21 April 2021

Huthwaite

More miles. More photographs. Plodding around a former coal mining  district  at  Nottinghamshire's border with Derbyshire. That was yesterday. Where once pithead wheels turned and cohorts of men trudged home with the crevices of their skin still blackened with tell-tale coal dust, now country parks, cycle ways and sprawling industrial estates fill the melancholy void that was left behind. 

I left Clint in a quiet lay-by on Blackwell Lane, just west of Huthwaite. It was another pleasant spring day though not quite as sunny as most recent days. I was wearing my Panama City Beach T-shirt that my daughter bought there when on Spring Break from Birmingham Southern Collage, Alabama in 2010.

Huthwaite is an unpretentious, unbeautiful place that still cannot hide its coal mining legacy. It is the opposite of  the vibrant multicultural England that our London-based media chirps about constantly.  Here the all-white descendants of coal mining and hosiery manufacturing families tick off the passing days on their kitchen calendars in narrow streets. They are so often cruelly forgotten.

My route was pretty much a circle round the overgrown village that was once known as Hucknall-under-Huthwaite then later Dirty Hucknall. Huthwaite means "a clearing on a hill spur" as derived from the old languages that in the course of time spawned English.

I doubt that many Peak District ramblers would be drawn to Huthwaite. No sheep on heather-clad hills. No vistas of pleasant valleys criss-crossed with drystone walls. This is a very different England with M1 motorway traffic humming constantly  from the west.  Taking things north and south.

Part of my walk was through Brierley Country Park - developed on the former site of Huthwaite Colliery. There I came across a block of concrete with the date "1919" embossed upon it without explanation. I imagined that it marked the spot where a new shaft had been  sunk to the coal seam below a century before and thought of the damage that had just been wrought upon the world by World War One. The heroes who returned from those killing fields could now descend daily into Hell to earn their daily bread. They were the real England.

34 comments:

  1. I think that 'the real England' was a lot more multi-faceted that just coal mines and miners.

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    1. I agree Graham. I refer to the miners in that way as standard bearers of English workers - dockers, farm labourers, steel workers, ship builders, construction workers, mill workers, trawler men - they were all "the real England".

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  2. I don't have much to say about the post but I hope Clint didn't see the first photo and what might be his fate. I note no double yellow lines in Huthwaite. They will come.

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  3. Clint's predecessor in the top photo?

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    1. Indeed Tigger. Whenever I am tired of a car I always drive it to a pond near an industrial estate and set fire to it.

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    2. Just thought it might be a suitable photo to show him next time he moans.

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  4. Let us never forget the miners. I never will.

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    1. Nor me. They were brave but Thatcher treated them like "the enemy within".

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  5. It doesn't look all that bad to me, if a little unloved. Surely some of the people living in that village have things (and hopefully, people) in their lives that they like or even love.
    Maybe I am just in too good a mood today to let anything dampen my spirits.

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    1. Well they have their lovely Brierley Forest Park where once there was a thriving coal mine. It's a nice green area very close to the village.

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    2. Wouldn't those cottages look 'quaint' with some of those wonderful hanging baskets that seem to adorn most places shown on "Escape to the Country"... always bursting with blooms makes me think of soft English summer rain enlivening them. But then for the TV show we probably get the best bits!

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    3. I chuckled about this Elle. Nice one.

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  6. Interesting walk. I'm a bit squeamish about the phrase "the real England," because that seems to imply that others' experiences of England are somehow unreal, and I don't believe that's true. Multi-culti London is also "the real England."

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    1. But the England I was alluding to is one that rarely gets any recognition.

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  7. The photos are sad and depressing and the village looks tired and worn out. I can't imagine having to go down into a coal mine everyday to work, to feed my family, for no other choices; coming home, covered in black dust and then coughing up black phlegm and becoming short of breath as I aged. So many people overlooked in history books but such important parts of history.

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    1. In your last sentence you totally "got" what I was talking about Lily.

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  8. I hate thinking about how many people have lived and died in sad and difficult servitude to the mines. Here too. Bringing coal up from the depths has ruined men and families, hillsides and mountains.

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    1. Now we get the coal we need from Poland and Russia, turning a blind eye to the conditions.

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  9. Hucknall-under-Huthwaite. A clearing on a hill spur. The veterans of the Somme, returning home to the old life underground. The General Strike. The miners defeated, longer hours, lower wages. Do you remember England?

