Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Isn’t nostalgia a fine thing?

Well, Spring is officially here and seems to be springing all around us here. The heron has reappeared by a local mill pond and I’ve been watching with interest the progress of a rook’s nest in the tree by the bus stop at the corner of the street. And we have been having some fine sunny days to speed spring along. I’ve even hung washing out in the garden this morning. Mind you, you probably have to be a North of England housewife to fully appreciate that as an achievement!

Taking advantage of the sunshine we set off on a nostalgia trip on one of our walks at the end of last week.

When first we moved to this rather picturesque bit of Oldham we did not live in Delph village itself but in the bottom
of the valley between Delph and Denshaw in a little hamlet consisting of two rows of “cottages”, one of four and one of six. Anywhere else they would have been referred to quite simply as houses. Situated in Salford or almost anywhere in the Greater Manchester conurbation they would have been terraces. However, located in an out of the way valley, they were called cottages.

They had been houses for mill workers originally I believe. This is af
ter all an area of wool and cotton mills. The mill itself housed a small educational products company when we lived there about 25 years ago and I doubt if any of the inhabitants of the cottages had ever worked in a mill.

The outside “privies” still existed down by the river although all the houses had indoor toilets and bathrooms by then. One of the neighbours used them as a kind of garden
shed. It was a nice quiet place to live. We all grew vegetables in a plot of land just nearby. There was very little traffic and the children learned to ride their bikes in the old mill yard. We only moved out when we outgrew the house. We simply needed more space with two growing children.

So anyway, we set off on a walk down the valley at the end of last week, taking a nostalgic look at our old home en route. Before we got there, though, we already had
plenty of nostalgia. First there was the spot on the path through the valley where some selfish landowner decided one day to build a wall around his field, blocking a public footpath and making walkers take a detour up the hillside. This detour took us past the old house where they used to restore vintage cars. And, yes, there was still a shiny vintage vehicle in the yard and another work in progress in the garage.

Further on we discovered that the remains of old mill workings were still there beside the stream. We marvelled that no-one had reused the stone – probably the difficulty of access preventing its removal from the valley bott
om! This place was known to our children as “Jim’s House”. Stories were invented about the rag doll who was supposed to live there.

As a whole the trees were taller than the last time we walked that way, probably about ten years ago, but really little had changed in the valley itself. Our old home had acquired a new stone front porch. The former vegetable plot, reclaimed by its owner shortly after we left so that he could keep a horse there, stood empty and rather unkempt. But the scruffy old mill buildin
g had been converted into smart flats and the mill yard was now an organised car park. Just down the lane there was also a small private nursery, no doubt meeting the needs of a larger population.

Time marches on! And so did we, making our way past old quarries, still flooded as they always used
to be. The view was quite pastoral, sheep peacefully grazing and all that sort of thing.

quite hard to believe that this is actually part of Greater Manchester – even if there are still those who would like to return it to Yorkshire to which it belonged before the re-drawing of county boundaries in the 1970s.

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