On The Road To Whitwell Wood
By Jack Owen Edson
The ancient village of Whitwell is tucked away in the North East corner of the County of Derbyshire. Although for many years it had been referred to as a typical mining village, Whitwell’s origins date back to a long time before the days of the colliery. The arrival of the colliery, in 1890, had a major impact on Whitwell, and the surrounding area, and was welcomed with a great amount of jubilation and expectation. Understandably then, when the colliery was closed ninety-six years later, in the summer of 1986, the community was extremely saddened at this great loss.
Many men, particularly those aged fifty years and over, having worked at the colliery, or in the industry for thirty-years and more, suddenly found that their services were, “no longer required”. Like the ponies before them these ‘twentieth century workhorses’ were being put out to grass. A walk along Whitwell’s Welbeck Street following the closure announcement was like being in a morgue, it was dead quiet. Of course those uncaring and unfeeling of today’s society were quick to say such things as, “Don’t know what they’re moaning about, they’ve got their money”. Which was a silly thing to say since money was not the ideal panacea for many of those affected.
I believe most will agree when I say that the first twelve months did not present many problems. At least it was summer and you could have a look at all those little jobs you couldn’t find time for when you were working. I honestly believe the sales in wood, wood-chisels; hammers, paint and wallpaper etc. must have increased tremendously at the D.I.Y. establishments.
Gardens began to look much tidier. Fences, walls and gates were repaired. That spare bedroom, after all those years, suddenly found it had been decorated. Yes, anything which didn’t move got rubbed down and painted. We did jobs that fast you would have thought spare time was going out of fashion. The Post-Lady became a more frequent visitor to your door bringing you loads of information and advice from a load of hither too unknown Financial Advisers, all of whom had got the ideal scheme for your money.
When you did find time to take a break from your work intensive programme you did the occasional errand for ‘her indoors’. On such missions, to either the Co-op, the Butchers or the Newsagent, you could guarantee meeting up with an old mate carrying out similar duties. After the usual courtesies the subject would, inevitably, change to matters financial. “Have you got your money sorted out yet? and What day do you sign on?” Yes, that first twelve months passed very quickly.
Many had always found the time for interests and hobbies. As time went by these interests and hobbies began to fill the gaps that began to appear in our lives. But, this was not the case with everybody. Many were beginning to find that they now had too much time on their hands, and a new enemy, boredom, was beginning to rear its ugly head. The lady of the house was very supportive, saying “It’s nice to have him at home, but, he does tend to get under my feet a bit”.
Something had to be done! “I know what I’ll do, I’ll have a walk to Whitwell Wood, an down to Ginny Spring, Haven’t been there since I left school”. Suddenly out of what appeared to be impending doom, salvation appeared on the horizon in the shape of Whitwell Wood. “Why didn’t I think of this before?”
However, once on the road, and with Whitwell Wood looming up before me, our new born hiker found he was not alone. He soon found out that a lot of his old workmates had been faced with the same problem, to solve it they too had decided to take the high road to Whitwell Wood. “We’ve been doing this for months” remarked his old mates.
Whitwell Wood was now getting more daily visitors than it had for years. Soon the lone walkers began to get organised into groups and were soon setting their eyes on the distant horizons beyond Whitwell Wood. Creswell Craggs, Markland Grips, Elmton and Thorpe Salvin, to mention just a few, were now being considered by our knights of the road to be well within their scope for either a morning or an afternoon walk.
Amidst this happy band of pilgrims a wide range of topics would come under discussion. Politics? No problems for these lads. Many of the National and International problems would be easily solved on the road from Whitwell Wood to Thorpe Salvin. Parliament! Who needs M.P.’s?
Those bonds of friendship, formed over many years in the dark and dangerous depths of mother earth, thought by many to be in danger of fading away, were now being re-affirmed on the highways and by-ways around Whitwell.
Suddenly each dawn began to bring much brighter days and the realisation that things would not be too bad after all. There was still a lot to look forward to and every day was a bonus.
THANK GOODNESS FOR THE ROAD TO WHITWELL WOOD.