Blue Remembered Hills

Torside Reservoir today

Youth hosteling with the school, aged 10.
Youth hosteling with the school, aged 10 (colour added from memory in Photoshop!)

Driving over the bridge at Torside Reservoir brought back memories of my first impressions of hill country.

One Sunday in February 1961 we drove over Holme Moss and down into Longdendale, alongside the reservoir to visit my grandad who was in a nursing home in Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire (now Greater Manchester).

torside reservoir

hikerIn my drawing, I rearranged the landscape to tell a story; in reality the dam is a mile to the west of the bridge. I like those little details: two hikers, a figure throwing a ball for a dog and a train trundling along the Sheffield to Manchester line, which ran through the Woodhead Tunnel.

exercise bookIf there had been such a thing as a blog at the time I’m sure that I would have written a post about it but in 1961 my best option was a sixpenny exercise book from the post office.

hay weightsThe back cover of these exercise books always featured arithmetical tables. Just the thing if you needed to know how many pounds of Old Hay there are in a truss or how many nails of cloth there are in a quarter of a yard.

28 feb1961I dated my pieces on the Pennines as Monday and Tuesday the 27th and 28th February 1961.

I was nine years old but in so many ways I haven’t changed since! Spellings corrected, other errors left just as they are:

The Pennines

holme mossmill on hillMan has tried to conquer the Pennines. He has not been very successful. Houses are built with lots of stories (floors) [on one side] and only a few stories on the other. There was a mill I saw with nine stories on one side and only two at the other. This is because of the hill.

penninesscotspineAnother thing about the Pennines is the wind. All the trees seem to be blown westerly. This is done by the prevailing wind, west in the Pennines. There are many peat bogs. But man is gradually winning the Pennines with roads and towns but the Pennines are still owned by the Natural Trust.

rock stainMan is getting through a lot of bog. To prove this I found a dry bog plant and a stone with water trickling down the middle and green on the stone around it. This shows the water has gone somewhere this would of course be the man made reservoir built by county councils. The things that are going to spoil the great nature place and unless the Natural ladybirdTrust does not do something about it.

I was ahead of my time; after recent flooding, efforts are being made to reinstate the sphagnum bogs of the Pennines which can act as a sponge and help slow run-off after heavy rain. In those days to build a dam was seen as a heroic example of man’s ingenuity and so I’m not sure where I picked up the idea that reservoirs could have environmental consequences.

Although I put my faith in it, there was no such thing as ‘the Natural Trust’. The National Trust was doing a great job while the Nature Conservancy was the government agency responsible for our natural environment.


mountainsIf you’re tempted to head for the hills, here’s some advice from my younger self.

climbingActually, ignore my advice: a full sized pick isn’t ideal for climbing, nor are football boots; it’s so difficult to climb with all those studs in the sole. I remember that old bit of rope, we picked it up on the canal towpath; better than a washing line, but not recommended. But, yes, I’d still go along with the advice to take  a ‘bag with food’.

3 Replies to “Blue Remembered Hills”

  1. Hi Richard, you were lucky to see these places at such a young age ! I found out long after my grandfather`s death, that he was born in a cottage at Torside (Jan 1894) as his father worked on the nearby railway. I walked part of the Longdendale trail a few years ago to find it. Wearing very inadequate boots as I recall. Quite right about the food. Beautiful landscapes, harsh in the winter.
    You have captured the spirit of the place beautifully.

    1. I got interested in family history just in time to quiz my grandad about his life. He managed only one week on the railways; as a country man he couldn’t cope with pounding the platforms whe he worked as porter at Sheffield Midland station. He went to work on the trams – which were still horse drawn – and worked at the multi-story stables across the road from the station.

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