Saturday, 17 January 2009
The Knavesmire - a closer look
Knave - a rogue, a rascal - from the old English, cnafa
Mire - an area of wet, swampy ground; bog; marsh - from the Old Norse, myrr
The Knavesmire is a large area of undeveloped ground in York known as a stray. It is the haunt of dog walkers these days, and is low lying, flooding easily when it rains.
The York Races take place on the Knavesmire, with the racing track (not pictured) occupying a large part of it. Between 1371 and 1801 public executions took place here too, as I mentioned the other day. In fact horse racing in York started as a side show event for the crowds who came to town to watch the knaves being hanged. It didn't surprise me when I found that out. There is still a motley crew coming to town for the races these days too, with restaurants and pubs in the city centre hiring extra bouncers for the occasion.
But the Knavesmire has a strong character all of its own, which for me overrides the unpleasant aspects of its history. It is very atmospheric, especially in the early morning mist, and a great place for a walk - preferably with wellies.