Pecsaetan – Ancient Peak District tribe

Some thing for the weekend. How about stepping into a time in the Dark Peak, when the Peak District was not a district at all, it was the northern edge of territory for the Pesaetan tribe way back in the Anglo-Saxon era.

Stanedge Pole on the boundary of Northumbria and Mercia
Stanedge Pole on the boundary of Northumbria and Mercia

The boundary is still there today at Stanedge Pole which sits on the boundary of the old Northumbria and Mercia territories, now it separates Yorkshire and Derbyshire and the Sees of Canterbury and York.

The Peaklanders as they were known called Kinder Scout “Cyn dwr scwd” which translates as “The hill of the waterfall”, Kinder Downfall.

Dwr gwent “the white water” became Derwent.

The many “lows” Bleaklow, Shuttlinsloe, Pike Lowe, White Lowe, signify an ancient burial-place. Perhaps there is something to the Longdendale lights after all.

It seems perhaps odd to our modern day minds that these places should be inhabited, maybe that is because for many years mere mortals were banned from setting foot, it was the privilege of the chosen few. Not too different from when it formed part of the ancient Peak Royal Forest then.

This weekend, have a walk in an ancient landscape, there is plenty of information on this blog to wet your appetite and you can find lots more in my book Dark Peak Walks.

Dark Peak Walks Book by Paul Besley, published by Cicerone Press. 40 walks in the Dark Peak with detailed route descriptions, maps, photos and points of interest.
Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley

This weekend in the Peak District

The weather is looking mixed this Easter bank holiday weekend. Saturday sunny-ish, Sunday and Monday cloudy with a bit of rain, wind is forecast gentle to moderate all three days.

So what to do. If you have my book Dark Peak Walks here are some suggestions to escape the crowds.

Walk No.7 Wyming Brook to Stanage Edge – 11 Miles

A superb gorge with a tumbling stream, a lot of history and then Stanage Edge. Throw in some benchmarks, trig pillars, Stanedge Pole, and those water bowls and you have a great walk.

Walk No.15 Low Bradfield and Dale Dyke – 6 Miles

A relaxing walk, that can be done in a morning or afternoon. Huge amount of history, beautiful woodlands, lots of raptors to be seen and ice cream at the end. What more could you want.

Walk 23 Kinder Scout – 10 Miles

Its been really dry of late so how about a venture into the centre of Kinder Scout, test you navigation skills and not get your feet wet. It can be done.

Walk 26 Dunford Bridge to Ramsden Clough – 11.5 Miles

The chances are that you will have the place to yourself on this walk. Famous last words I know, but rarely do I see anyone and this walk has some magnificent views in a little visited area. Try something new.

Four walks all with mixed terrain, ascent and distance with plenty of things to see along the way. Easter holidays and something for the weekend.

Beats decorating. So Alison tells me.

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Peak District in the snow

Winter is just rubbish this season in the Peak District National Park. Too warm, too wet underfoot and calamities of calamities not enough snow, any snow, snow that stays around for days and weeks, not just a few hours creating mayhem then slinking away like an errant child.

I have had some wonderful winters in the Peak District. Proper winters, with cold and snow and the Snake, Woodhead and Cat and Fiddle closed and blocked with stranded vehicles. Winters where you have to pinch yourself because you are the first person, ever to walk into Dovedale went it is covered in snow from the previous days snowstorm. All the snow just drapes across the trees and the walls and the fields, great billows of cotton. And not a single foot print in sight save for those of birds and sheep.

Walking around the Upper Derwent Valley and having to post hole for 9 miles, wishing you’d brought a slower companion. Cant he stop and look at the scenery, its magnificent. The groins paid for it after though. A full six months before I could walk normally again.

Sitting in Grindle Barn and just looking at the scenery down the Upper Derwent Valley. Snow covering Bamford Edge and Win Hill. Snow in all the fields, right down to the reservoir edge. Drinking spiced Bovril from the flask and thinking last time you did this was in the bird hide at Ditch Clough I gave my Ranger mentor for the day a cup because she loved the smell.

