A FORTNIGHT ago, we were plashing around near South Cowton Castle at Pepper Arden Bottoms, which is between Northallerton and Darlington. The castle is a farmhouse on a hillside overlooking a damp dip. It was fortified by Sir Richard Conyers in the late 15th Century to ward off invading Scots.

Sir Richard also rebuilt the nearby old church in the dip, and built a causeway to it so he didn’t have to get his feet too wet on his walk to worship – once when we were investigating this corner of the soggy world, the mud overtopped our wellies.

But Sir Richard’s 500-year-old causeway may still exist on the public footpath between castle and church.

“A section of cobbles is still visible, and it is likely that some 30 yards remain intact, albeit buried under soil and grass,” says Chris Johnson, of East Cowton. “I have tried a couple of times to interest people in revealing it, so far without success. Perhaps your column can generate the interest?”

Wouldn’t be superb if the Conyers causeway could be revealed in all its cobbled glory?

Could the causeway leading towards the castle in the distance still be beneath this field edge? Picture: Chris Johnson

Could the causeway leading towards the castle in the distance still be beneath this field edge? Picture: Chris Johnson

SIR RICHARD CONYERS' grandson was Richard Bowes, who lived happily in South Cowton Castle with his wife, Elizabeth, and their 12 children.

Happily, that is, until Elizabeth, aged 50, heard John Knox preach in Berwick. Knox was a Puritanical Scottish religious reformer whose fire and brimstone sermons left his congregation quaking with fear.

Perhaps Elizabeth was left quaking for other reasons, because she fell into an intimate relationship with the unmarried preacher. Even in the day, people jumped to conclusions, and at one point Knox was forced to publish their private letters to prove there was no hanky-panky going on.

Knox's entry in the Dictionary of National Biography says: "With compassion and tenderness he guided Mrs Bowes' tentative steps along her doubt-ridden inner journey of faith."

Her husband was not at all happy about this journey, and his dismay deepened when his wife encouraged their fifth daughter, Marjory, to marry Knox in 1556.

By then, anti-Papist Knox had become so unpopular in England, where the Roman Catholic Queen Mary had taken to burning Protestants, that he had to flee for his life, taking his wife and possibly his mother-in-law with him to Switzerland.

There, surrounded by the Cowton ladies, he wrote his most famous pamphlet, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women.

Marjory and Knox had two sons, and a close relationship, and he was deeply saddened when she died in 1560.

His mother-in-law Elizabeth seems then to have returned to South Cowton Castle and her husband.