My home in the coun­try had an­i­mal mag­netism

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

ALL that talk of Bleak House and my 28 years of life at Crow­den in Long­den­dale last week had my cre­ative juices in a blender.

There was so much to get your pulse rac­ing in the val­ley and every day pro­duced a cor­nu­copia of de­lights.

The back gar­den alone was a rev­e­la­tion, and although we had all the usual gar­den birds, at 800ft above sea level and ba­si­cally be­ing part of the moor, vis­i­tors in­cluded wheatears, ring ouzels, whin­chats, cuck­oos, red grouse and red-legged par­tridge, while over­head it was not un­usual to spot ravens, pere­grines, short-eared owls and curlew.

With Wood­head Reser­voir out front, we also had com­mon sand­piper, dip­per, oys­ter­catcher, teal and on oc­ca­sion whooper swans.

It was my kind of house – the wildlife came to me, in­clud­ing blue hares to be fed in harsh win­ters and the quite won­der­ful pure white and ever-in­quis­i­tive er­mine.

The an­i­mals were part of the fab­ric of the place and it was al­ways that way, ever since the orig­i­nal landowner, Toll­marche, sold the land for the house to Manch­ester Cor­po­ra­tion, along with most of the area, for their Long­den­dale Reser­voirs in the mid­dle of the 19th cen­tury.

Be­lieve it or not, as I touched on last week, the traf­fic was moder­ate in the early 1980s, and it was only when some bright spark cre­ated the Stocks­bridge by-pass and stuck a sign on the M1 point­ing to­wards Manch­ester that the chaos be­gan. Overnight the num­ber of wag­ons quadru­pled and more, un­til we reached the sit­u­a­tion we are in to­day.

Not long be­fore we sold the place in 2008, I once waited six min­utes to cross the road, whereas be­fore the Stocks­bridge by-pass you could cross at will. On a num­ber of oc­ca­sions I was able to at­tract a fam­ily of the afore­men­tioned er­mine to scam­per over the road by im­per­son­at­ing a squeal­ing rab­bit.

As an aside, I once got caught do­ing this by a hiker – imag­ine try­ing to ex­plain that one away.

It does work though, just make sure no one is watch­ing.

Coin­ci­dently, it is 20 years since my first ex­hi­bi­tion of paint­ings, Bleak House Icons, and many of the an­i­mals I came into con­tact with ap­peared in the paint­ings, as did the land­scape, wa­ter, rocks, trees, big skies and ev­ery­thing that laces it all to­gether, in­clud­ing the heather, sphag­num, flu­o­res­cent or­ange fungi and iri­des­cent lichens.

I once got asked at an ex­hi­bi­tion: ‘It’s the Dark Peak, where did you get all those bright colours from?’

I wanted to ad­vise, ‘open your eyes’, but I prob­a­bly said some­thing like: ‘it’s amaz­ing what eight pints of Guin­ness does’.

I have some of the

I prob­a­bly said some­thing like: ‘It’s amaz­ing what eight pints of Guin­ness does’

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

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