Walking along the pastures below Rocher Edge and seeing a truly gift card scene. A monochrome landscape in perfect balance. Nothing out of place at all. Later the dogs getting snow balled up as they dived in and out of the snow.

Ice crystals at Kinder Downfall, but far too soon for any ice climbers. A day on Kinder in the winter, planning a walk that was far too long for some and using the short cut to get back on track. Then into the Snake Inn and meeting friends old and new, all having had a great time in the Dark Peak snow.

How the wind blows snow against the walls and leaves the opposite side clear. Great drifts forming where the wind packs the snow. Suddenly having to navigate without walls and fields and boundaries for reference because there aren’t any, they are all under great big piles of washing. Bright white, a brilliant blue white like in the washing powder commercials.

Thinking, next year I am going to get snow shoes or learn to ski. And next year comes and will there be snow this year, perhaps not, so don’t waste my money. Then I remember the time I nearly got stuck on the Snake, but managed to make it back to Glossop and a 8 hour round trip via the M62 to get home.

I love winter and I have missed it this year.

Parkin Clough to Win Hill

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Parkin Clough, Dark Peak, Peak District National Park
One of the toughest ascents in the Peak District can be found just by Ladybower Reservoir in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District National Park.

Parkin Clough leads up to Win Hill, a total ascent of some 300m in little over one Kilometer. The path, such that it is, is the old boundary wall running up the side of the stream which tumbles down the hillside. Parkin Clough is a narrow V shaped gorge cut by the stream, with steep sides, you would not want to slip down. It is very slippery under foot in wet weather as you are walking along what remains of the wall, with some high stepping required in places to get the thighs and calfs burning.

The climb up Parkin Clough is something of a test piece for fitness, the test being to make it to the top in the shortest time, the quickest I have heard of is 12 minutes unladen and a little over 15 minutes with full hill kit. The test for lesser mortals is to make it to the top without stopping.  Ascending to the summit begins at the foot of Parkin Clough by the Peak and Northern Footpath Society signpost and ends when the hand touches the thoughtfully placed triangulation pillar on the top of Win Hill. The views across to the Upper Derwent Valley and along the skyline to Kinder Scout and Bleaklow make the effort worthwhile.

The climb appears in Walk 9 of Dark Peak Walks

Safety in the Dark Peak

On the subject of my Facebook Post
regarding the family I met yesterday who were wanting to go on Kinder. There have been quite a few replies to the original post all offering views, some in agreement with each other. Here is the conversation between me and the parents.
Dad.. You look like a person who knows what they are doing. Can you tell me the way to Kinder?
Me… You cannot drive on to Kinder
Dad… We wanted to walk up but cannot find the way.
Me… If you park here you are likely to get hit, the tractors are quite big and your car is sticking out a bit. You might find it safer to park in the car park 50m down the road..
Dad.. Oh Ok.
Me….Have you been up onto Kinder before
Dad… No we wanted to take the kids up
Me… OK. Do you have a map
Mum… No. But I know how to use a compass
Me… You really could do with a map, there are no signposts on Kinder and its easy to get lost . The cloud is quite low so visibility will be poor. Do you have your compass with you. You could buy a map from the visitor centre.
Mum… No I dont have my compass but my phone has googlemaps
Me… That wont be really any use Im afraid. Look to be honest, if you are asking me how to get to Kinder from here its a fair chance you might get lost and Kinder is not a place to be lost on with children. Why not go on one of the low level walks around here, there is some really nice walking, you could even get a leaflet from the visitor centre with them in.
Mum… We could buy a map for Kinder.
Me.. OK if you want to do that then the easiest way up from here is up William Clough its about 3 miles from here and the route isnt clear and it can be rough underfoot. If you do go up and the weather turns, come straight back down the way you came. Whats your name….tells me name.
Mum.. we will be alright
Me… well you have a good day, if you feel you are getting lost just stop and turn round and come back. it will be cold on top so make sure you and the children keep warm and dry. If it starts to rain or snow get down as quick as you can.
That was the conversation. I am a park ranger and that kind of conversation is not unusual and to be fair it is usually the woman who is more adamant about continuing on. I think people should be able to make their own decisions and being in the outdoors means accommodating different weather conditions, we as walkers know that. I do think I have a responsibility, children or otherwise to explain the facts to people, but I cannot stop someone from taking their own decision. I did not come across the people on Kinder nor when I returned so maybe they took my advice. One of the problems the Peak District has is that so much of it is near roads. You do not have hours of a walk in to get to the start. This gives people a false sense of security and people are just not aware of the possible dangers. Only if you have been in a tight spot, and I suspect we all have, are you aware that things can very quickly go wrong.
With regards to reporting to the police I am not sure about that. Naivety and ignorance are not really a crime. For sure the addition of children into the mix makes it a little more serious. So I did the best thing I could think of, ask their name and take note of the car reg when I walked on. If needed later on it could be useful information. As a ranger I always ask where people are coming from and going to. It may come in useful if they are reported missing and it helps me give them some interesting info about where they are going. Its what I do and its nice to have a conversation with people about the Peak District.
People should be encouraged to get out on to the moors more, but it should be tempered with education about the reality.
Thats my thoughts. You comments are welcome.

