schemes had near disastrous outcomes as it was realised that birds did more good than harm by keeping the crop eating insect population under control.
Scarecrow Festivals are a long way off these more serious matters. Over the years I have visited the Wray Scarecrow Festival a number of times and it has always been fun. Each year a theme is chosen for the participating villagers to interpret in the design of their scarecrow. Judging from the number of scarecrows my guess is that nearly every villager must be involved ready to reflect the chosen theme with wit and skill. 
The walk below is a suggested route for those of you who like to stretch their legs but there will be plenty of sights in the village to keep you occupied.


Walk down the main street to its junction with Wennington Road, B6480, with the George and the Dragon on the left. Turn left and then after passing the Methodist chapel cross the road into Lane Head with its attractive cottages. This leads onto Kiln Lane a broad farm track. Across the fields there is a fine view of Hornby Castle. 200yds beyond the houses reach another broad farm track - Back Lane. Keep ahead through a wooden gate and follow the hedge on the right until you draw close to the River Hindburn. Just before reaching it turn right to cross a stile leading into the adjacent field. At this point the river is hidden behind a screen of young trees. Cross the next two fields to reach a path that leads alongside sewage works. As you reach Back Lane turn left and then right to continue along a rutted track that brings you onto Wennington Road at Meal Bank Bridge . Note: The intended route back to the village is to cross the road and follow the riverside path to Wray Bridge. However at the time the route was checked this path was closed owing to some undermining of the riverbank through winter rains. There is the prospect the path may be re-opened by the time of publication. I hope so as it is the most attractive part of the route knocking spots off the sewage works! If it is still shut when you follow this walk turn right at Meal Bank Bridge for the village and go and enjoy the scarecrows. 


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    Festival timetable:

    Saturday, April 28: 10k Road Race - open to all runners, starting around 1.15pm near Bobbin Mill.

    Sunday, April 29: Bowland Forest Populaire cycling event.

    Monday, April 30-Friday, May 4: Wray School’s maypole dancing (and more) from 1.30pm.


    Thursday, May 3: Funfair starts - continues over the weekend.

    Friday, May 4: BBC Radio Lancashire will broadcast live from the Wray Institute, 10am-noon). Giant Scarecrow Parade - starts Gars End 6.30pm, ends at Bridge House Farm Tearooms with music by Blast Furness. Prize presentations and party with local bands, food and drink, 7pm onwards.

    Sunday, May 6: Soap Box Derby - near Bobbin Mill from noon. Ball Race - near Flood Gardens after Soap Box Derby , 4pm. Busk Stop (buskers) at the flood gardens on Main Street Vintage Vehicles - at Bridge House Farm tearooms.

    Monday, May 7: Fell race - starts at the Institute, 11.30am. Wray Fair - 11am-4pm on school fields.

    All funds raised go to local charities. See for more details.

    Walk Facts

    Start: Wray Village Centre, LA2 8QL

    Distance: 1.35miles/2k

    Time: Less than an hour

    Summary: Easy

    Map: OS OL 41 The Forest of Bowland