Hobbit in the Habitat? Not Quite.

I have a few projects at the moment that have been put on hold due to a local oral history project that I volunteered for. This has taken precedence because, sadly, some of the people that I was due to speak with died before I got the opportunity, and I have also been to the funerals of two people whose stories I have managed to preserve.

So the clock is ticking. Talk about a deadline. Literally.

In pursuit of finishing this endeavour, I was due to catch a train to interview a Bishop who lived on my estate in the 1970’s.

“Who are you going to see this time?” my daughter, Millie, asked.

“I’m going to see a Bishop. And guess what my first question is?”

“What?”

Is it true that you can only move diagonally?”

Long pause. “I don’t get it.”

Things didn’t fare any better with my older daughter, Courtney. She asked me “Where is it you are getting a train to?”

“Chapel-en-le-Frith.”

One of those pauses again. Must be a family thing. “What does that even mean?!’

“It’s a place,” I explained, deciding to slip back into English. Historically it was the upperland area between Saxon land and Viking land, and I love that kind of stuff.

But I didn’t go there (metaphorically speaking). I had a train to catch.

Peak as in ‘Peak District’

At Manchester Piccadilly, I made the fatal mistake of looking at books in WH Smith, something that is always liable to distract me. It was only when I saw some bottles of Buxton Spring Water on a shelf that I suddenly remembered why I was there.

“BUXTON!”

That was the destination my train was heading for, with my stop coming two stations before. It was, dare I say it, divine intervention of my dawdling. And off I dashed.

In short: I made my train, on disembarking was met on the platform by the Bishop (“Jack?” “Andy?”) and was charmed over lunch by both him and his wife. Not realising on my arrival just how close to the station that they lived, I declined the offer of a lift back to the station, insisting that I’d like to walk. I am an ex-postie after all.

And who doesn’t love Autumn in Derbyshire?

However, quaint though the local train station was, what I didn’t realise was that trains to Manchester ran only once every hour, and I had forty minutes to wait.

Just as the rain came in with a dampening down of mood.

I’m sittin’ in the railway station . . .

There was a shelter on the opposite side of the tracks, (the Manchester side), so I could sit down and take in the setting. There was nobody else around. Windswept and empty, it was obvious that the locals were all au fait with the timetable.

The type of rain that Peter Kaye made famous.

At first glance, looking to the opposite platform, I thought that this said ‘Home of Frodo’.

Ferodo is a brakes company.

A friend later told me that when she was there she’d thought that the sign said ‘Home of Freddo’.

Hobbits/Chocolate . Maybe chocolate hobnobs?

In the autumn chill I was pretty sure that at least some of the locals were snug and warm.

Snug as a, well, you know.

I couldn’t help but contrast my surroundings with this welcoming depiction of the town. I think a bit of artistic licence had been used, especially with the climate. I could just feel that heat. Almost.

Looks lovely, doesn’t it?

The time soon passed, (with still not a living soul arriving to keep me company), and my train rolled in to puncture this almost picture-portrait of times past. But not before the clouds broke and I was given one more contrast before my departure.

Chapel-en-le-Frith by sunshine.

22 Miles; 300 Million Gallons

Yesterday, the 1st of August.

Lughnasadh, the beginning of the harvest season.

What will we harvest? Will we reap what we sow? I don’t mean to get all biblical on you.

In Manchester yesterday, some of the older buildings of Dantzic Street here are dwarfed by the omnipresent CIS tower. The blue skies obscured by menacing clouds. The transition point of old and new; the transition point of summer and autumn.

I had 19th Century ancestors that lived on Dantzic Street, though I’m not as knowledgeable about that particular branch to tell you about them. Yet.

I got home to learn about the drama unfolding twenty two miles away in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire. Toddbrook Reservoir looms high above the town, much higher than that Manchester CIS tower. As torrential rain continued to fall, it was discovered that part of the dam wall was damaged. With a 50-50 chance of the water, all 300 million gallons of it, rushing down onto, into, over, the town below, the thousand residents were evacuated.

Whaley Bridge now sits as a ghost town, a ghost town waiting to be either swamped or saved. An unwanted cleansing of biblical proportions.

There I go again.

Today, this second day of August, the battle goes on. RAF helicopters, engineers, volunteers, all working together to try and hold back the tide, aided thankfully by a dry night.

We wait to discover the nature of this harvest.