Kinderscout Grit

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Crow Stones, Upper Derwent Valley, Peak District National Park

Last year I walked one of my favourite routes in the Dark Peak. I followed a bed of Kinderscout Gritstone for several miles, using its vertical edges to cross the landscape.

Kinderscout gritstone is interspersed with layers of shale and mudstones. These can often be seen exposed in sharply incised cloughs, where a stream has cut through the edge of the gritstone bed and revealed its many layers. Going up or down a clough can literally take you through millions of years.

In places the gritstone is 150m thick and at Crow edge both the top and bottom edges of a gritstone layer can be seen. Kinderscout  gritstone tilts both south and east as it flows down the Upper Derwent Valley from Swains and form one half of the watershed. To the north and west gritstone mixes with the coal measures of Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Bleaklow Stones, Barrow Stones, are good examples of gritstone left behind through erosion. Bleaklow Stones is a particularly good example, it is as if someone just walked away from a game of marbles. The Horse Stone is similar but has weathered differently showing a the wind sanding down the softer layers to leave a pancake stack effect. In places erosion has weathered the gritstone to form precariously balanced rocking stones, some of the best place to see this is on the tors and outcrops, Crow Stones is I think the best example.

Following a geological walk gives me a very different experience of the landscape and leads to areas well off the beaten path which often reward with wonderful surprises.

The other mass trespass

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Abbey Brook from Cartledge Bents

The other day I did a spot of checking for one of the walks in my Dark Peak book. It is always a quandary when I have more than one possible route. Which will be of more interest and why. Some routes are better at certain times of year, or have a completely different character. Walk on Bleaklow in summer with the cotton grass, golden plover, common lizards and bilberries and then do the same walk in deep winter, with windswept snow and ice  and only the white mountain hare and a few brave walkers for company and you have two very different experiences.

Abbey Brook is a case in point, not so much for the seasons, although it presents a different face at each turn, but because there are so many walks that can lead to it. That is not by accident either, Abbey Brook was a major route across the area in the past. The area was owned by Welbeck Abbey who used it for sheep and the monastic outpost that was situated in this cleft in the hillside was connected to the Grange at Crookhill a little further down the valley by a path. On the moorland above tracks fed into Abbey Brook from North, East and South, the small valley providing easy access to the west.

One of the most prominent was the Dukes Road, named after the Duke of Norfolk, which led from Bar Dike over on Mortimer Road to Abbey Brook and onwards west or alternatively Bradfield Gate and Derwent Village. One of several ways to head east to west in the age before roads. The route was always public until the Duke decided to close it for his Grouse Shooting.

