Once I was a teacher but now I am a walker. When next I have to fill in a form that asks for my occupation, I will say "walker". Mind you, perhaps I could say "writer" because last Saturday I met somebody I had never met before who asked, "Aren't you a writer?". I was mystified but also rather pleased. She had come across my e-book, "The Headland". But until my writing becomes more successful, I think I ought to stick to being a "walker".
It has become my habit to mix up walks - not always chocolate box hilly walking country as in The Peak District but also urban walks or walks round about industrial neighbourhoods. Yesterday, I drove to Rawmarsh north of Rotherham. It holds a special place in my heart because it was here that my mother was raised in the late nineteen twenties and into the thirties. She shared many fond memories of the place and the adventures she had there, living with the Whites - my great grandmother and my great grandfather who, I am proud to relate, was a coal miner at nearby New Stubbin pit.
Unusually for a working class family in the nineteen twenties, my grandparents split up and Mum - with her younger brother Derek had to escape to Rawmarsh in what I think of as their apocryphal walk - past dirty coal mines and smoky railway yards - over canals and fetid pools all the way from Mexborough to Rawmarsh - about four miles. They were both under ten years old but they found happiness and security with their maternal grandparents. Nevertheless, the emotional scars of that apparent parental rejection remained with Mum until her dying day and it was never fully assuaged by the love and kindness that she found in 13 Quarry Street, Rawmarsh - close to Rosehill Park.
That was where I parked yesterday before walking to Wath-upon-Dearne, then on to Swinton and Kilnhurst. The coalmines have all gone thanks to Thatcher and her spiteful Tory henchmen - who were determined to bleed the very heart of Britain's coal mining industry back in the nineteen eighties. Yet the ghosts of our country's hundred year coalrush are less easily exorcised.
I was walking along streets and past buildings and fields that Mum knew well - before television, before air travel, before supermarkets and before World War II. That was a war that changed her life utterly and without it I wouldn't even be here. As a bright young office girl of nineteen, she joined the Women's Royal Airforce - the WAAF - and left grimy, parochial Rawmarsh behind. She was soon shipped to India where she worked in administration for the Royal Air Force in Delhi. It was there that she met Philip - a young officer in the meteorological department who was also a recently qualified primary school teacher from Malton, Yorkshire. That man was my father.
Images from the walk:-
|13 Quarry Street, Rawmarsh|
|Rowan berries - Wath Golf Course - former coal-mining territority|
|The derelict Dearne and Dove canal at Swinton - for a hundred and forty years |
it carried coal from the South Yorkshire coalfield
|St Thomas's Church, Kilnhurst with a memorial to the local pit which "died" in 1989|
|Sad face - entrance to Kilnhurst church|
|Mum's old school - Rosehill, Rawmarsh|