Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Old Club (part one)

When I was passing through Rookhope Vale in the early 1980s, I camped for a night up on the Fell above the village at Wright’s Groove. The groove had been made by the Old Man (a term used by miners to describe those who mined the hills in centuries gone by), probably as a "hush".
Lead had once been so plentiful in that area of the Pennines that it was only necessary to scrape away the topsoil on the hills to reveal the rich veins which lay close to the surface. An easy way to do this was to select and enlarge a V-shaped groove above the spot where the vein was suspected to be, dam it up and wait for the Pennine rains to fill the groove. When the groove was full, the dam was knocked out and the water would rush down the hill, taking the topsoil with it, revealing the bare rock and lead ore. This was called "hushing", and Wright’s Groove was a visible relic of the process.

The smell of the woodsmoke from the village and the prospect of a pint or two in the Rookhope Inn attracted me down that night and, as I passed through the village, I noticed a grand four-square stone-built house with outbuildings for sale. It was right in the centre of the village and a few questions in the bar-room of the Inn told me all I wanted to know.
It had lately been the village club but, a fine new purpose-built premises having been built, the Old Club had been put up for sale at a very modest price. To cut a long story short and despite much advice to the contrary from the locals ("Ah wouldn’t give tha tuppence for it"), I bought the place. After all, it had to be better than a tent!
As a young family, we had some wonderful times in that old house, but I had much hard work and many problems to resolve too, as I will relate on another day.

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