GHB Ward of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers was none too impressed and was convinced it was a public right of way and carried out research to prove so. It was decided to make a stand, this was several months after the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout and things were still tense between walkers and land owners. On Sunday 18th September 1932 several hundred walkers set off from Malin Bridge in Sheffield and headed towards Broomhead Moor and the Dukes Road. They were intent on walking on to Bradfield Gate and returning back to Malin Bridge. All seemed to go well with only the odd Gamekeeper spotted. That was until the reached Cartledge Bents overlooking Abbey Clough, where the Dukes men attempted to stop their progress. A small fracas ensued before the walkers were allowed to proceed unhindered.

The protest did not make the news nor the impact they probably desired and this was very likely due to the outcry that had followed the Kinder Mass Trespass and the imprisonment of the so called ring leaders. Nonetheless, a further blow had been made for walkers.

It must have been a fantastic site to see hundreds of walkers marching down the Dukes Road. Today you get the odd group of Ramblers, some fell runners and the lone single walker.

I have researched the route the mass trespass took from the Tram sheds at Malin Bridge and will walk the route come spring, who knows it may well make it in to the book. It might be nice to have two trespasses.

 

 

Trigpoint Walks 8

SK 0447 9077 Harry Hut 441m
SK 0447 9077 Harry Hut 441m

I know this may sound wrong, but walking from the Hayfield quarry where the 1932 Mass Trespass set off from, was a new experience for me, I had never been to this spot before, in fact I had never been to Hayfield. That does sound wrong doesn’t it coming from someone who has walked in the Peak District for near on 40 years and is a National Park Ranger to boot. Well confession over.

I had set off from Hayfield centre and walked along the river to reach the quarry.  I didn’t realise that I was on such hallowed ground until I spotted the commemoration plaque on the quarry face.  It is quite a thing when you think about it, all those people, extra ordinary people, who worked in everyday jobs during the week and looked for release on a Sunday, having the temerity to go against the land owners and the establishment.  It must have been quite exciting and ever so slightly frightening at the same time.  What will happen? Will I get into trouble? Will I lose my job? Some lost more than their jobs, some lost their liberty and I need to remember that when I am out on the moors, especially the Kinder plateau.

I retraced their footsteps, up William Clough, a beautiful little ravine complete with tumbling stream and long narrow vistas.  I gradually worked my way along, stopping now and then to look back and take in the views.  It really is wonderful, the feeling of peace, quiet and solitude is incredibly intoxicating.  This is the way to live my life I thought, none of the work day drudgery, but this glorious release into another life.  I could see why it was worth contemplating a fracas with the rozzers at the top of the Clough in 1932.

The cloud was low and as I reached the top visibility was down to 50m, nothing unusual in that for Kinder.  It did make for some good navigation practice, use of compass, following a bearing, pacing, all good solid stuff.  I reached the Triangulation pillar at Harry Hut quite quickly, painted a bright white it is pretty hard to miss.  I like to see the pillars painted, but disappointed to see that the Flush Bracket had also been painted white.  Would it have been too much trouble to leave the bracket in its natural form?

It was windy up there and so I dropped down the shooting track to have some lunch hidden behind a wall.  Today it was soup and corned beef sandwiches, the dogs had some chews which kept them at bay for at least a few seconds, they then turned their attention to me and used telepathic staring techniques to gain more food for them and less for me, very selfish in my view.

SK 0322 9026 Hollingworth Head Surface Block
SK 0322 9026 Hollingworth Head Surface Block

Cutting across the moorland I arrived at the Grouse Inn famous for getting snowed in no end of times in bad weather.  Just across the road is a surface block, hidden in the grass, these are fun to find, mainly because you get lots of odd looks from passing motorists as you prod away at the ground trying to locate the blasted thing.  A walking pole with a pointy tip is a very good location device, sadly I had forgotten to bring mine so I was reduced to tearing bits of grass up with my bare hands until the surface block showed itself.

Down the road I turned off on to an old pack route, now the Pennine Way Bridle Path, a green lane stretching for some miles, passing farms and fields it winds its way up on to Lantern Pike, with panoramic views all round.

