What a week Matt and I had, and what a start to the new year! It’s all good fun – what a very mobile week we experienced. I’m not talking about mobile phones here. I mean good old-fashioned physical movement. I can barely even remember […]
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.
Do you find that every now and then you just need a totally chilled weekend?
That’s what I was in need of this time, and that is what I got. Not boring or empty, but relaxed and satisfying. I’ve been chock full of cold since Tuesday evening, and I’m still today experiencing the occasional snuffle, sneeze or cough. I needed a less strenuous couple of days.
It was the first weekend in a while where I haven’t driven over to Matt’s straight from my work experience with Bestall & Co., something I normally don’t mind doing, but which would have taken it out of me this weekend. I don’t know if you ever suffer with this when having a cold, but I always end up feeling slightly tipsy; my head feels light and disorientated when I move it while suffering a cold. So driving is fun!
So what has this past weekend involved?
On Friday evening I visited my sister at her place to discuss life, drop off a rather belated birthday present for her, and have a look over a couple of areas of her back garden which she’d like my input with – something I’ll move onto doing after typing this up (it’s Sunday morning as I write).
Afterwards I hurried home to get changed and grab a taxi over to my friend Chris’ surprise 30th birthday party, brilliantly organised by my school friend Rach. Shame that Chris slipped out of the pub earlier than the deadline for guests to all arrive, so the SURPRISE! part was a little unsurprising. He seemed to enjoy himself nonetheless, as did I. It was fantastic catching up with old friends and meeting some new people too, despite me having to leave quite early to avoid making myself more ill again.
Following a relatively early night in bed for a Friday, I was up and about Saturday tidying and then driving over to meet Matt in Tideswell, town home to the “Cathedral of the Peak”, the parish church of St John the Baptist.
I was ridiculously early (a trait of mine), but it worked out fine as I went for a little stroll alone around the town centre, passing up some side streets I’ve never bothered with before. I loved the following rows of houses with their floral fiesta (the photo sadly doesn’t do it justice):
The bench in the bottom left of the above photo is in more detail below, with its curious little notice which I imagine relates to the fact it’s not the sturdiest looking of benches!
I walked past this old chapel, now converted into what I assume is holiday cottage-type lodgings, but the sign left me wondering if it was a rentable function space instead/as well:
At the end of the same street you came face to face with the following little white gate, and I wonder what the house and garden behind the high hedging are like. Sadly as you went along, you couldn’t tell, as the sides of the garden were as overgrown as the front boundary…
Matt’s arrival was precluded by the racket of a car driving along the main road of Tideswell. People stopped and looked for the cause of the noise, and upon hearing it, most waved their arms frantically at the driver, who bizarrely carried on in blissful ignorance. He had two bikes attached to the back of the car, and one had dropped down, for its handlebars to be dragging along the road surface. I hope he pulled over eventually, as he’d have no handlebars left once he hit the 50mph zones!
Nevertheless, Matt’s arrival was the main event. You see, Tideswell has special significance for us. We both love the outdoors and country walks, and after talking online, we eventually met at the sort-of midway point between our homes, in Tideswell. It was a freezing cold January morning, snow was forecast, but we thought “what the heck, let’s do this!” We made it around halfway around the designated walk (I had a map) before the snowflakes started to descend, and quite rapidly it became a blizzard, blocking out the view all around us. Too late – we were too far to turn back.
It was great fun, even if my mobile did run out of battery, leading me to worry that my mum would be worrying as to my whereabouts and wellbeing. I got back to my car, said a hasty goodbye, and left a confused and then pessimistic Matthew behind to make his own journey over to Lymm. Not even the chance of a coffee or cake. Whoops.
Well I obviously made it clear I did actually want to see him a second time, as we were on date number two by the Saturday (two days later!).
But here we are, in a less freezing photo, from a carved stone bench at the midway point of the walk we re-enacted for the most part this weekend:
The route we followed this time takes you down out of Tideswell and along Brook Head into Miller’s Dale (on the banks of the River Wye). You go from passing cheerful local dog walkers to encountering hikers and razor-keen rock climbers, tackling the sheer faces of the cliffs.
You go through the post-industrial houses and apartments of Litton Mill…
…and on until you reach Cressbrook.
Here we deviated from our winter route and kept to the country lanes, heading high up through Cressbrook and past it’s Hall (whose gardens are usually open, £2.50 for adults, but typically not on a Saturday – bad luck!). The sun shone and the grey stone cottages looked characterful and magical. Even the most simple and pragmatic of old properties around the area appealed to me, and Matt too.
Our end goal (besides our cars in Tideswell, of course!) was the little village of Litton and its pub for a spot of late lunch. It’s called The Red Lion and if you want to visit a small country pub retaining its separate rooms and so its original personality, go there! The bar lady (I’m not sure if she was also the landlady, actually) was friendly and enthusiastic, and the food was delicious (and that was just cheddar and tomato chutney sandwiches and fat chips in our case). I wouldn’t mind it being my local.
We followed up our lunch with coffee and cake across the village green and road at the little store. The proprietors here were friendly too. In fact, I can’t think of coming across any bad sorts while out there. The range of cakes on offer was fantastic too: Matt had carrot cake, I had a raspberry and pistachio frangipane tart, but there was coffee cake, chocolate cake, brownies…. The list goes on. Carrot cake is only available one day a week though – be warned!
We polished off the day by visiting three of the pubs down in Tideswell, although we were both sadly disappointed by the George Inn and The Star Inn. They seemed popular with residents, but they had been “modernised” (read: painted neutrals, greens and magentas) and had lost any sort of character.
The last pub, The Horse & Jockey, kept its dark beams and nooks and crannies, and was much the better for it. I wish we’d sampled their food too, but we were both quite full still from our lunch and cakes. Or at least Matt was. I got home that night and devoured an Indian takeaway…
And so it brings me to Sunday, and to typing this, before getting on with some garden designing and some pottering around. I hope you’ve had a fulfilling weekend, whether it’s been quiet or action-packed.
Always remember to make a bit of downtime for yourself though; we don’t have limitless power packs that don’t need recharging now and again.
Picture the scene: rolling hills in various shades of green, embracing a soft valley as its river gently meanders through. Trees stand here and there as sentinels at their various posts. Their charge? A magnificent golden edifice hundreds of years old. The location? Chatsworth House, […]