A strange tale from my days at Crow­den

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

AH the mem­o­ries.

Read­ers are great, and they al­ways amaze me at the sto­ries they re­mem­ber from way back, when I first started writ­ing this col­umn three decades ago. Al­most a boy.

“Are you the fella that used to live at Bleak House?” asked a ram­bler who stum­bled across the Laugh­ing Badger yes­ter­day, “I’ve read your stuff in the Ad­ver­tiser for 30 years”.

I am,” I replied, “Fancy a cof­fee?” This is how many con­ver­sa­tions be­gin in the gallery, and visi­tors soon re­call sto­ries they have read and pic­tures they have seen, of the 28 years I lived in my hill-top eyrie at Crow­den.

It was in­deed a spe­cial place to live, and to bring up chil­dren, packed to the gun­nels with mostly good times.

I should, of course, write a book or two, and I may do yet, but I’ve al­ways been happy writ­ing ar­ti­cles for news­pa­pers, and it should come as no sur­prise that even the na­tion­als liked the ac­counts of life at the Head of the Wood.

The pic­ture here, was first used as a front page for the M.E.N. Group, be­fore be­ing taken by the Sun­day Times in 1985. I am pic­tured at the side of the house with Wood­head Reser­voir in the back­ground, with my old dog Scarba sit­ting faith­fully by my side.

If I weren’t such a big rufty-tufty rugby player, I’d prob­a­bly have a lump in my throat look­ing back af­ter all this time.

We moved in on Fe­bru­ary 10,1980, and the first time one of my val­ley sto­ries ap­peared in the na­tional press was soon af­ter, on the first an­niver­sary of the Ay­a­tol­lah Khome­ini’s rise to power in Iran. And it was this story which had my re­cent vis­i­tor chuck­ling.

I was in my land-rover on the sin­gle track road to Crow­den, when I came upon a num­ber of brand new cars parked at all an­gles in a rock strewn field.

On pulling up to in­ves­ti­gate, I saw smoke ris­ing from a small plan­ta­tion of pine trees, and jumped out quickly to check it out, af­ter first ra­dio­ing my old boss, Stan Arn­field, to tell him where I was.

“We’ll be up in 10 Sean,” he said, and I could hear the ra­dio still crack­ling as I ad­vanced to­wards the fire.

It was then that I heard chant­ing, and what I took to be high-pitched singing.

The sit­u­a­tion was get­ting weirder by the minute, and set against a back­drop of sto­ries about witchcraft, I be­gan to won­der what I would find.

Duck­ing down be­hind a dry­s­tone wall, I peeked over the top and could see a dozen peo­ple danc­ing round the fire in a cir­cle; in and out of the smoke they weaved, they looked young, and al­though there were a num­ber of women, I could see no witches.

As I was about to step out and ques­tion them about tres­pass­ing and light­ing a fire, two men came out of the trees with, what looked like two large swords each.

“I’m off!” I thought to my­self. I jumped back into the ve­hi­cle and set off in the di­rec­tion of Tin­twistle, only to be met at the gate by Stan and a num­ber of other curious Wa­ter Board men, the lo­cal bobby, and the old game­keeper, Gor­don Wood­head, shot­gun in hand. “Fol­low me,” I shouted. Any­way, to cut to the chase, the dancers were Ira­nian stu­dents in cel­e­bra­tory mood, they were hav­ing a bit of a do, and yes, you’ve prob­a­bly guessed it, the swords were large ke­bab skew­ers for cook­ing meat on the fire.

As you may imag­ine, I took some stick for a week or two.

I’m look­ing for­ward to un­earthing a few more of the old yarns, in the mean­time happy new year.

The Laugh­ing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Pad­field, Glossop

●● Your colum­nist pic­tured at Wood­head Reser­voir with Scarba

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