How do you feel about your “roots”? Do they go deep in the place you live, or are you more uprooted? I’ve got quite extensive family roots, but they can be as much a burden as a blessing. I always used to say I’d never leave where I’ve grown up. These days, I feel more eager to break free of the past.
This isn’t through any guilt or failings of my own, but rather because of what I perceive to be negatives. A lot changes, and when you’re embedded into a location and it’s embedded into your soul, it’s hard to see it evolve. It’s like a tree suddenly having the soil around its feet altered; its own development is stalled if not stopped entirely.
But enough of that! Let’s have a little walk around the locality on bank holiday Sunday and I’ll point out a few points of genealogical significance along the way…
It was only a shorter walk, partly limited by my wanting to stop off at Loxley Nurseries en route to pick up a couple of mint plants and some perlite. I began from home, in Worrall…
…and walked up Haggstones Road towards the Blue Ball pub and took a right up the old stone steps past what used to be the public toilet block. The question on everyone’s lips: what will this new building end up being? Beauty salon? Deli-cum-sandwich shop? Outdoor pursuits store?
The old stone steps lead up to the old primary school which my father and grandparents attended, which is now a private residence (a bit shoddily maintained, in my opinion… It looks more abandoned now than it did when it was unused).
Opposite the old schoolhouse is the chapel, once a regular place of worship for many old villagers, now only holding services once or twice a month. My parents used to prefer the Congregational chapel in Loxley, or Top Loxley chapel, the graded remnants of which were recently wrecked in a blaze.
From here I followed my old route to and from secondary school, past Shepherds farm on Towngate Road with its now boarded up cowhouse…
…then along Top Road past the Shoulder of Mutton pub (which has always been my favourite of the two village watering holes, though it’s lost a lot of its original character as many old pubs have).
The recently completed housing estate facing the Shoulder stand on fields – too many crammed in too small a space for my liking – where my great-great-grandfather used to keep horses for haulage.
I deviated from my old school route at the end of this road, going over the crossroads onto Long Lane which heads to Loxley beyond. I was perplexed by a dog walker analysing a field along there; it turned out he was weighing up a bird of prey which ended up being a farmer’s modern scarecrow!
It was such a clear morning that one could just make out Lincoln Cathedral on the horizon, although I never managed to spot York minster to the north east.
I passed Lang House, done up in recent years. This is a house and patch of land I have always loved, although from the side it’s not quite as impressive. It’s a property which has fallen foul over the years of owners sticking yet another mismatched extension on…
From Long Lane, I turned to wander across the edge of Hillsborough Golf course. Its latest signs are an irony: its standards for entry to the club have dropped massively from when my dad joined and had to have a first and second reference of character, to offering cheap weekend play to anyone. Yet still they insist on the privacy of their paths and greens.
Walking over the fields and through the trees of Low Ash…
…you reach a cleared area known as Larch Hall. The ground used to be very uneven and there were the remains of a stone cottage here until two or three years ago. This was a dwelling some of my ancestors lodged in during Victorian times. All coarsely removed now.
Whoever did this has planted four specimens, one of which is a struggling hydrangea, far too exposed for its woodland heritage. Tut tut.
At least the views out over the Loxley Valley towards Dungworth, Ughill and Bradfield are as stunning as ever, especially on such a sunny morning.
Walking on through the fields towards Holdworth, you encounter the Smith Brothers’ farm (although only one brother survives, sadly). Quite the contradiction to the plush houses popping up around the area! No windowpanes!
Something about the little submerged shelter has always appealed to me however.
This simple shack in the woods has also always caught my eye. Who needs to keep up with the Joneses and have the latest mod cons?
From Holdworth I dropped down onto Loxley Road and headed back towards Loxley (and eventually Hillsborough if you continued along, passing the terrace house my mum grew up in near Bottom Loxley chapel, now also closed down for good).
I turned up Long Lane from the Loxley end, popping into Loxley Nurseries for my coffee and plant perusal. Unfortunately there wasn’t a mint plant to be had, but I did pick up a pretty Rosmarinus prostratus “Roman Beauty”. Oh, plus my perlite.
And so, plant and perlite in hand, I trudged (no other word for the struggle) up over the steepness of Long Lane and into Worrall.
I’ll conclude my history tour with a photo of the row my great-grandparents lived in, and where my dad spent a fair few of his younger years. Theirs was number 337, and any time my dad or I pass its gate posts, we touch them reverently because my great-grandad would lean on them whilst talking with other villagers.
Once home, I relaxed, potted on my rosemary and baked a loaf of bread.