Wednesday 29 February 2012


I recently reconnected with a long lost school friend via a chance meeting with her lovely Mum in my local village hall. I gave her my email address to pass onto my school pal, and within a couple of days, I had received a lovely long email from her detailing what she was up to and generally catching up on the last 30 years (I last saw her early in 1982!!). We exchanged a few emails, arranged to meet up when she ventures north to see her parents, added each other as friends on facebook, and then she mentioned that her sister had written a novel which I might like as she has based it on the area that she grew up in - Hoyland Common and also Wentworth. The book is called Netherwood by Jane Sanderson.

I really loved it and can't wait for the second book in the series (which is out in September). I don't want to give the plot away, but it is the tale of a big house who's owners discover coal in seams beneath their land - like the Fitzwilliams of Wentworth Estate did, and the folk that live in mining villages that spring up around it. Whilst it is a novel, a lot of the names of the people, the roads that they live on etc are very familiar to me, and the story of a mining tragedy is so very familiar too, as I was brought up in a mining village. You can buy the book in Waterstones and from Amazon. I hope they turn it into a Sunday evening TV series - I could even audition to be an extra!! Jane, if you read this, you MUST insist that I get a part - write it into the terms and conditions!

It made me really think about how my female relatives coped loosing the breadwinner of the family back in the days when there were no state benefits, and no jobs for widows to do - other than take in washing. I think that both my great grandmothers lost their husbands young, and both re-married. In a lot of instances, this would have been the only way to stay out of the workhouse, as the rent on a miners tied cottage would still have had to be paid.

The man that my great grandma Ottway married after her husbands death was a hard drinking bachelor called Jerry. She died herself not many years after marrying him, leaving my dear grandma - only about 13 years old - to take care of her brothers and sisters, and her step father - Jerry. "T'owd Jer" as he was known to us all, lived to be a grand 94 years old - I remember him well as he lived with my grandparents for the rest of his life. My grandad did not get on with him at all, but he put up with living with him for almost all his married life. He did once suggest putting him in an old peoples home, but the response he got from grandma is unprintable! T'owd Jer was a cross between Steptoe and Compo (from last of the summer wine). Up to the end, he would dress every day in his suit and tootle off along the road to the pub at lunch time, and then after a pint or two, would amble back to sit in his wooden chair. Like most men back then, he never lifted a finger to help in the house, and so it really was a blessing to him that he had married my widowed great grandmother. I loved him to bits - my mum says that he was on his last legs until I was born, but my birth seemed to revive him! When he was ill in bed near the end of his life (I would have been about 10 years old), I used to read the newspaper to him and play the radio for him. He died whilst we were away on our weeks holiday to Blackpool, and I felt sure he would have got better by the time we got home.

Sunday 26 February 2012

From Cutthroat Bridge to the top of the world

Today, I had a walk with a bit of a grumpy old man. He was grumpy because:
a) He has pernicious Anemia and he's ready for his 3 monthly jab
b) Although it was his day off, he had been seconded to work the local Sheffield Wednesday/Sheffield United derby match - when he really wanted to go and watch it.
c) They cancelled his secondment at the last minute, and all the tickets had been sold!
d) It was an important match and he was not convinced that they were going to win (he always errs on the side of pessimism!)

So Sheffield Wednesday's loss was my gain and off we set to do a long walk on the Peak District border. I did have to listen to the pre-match waffling on the radio on the way, and I had to listen to his pre-match rants, and I think I did a great impression of someone who gives a damn!

We set off from Cutthroat Bridge which is 7 miles from the centre of Sheffield. You can hazard a guess at the story behind the name and you won't be far wrong. The trouble when I let hubby decide on the walks we do is that he tends to favour very steep climbs! And this was a bit of a climb.
It had been blue sky when we set off, but it soon clouded over - however it was much warmer than yesterday.
It may have been a bit of a climb, but the views down towards Derwent Dam and Ladybower Dam were beautiful - it felt as if we were on top of the world. I am so lucky to have this virtually on the doorstep. We also noticed that all the Dams (where our drinking water comes from) are not as low as they appear to be in the rest of the country.
This side of the water is still in South Yorkshire.
I believe the border is down there - The Yorkshire Bridge.

The 360 degree views down the valley's are just gorgeous, and all you can see are moors, hills and lakes.

I spotted evidence of an old settlement on another hill. It must have been a very hard existence up here back then.
On our descent, we were treated to sunshine and clear blue skies.

I found this ancient way marker which reads "Sheffield Road 7 Miles". If this was the road back then, it would have been hard to navigate, even on horse back.
We made it back to the car just as Sheffield Wednesday scored the one and only goal of the match - so alls well that ends well. I'm sure the walk did his blood pressure more good than attending the match would have.

Saturday 25 February 2012

Lulled - into a false sense of security.

