Its a rainy day in Rural Lane Wadsley. The common is sodden and there’s a sprinkling of litter on the fringes of the car park.
The indiginous birdlife – the lesser-spotted commoner – is conspicous by its absence – strange, they are territorial and extremely fond of their native habitat. Its population consists of we few and affable dog-walkers with affable dogs.
Clayton is hardly dressed for the weather (the only items in his wardrobe that fit these days are ties) but Col Percy Fawcett-like he plunges on into the dripping and misty landscape in a search of ganister mine shafts, strange earthworks, old troughs, wells, carved initials, corrugated iron huts and sloping football pitches from the swinging sixties. This was in days of puberty, prior to shaving, having a key to the door, having your first pint and you know what.
The fellow travellers are a mixed bunch – Di is a newcomer to the area – others remember the purple and violet holly before the birch was allowed to run wild and before disastrous fires ravaged the sandy, boulder strewn common. A place of wonder and mystery where kids roamed and got muddy and panted over cross country runs with dear Old Hodgy, where a fellow youth got shot in the backside with an air rifle while being mistaken for a rabbit.
The Nissen huts where we had 50 pence cans of Forest Brown beer and the occasional Park Drive or Woodbine from Cec Dore’s off-licence on Worrall Road have long gone and I’m not sure if the Maccabi football pitch set up by the Patnick family is still there. In factBower Cottage ain’t Bower Cottage any more and the des res’s by Loxley House sit incongruously with what Wadsley was. My apologies to the lady who upbraids me for intruding on her drive and border – forgive us our trespasses, ma’am.
They seem to have enjoyed it though I remain crestfallen and feeling fraudulent.
There are seats across the common but the vista’s diminishing like my years. Could you really see Wardsend from here? Still Di likes it and it’s still as mysterious – perhaps more so since that foggy, icy day me and the landlord’s son from the Beehive went up Coalpit Lane-years ago.