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The Holmes

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The Holmes

Photo from board 5 Child’s painting of The Holmes riverside area

Board 5

Retrace your steps along the footpath in the grassy area to reach board 5.

The Holmes is an area alongside the Cod Beck, a stream whose name means Cold Brook. The river is about 22 miles long and has 7 bridges. In the Holmes area the Whitelass Beck feeds into the Cod Beck.

At one time The Holmes was said to be "possibly the finest Willowgarth in the County", and John Gilbert Baker, Keeper of the Herbarium at Kew Gardens, wrote of it as a fine grove of tall willows with straight stems. Straight and pliable stems were then needed for the basket-weaving industry in Thirsk and were achieved by cutting the willows annually to provide new growth of slender shoots. The trees were pollarded (cut at height) or coppiced (cut at base), both of which methods promoted growth from dormant buds in the tree.

Many of the tall and graceful White and Crack Willows still flourish in The Holmes and are maintained in the traditional way. The lower-growing Osier can also be found along the far bank of the Cod Beck with more recently planted Weeping Willows. In June, look out for the beautiful Dame’s violet in all shades of lavender along the banks of the beck.

Where the beck turns east towards the Green there was once a spring of "pure and excellent water, commonly called Lady Well." No doubt this well was dedicated to ‘Our Lady’, the Virgin Mary, possibly in the early days of the present church, when its water may have been used for baptism and in other church services. A hundred and fifty years ago the spring was said to be "plenteous", and was protected by a triangular cover of stone, but today nothing is visible to denote the exact position of the well.

In 1642 the Cod Beck was referred to as the "Broad Beck leading to Thirske" and there is little doubt that today it is greatly diminished in size, perhaps due to the draining of the land and also the drawing off of water from the streams that feed it before it reaches Thirsk. In spate it is still a formidable force and in both the past and recent years has caused widespread flooding in low-lying parts of the town and countryside.

Opposite Thirsk Hall there is an area now enclosed by railings and only glimpsed through gaps in the hedge. It is the site of an artificial pond known as "The Marage" or "Marriage" and recorded in 1859 as "A shrubbery, fish pond and rural aquarium for fancy poultry, and scarce specimens of the goose and duck tribes."

There have been several theories about the name; a Victorian writer suggested it was originally "The Mirage" and added "no park or grounds before the withdrawing room windows were complete or correct without a lake and where you could not have a lake they had a mirage…." Locals talk about the "fine skating enjoyed there in winters past."

The Holmes was a popular Edwardian pleasure ground used for promenading in Sunday best and general entertainment. Thirsk sports were held near here in Carr’s field from the 1920s until the 1960s. The area is still favoured for outdoor activities.

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