Like the birds and plants in my garden, Today I was lulled into a false sense of security by the incredible mild weather we have had over the last few days. So today hubby and I set off on our walk with thinner coats, not hats or gloves, only to find that the very strong wind was blowing straight from the polar ice caps!

I couldn't believe this when we walked passed the camp site on the farm - I can't wait to get my tent back out, but I cannot imagine how cold it must be at night in a tent in February in Derbyshire!
We walked up through the lanes from Great Longstone,

and over the moors and fields.
The skies were amazing.

We reached our half way point in Little Longstone. Pub lunch in the Packhorse is always gorgeous. Steak and chips with the most wonderful Bernaise sauce. I am a very saucy person and hubby let me have his too.
We usually sit outside, but today the open fire proved too inviting.

After our walk, we took ourselves off to Bakewell. We parked near the old Sheepwash bridge and walked into town - which was very busy!
The river was full of birds and the most enormous trout!

Bakewell has fabulous houses of every style from grand old town houses, where Mr Darcy would have come calling...
to tiny but very sweet cottages.

We walked up the hill to the churchyard for a better view of the town.

Its great to be able to get out and about a bit more at weekends, the days are getting noticeably longer - Hurray!!!!!

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Oh I do like to be...

beside the seaside.

Once a year, the Miners Welfare would have a day trip to the seaside. This would have been a real experience for my mum and her family as they didn't have holidays. I don't know if this is Blackpool or Bridlington, but my mum and grandma are back left. Grandma's friends are Annie Andrews (whom I remember just looking EXACTLY the same) front left with her son Reginald and Clara Dawson (widowed early - I knew her too) next but one in the dark coat with a brooch - just look at their beaming faces!! These ladies would have been mid 30's in this photo - a fact that I find very hard to digest.

Here they are again - minus Reginald. Clara (2nd right) always acted as though she was "a cut above the rest" according to my mum (although the birthday presents she gave were always recycled - I remember Mama's laughing wickedly about this fact!). In later years, Mamas, Annie, Clara and Mrs Eastwood (white coat) used to clean at the colliery offices and I used to sometimes accompany them of an evening. They had enormous fun every evening and played the most wicked tricks on each other - night after night. I remember one evening my Gran dressing as a bloke and standing in the urinals as Clara (the widow) was about to clean them. How she jumped and screamed! They all laughed so much that pelvic floors were tested and failed! I don't know anyone who had as much fun at work.

Tuesday 21 February 2012


Before Pixlr

And after

Also - just for clarification - yes I was Chicken Legs at school and "Wombling" refers to the art of finding rubbish and making it into something new - just like the Wombles of Wimbledon Common. Hubby calls me Madam Cholet! xx

Monday 20 February 2012

On Sunday, I had a special date in Sheffield with one of my longest standing school pals. We first met when we were 5 years old and her family had moved to my village. We went through primary and junior school together, but became very firm friends during the horrendous comprehensive school years. We lost touch a little as we both went our separate work ways, then reconnected when we had babies. Whilst we both have very different characters and personalities, when we meet up, we instantly become 15 year old Chicken Legs and Pixie again! Its wonderful!

It was such a beautiful morning, that I thought I would photograph the city - I showed you it lit up at night last week, so here it is by daylight.
I love the old Georgian houses (now shops and offices) on Norfolk Row. I plan to find out a bit more of the history of this lovely old row.
My first stop was at a lovely cafe here for breakfast with hubby and the young man (whom I had cruelly dragged out of bed). Although the tables were optimistically set outside, it was far too cold early on to sit here.
I love Sheffield early on a Sunday morning. The church bells ring from the Cathedrals and churches in the centre. This is the Catholic Cathedral on Norfolk row.
And the Methodist Chapel just around the corner.
I passed the Stage Door outside of the Crucible.
And I spied Mercury on top of the Lyceum Theatre,

and the Egyptian who presides over the lovely Graves Art Gallery.

I wandered through the Winter Gardens and noted some welcome colour.

Sheffield, like many English cities and towns at the moment has many shops that are empty. We also have many very talented graffiti artists, and they have been commissioned to brighten up these spaces.

We took ourselves up to the top of one of the city centre car parks to admire the view.
Many of the late 60's/early 70's buildings are earmarked for demolition once the recession is over. Building was just about to start on a massive city centre development when the credit crunch hit, so plans have been suspended for a while.
From up here we could see towards Norfolk Park and the Cholera Monument - which I have yet to explore.
Up until very recent times, the city centre was a very industrial working city centre, and plenty of the old units still exist. Many of these here are old cutlery works from when Sheffield was the centre of the world cutlery industry. Many of these buildings are derelict, some have been re purposed, but I don't think any are still used for cutlery production (although we do have the odd one or two still in existence elsewhere in the city).
I quite enjoyed the trip to the top of the car park!