‘Fairy­tale’ child­hood at Old­ham house on the hills

Manchester Evening News - - FRONT PAGE -

WE had lived in a nor­mal house on a nor­mal hous­ing es­tate.

It was re­ally just chance that the fam­ily moved to the game­keeper’s cottage. My step­dad had spo­ken to the own­ers of the land and agreed to take it over.

I don’t even think we paid rent, we just lived there to look af­ter the land. It’s the most bizarre thing.

We did some­times have no elec­tric­ity, no gas and at times had to worry about be­ing trapped in­side our home be­cause of snows.

I would try and sell frogs to passers by, play with a sheep or take my boat, ‘Tiny Tim,’ out on the pond.

It was very ba­sic re­ally. At the time we had a gen­er­a­tor and our TV was pow­ered by a car bat­tery.

We used to have paraf­fin lamps that we had to pump up and they had a small light. We would take them up­stairs to bed and stick them to the ceil­ing. There was a flush­ing toi­let and a bath but we had to heat up wa­ter and fill it, so I had to share with my sis­ter.

I was just seven when we moved into the house. We had a real wood-burning fire so we used to have to go out and chop wood, we didn’t have any cen­tral heat­ing.

Af­ter I grew up I went into the Army later on and it was easy com­pared to liv­ing there!

I re­mem­ber wak­ing up one day and you just couldn’t see out of the win­dows. You couldn’t see the house from the out­side, it was just cov­ered. We were stuck in­side for about a day.

It’s like a fairy­tale, it just doesn’t seem true, but it is. Ev­ery year we got snowed in at least to the point where you couldn’t leave the house, so we would go to the shop and stock up on tins and things, just in case.

There was a fresh­wa­ter stream which would run straight down to the vil­lage and was the wa­ter source for all of the houses.

One day my sis­ter and I de­cided to put fairy liq­uid into it, it was re­ally bad. There were gi­ant suds and clouds bub­bling up from it. It took a few days for it to clear out, the houses at the bot­tom were with­out wa­ter for a few days I think.

The sum­mers were amaz­ing. We had the whole of the moors to play in. We would play with the sheep and pre­tend that we were sheep herders or play on the pond with our lit­tle boat.

The house was over the top of Stand­edge Tun­nel as well.

There was a mas­sive slate mound – you would have to see it to be­lieve it – and me and my sis­ter would sledge down. It was about 50ft high.

There weren’t many peo­ple around; there were peo­ple, walk­ers and ram­blers, I used to talk to them for hours when they came past.

Not see­ing peo­ple in the sum­mer hol­i­days was tough. It was hard to go out and play with your mates. My clos­est friend, Jen­nie, lived a few miles away at the ri­fle range and we used to have to meet half way – she was my only friend close by. We moved out when I was 11. I am now a mum my­self, liv­ing in Cheshire, and I tell the chil­dren about life in the game­keeper’s cottage. My daugh­ter can’t be­lieve it.

This for­mer game­keeper’s cottage on the edge of Sad­dle­worth Moor is one of Greater Manch­ester’s most iso­lated homes – look­ing out over miles of beau­ti­ful but bar­ren coun­try­side. But for the last 30 years it has re­mained empty. Af­ter we wrote about the mys­tery house in Dig­gle, near Old­ham, we were con­tacted by RACHEL TRPESKI, 43, whose fam­ily were the last peo­ple to live there...

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