Memories of happy days by the reservoir...
AS I tramped my old stomping grounds around Bottoms Reservoir last week or, rather, one of my regular Longdendale patrol-routes when I worked for North West Water in the 80s, I came over all emotional.
They were halcyon days for sure and I strode about the Valley a veritable cross between, Bill Beaumont, Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners, Oliver Reed and, I’d like to think, Thomas Hardy, the latter for his love and evocative descriptions of the countryside and the people who live in it. Okay, I was a dreamer but they cost nothing and anyone can have them.
In those far off days, people were generally not allowed into the reservoir enclosures and I literally had the place to myself and the wildlife. Every third weekend during the fishing season, I was on duty with a great guy, the late Les Tute of Tintwistle. He looked after the bottom end of the valley, while I did the same for Woodhead and Crowden.
Each night until half-an-hour after sunset, we theoretically monitored the fisherman, and their haul of rainbow trout. In reality, we chatted and laughed the days away, nipped off early and covered for each other, myself memorably on one occasion for the band to play in Dublin and appear on RTE Radio. Les managed to get it on his portable radio and I’ll always remember how he proudly boasted that his partner in crime, Woody, was on national radio in Ireland. He was a good man and much missed I’m sure.
One of the things that always struck me was the evidence of former watermen and their handiwork and indeed unbelievable examples of Victorian engineering, still pristine and in fine working order over 100 years later. As an example, there are a series of water courses which run parallel with the five reservoirs in the chain.
The mill owners were so powerful that they demanded these supplies in the event of the reservoirs drying out.
Soon after I began, I observed a number of upturned 12in pipes spilling water into the ‘courses’. I was amazed to discover that these were, in fact, giant syphons which brought the water from tiny streams on the Woodhead Road side of the Reservoirs to squeeze every last drop to keep the looms spinning.
Either side of these water-courses, the area was packed to the gunnels with wildlife of every hue; water voles chewing on watercress minding their own business; shrews running in long lines, nose to tail, nose to tail, like an old steam training rattling down the tracks, snuffling and skittering as they blindly follow.
And talking of mysteries, which I wasn’t, I may have to add a touch of the Agatha Christies to my book on the valley when I eventually get around to writing it. Solve this mystery and you might win a workshop and three-course lunch at the Laughing Badger Gallery.
While out walking along the side of Woodhead reservoir one day, I spotted a discarded crisp packet lodged in the long grass.
I recall it was a Walker’s cheese and onion packet, however there were no crisps inside it, but rather the husks of 30 dung beetles.
Over to you – can you explain this find?
Bottoms Reservoir, Longdendale
The Laughing Badger Gallery, 99 Platt Street, Padfield, Glossop