    There are books I return to rather like poetry.
    *Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village* (1995) by Mark Hudson.
    *A Journey to the Heart of England* (1978) by Caroline Hillier.
    *The Fields Beneath - The History of One London Village* (1977) by Gillian Tindall.
    *English Journey* (1934) by J.B. Priestley.
    *English Journey or the Road to Milton Keynes* (1984) by Beryl Bainbridge.
    *The Leaping Lad and Other Stories* (1947) by Sid Chaplin, the former collier.

    On my book stacks, still-to-be-read ...
    *The Rise and Fall of the British Nation* by David Edgerton.
    *What We Have Lost: The Dismantling of Great Britain* by James Hamilton-Paterson.

    Gillian Tindall writes about books about England as well as 19th Century France.
    James Hamilton-Paterson wrote a brilliant novel about Elgar, *Gerontius*.

    Haggerty

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  10. To my list of English travel books I must add ...

    *Akenfield* (1969) by Ronald Blythe, an absolute classic.
    *Return to Akenfield - Portrait of an English Village in the 21st Century* (2006) by Craig Taylor, a young Canadian living here.

    *A Walk Along the Wall* (1974) by Hunter Davies.
    *Wainright: The Biography* (1995) by Hunter Davies.
    *Journey Through Britain* (1968) by John Hillaby.

    Haggerty

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    1. One last book, if you will indulge me, Neil.
      *The Marriage of A Rebel* (1980) by Jack Clemo, the Cornish poet.

      Jack Clemo (1916-1994) grew up in the bleak country of the clay mines of Cornwall.
      In spite of going completely blind and deaf, he married the woman he loved, and never lost his deep religious faith.

      Helen Keller and Christie Brown wrote about disability.
      Jack Clemo, less well known, belongs in their august company.
      Haggerty

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    2. Oh my Lord, I would love to read all of the books you have recommended John - if only I had the time. Intermittently, I am currently reading "Shuggie Bain" which I will write about in this blog when the reading process is over.

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    3. I hear good reports of Shuggie Bain: Great to see a tyro win the Booker.

      Check out *Black Car Burning* by Helen Mort (Vintage) who was born in Sheffield in 1985. A novel of many voices that strum the ear and an unerring sense of place: Sheffield-by-the-Sea, Robin Hood's Cave, Burngreave Ward.

      John O'Hara once said to his friend Dorothy Parker:
      *I'll let you into a secret, Dottie. I don't think most dames can write.*
      To which the Divine Dorothy said: *John, don't be ridiculous.*

      O'Hara possessed genius, but so many gals can write the pantalones off guys.
      They just plain know more stuff, and they know about us.
      Haggerty

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  11. Some of my ancestors came from the coal districts further to the north and it has been on my list to someday go and wander around those hamlets to see what I can see.

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    1. It is a long way from Iowa to here Ed. In some places the evidence of coal mining has almost been erased.

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    2. That it is but since most went to work mining coal and lead here, I'm assuming it felt a lot like home to them.

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  12. My parents grew up in coal mining towns; my mom's grandfathers died of black lung. My Scottish immigrant grandfather was a brick mason and built many mine structures, but mostly outside the mines. As a contrast, the miners who came to their area were of all different nationalities and races, mostly Eastern Europeans with many Italians and quite a number of blacks too. They are all buried up at the cemetery in their own divided sections. Even in death, the Serbs didn't want to be next to the Croatians!

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    1. It is nice to know that I am not the only blogger who has close connections with the coal mining industry.

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  13. Those street don't look that narrow to me. Are you waxing, YP?

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  14. Sad and melancholic, teaching us that eternity is but a foolish dream. The miners are only part of 'real England' though, before them the medieval farm workers tied to the land and the landowners. Slavery runs through civilisation like a thread!

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    1. Like you I recognise that it is possible to be a slave and yet receive a wage.

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  15. Interesting blog YP.
    Judging by the newly built houses in your second photo, and the number of cars parked along the wide street in the third, the new windows and freshly painted walls, things are not as bad as you make out. Hardly a completely forgotten area, with Country Parks and cycle ways - and aren't the industrial parks providing "clean" employment for the descendants of those who had no choice but to go down the mines?
    There is no denying that things were bad in the past - and that miners had the worst job in Britain - don't forget that Wales and Scotland also had coal mines, and people who also suffered. Perhaps your field of vision is a little too focussed on your area?
    Like Steve, I'd question your description of the "real England" - it has so many facets.

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    1. Thanks for your reflections once again CG. Maybe in another post I will clarify what I mean by "the real England" but in the meantime what I know is that it is not the one inhabited by Old Etonians. They did not build this country.

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