A strange tale from my days at Crowden
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