The un­nat­u­ral his­tory of my coun­try re­treat

Macclesfield Express - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - SEAN WOOD

IT would ap­pear that read­ers are en­joy­ing tales of ‘the old days’ and my time (28 years man and boy) at Wood­head; al­most a lo­cal be­fore we moved to the ver­i­ta­ble me­trop­o­lis, which is Pad­field, nine years ago next month.

Be­fore tak­ing you off down mem­ory lane again, it may be pru­dent to make a list of sub­ject mat­ter from my very rich Bleak House seam: a ver­i­ta­ble li­brary of ev­ery sin­gle and in­trin­sic el­e­ment of the Ir­ish folk song I know so well af­ter singing them in pub­lic for 40 years.

Love and loss, ‘Ride On’; dy­ing, ‘Danny Boy; drink­ing, ‘Seven Drunken Nights’; wildlife, ‘The Creg­gan White Hare’; and maybe even ghosts, with the won­der­fully evoca­tive ‘She Moved Through The Fair’, when a prospec­tive bride passes away be­fore the wed­ding.

The pic­ture seen here was taken in the early 80s at the side of the house at Wood­head, a time when the A628 was al­most a quiet coun­try road.

To a large de­gree I have kept quiet - for ob­vi­ous rea­sons - about my many ex­pe­ri­ences with the su­per­nat­u­ral, and although I have been quoted world­wide in print and on screen about the in­fa­mous Long­den­dale Lights, my daily en­coun­ters with past res­i­dents of the Val­ley were al­ways a bless­ing, and only once fright­en­ing.

It all be­gan on Fe­bru­ary 15, 1980... we’d only been in the house a few days and I was tidy­ing the court­yard. I re­mem­ber down­ing tools sev­eral times be­cause of the very un­usual gar­den birds which kept ap­pear­ing, in­clud­ing com­mon sand­piper, wheatear, ring ouzel and red-legged par­tridge, not to men­tion the noisy pere­grine fal­con high above the house.

What came next, how­ever, was the be­gin­ning of the ‘un­nat­u­ral-his­tory’ of the place.

The house sits in the quarry it was prob­a­bly built from, and you look up­wards to­wards a small cliff face and the Old Salt Road and St James Chapel.

Out of nowhere came the call of a child’s voice, “Hey Mis­ter, hey Mis­ter”, but when I looked up there was no-one to be seen.

As I car­ried on sweep­ing, “Hey Mis­ter, hey Mis­ter!” rang out again, only this time ac­com­pa­nied by gig­gling.

I as­sumed it was young chil­dren who were shout­ing over the wall for a game, and then duck­ing down out of sight, so de­cided to sur­prise them.

The next time I ran up the hill, jumped over the wall, and was just about to go ‘Boo!’ when I re­alised that there was no­body in sight.

There was no car driv­ing off, the fields and church yard were empty, and no sign of the kids along the track which leads up to the quarry.

At the time I do re­call get­ting a chill up the back of my neck, but not as much as when I no­ticed for the first time that the grave­yard was full of chil­dren; in­clud­ing a brother and sis­ter who died ei­ther side of Christ­mas Day in the 19th Cen­tury.

I will hope­fully get the chance to share many more of these mem­o­ries with you in the coming months, but in the mean­time I can at least solve the mys­tery of 30 dead dung bee­tles in a crisp packet.

The guilty party was a com­mon shrew which had up­cy­cled the lit­ter as a handy reser­voir-side larder.

Your colum­nist pic­tured at Wood­head reser­voir in the 1980s

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

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