SK 0239 8794 Lantern Pike S 2779 359m
SK 0239 8794 Lantern Pike S 2779 359m

Lantern Pike is a forlorn place, windswept and dishevelled  it has an air of subsistence about it.  The triangulation pillar just adds to the gloom of the place, laid on its side as it is, half way down a slope, abandoned and unkempt.  I do not know the history of the pillar, why it has come to such a sorry end or when this happened.  In Mark Richards excellent book High Peak Walks mention is made of the view-point panorama from which there are marvellous views of Kinder, Mill Hill, Hayfield and the surrounding hills and valleys, but no mention of the trig.  Lantern Pike is National Trust land, but like so much of their estate I feel is not sexy enough or would not generate enough revenue to warrant a helping hand, best save those efforts for the tea shops and stately homes.

SK 0237 8796 Lantern Pike Surface Block 351m
SK 0237 8796 Lantern Pike Surface Block 351m

It’s in there somewhere, but where was a mystery, should have brought my prodding pole, there was no way I was going to scrabble around the cow muck, I may well have to return.

I followed the Pennine Bridleway back to Hayfield and the car.  Quite a nice days walking with varied views and not too much ascent.

The first walk

The former Crowden Youth Hostel

When I was fourteen years old a class mate and I decided we would go hiking in Derbyshire. I have no idea where the thought came from or who first had it, but one saturday morning I finished my paper round and dashed home to get ready for hiking. I had a pair of boots, the soles heavily re-inforced with segs, ( metal studs that were purchased from a cobblers shop near Robert Jenkins Company boiler shop and then hammered in to the soles). Segs made you feel more genuine and also warned anyone within a mile that you were coming due to the noise all this metal made on metalled roads. I also had an ex army surplus gas mask bag or havesack as they were known. This was quite a bag to sling over your shoulder as it contained a myriad of pockets that you could while away hours trying to work out what they were for. Into mine went sandwiches, a bottle of pop and a guide book detailing our route. I also had a kagoule, a wooly jumper and some money. You didn’t need much money as it only cost ten pence to travel anywhere in South Yorkshire back then, thanks to the innovative bus policy the local county council had. My mate and I got the bus to Sheffields Pond Street Station and then caught the bus to our destination. There were lots of walkers on the bus and we felt part of something, even though we were trying not to get noticed. We had chosen a route which seemed a good challenge. From Crowden we would walk across Kinder Scout to Edale and get the train back to Sheffield. What could possibly go wrong. The bus journey to Crowden Youth Hostel does not inspire confidence if you are two young walkers with absolutely no experience of the outdoors. The bus travels along the Woodhead road, a desolate and forbidding strip of tarmac that was, back then, still one of the main trans pennine routes for heavy frieght lorries. It is a black line surrounded by black peat and brown moors and dirt. Lots of dirt from the thousands of vehicles that pound the road every day. It also rains, a lot. Not the kind of start to a walking career you would choose, but that’s what you get for not knowing what you are doing. We arrived at Crowden expecting to find a small town of shops and houses. Nothing, there was just nothing, except a long low row of stone cottages and a phone box, and the roar of the lorries thundering by. We studied the guide book and tried to work out how to get to the start of the walk, which was situated in a village called Charlesworth. We managed to work out that following the Woodhead Road would take us to a junction where we turned off and then walked into the village. So we set off walking down the Woodhead towards Glossop. I would not attempt this walk now. The folly of youth blinded us to the risks inherent with walking along a major transport route with lots of blind bends and no footpath to walk on. But our confidence had been encouraged by the success of working out which direction we had to walk in. We simply followed the sight of the dissappearing bus over the horizon to Glossop. We were stupid!

Walking along the Woodhead is a surefire way to get killed and some people manage that every year, but it was a less frightenening prospect than walking away from the road, i.e, moorland, which looked forbidding, desolate and had no signs of life. Bearing in mind we were going to cross Kinder, this attitude towards the moors did not bode well, but protected by the veil of blissful youth, we did not know this at the time. At some point we saw civilisation in the form of Tintwistle. A small gathering of buildings that formed a village that to us looked like a metropolis in the midst of the moorlands looming over us. In the sunlight we walked in to the village and began the search for the road to Charlesworth, our starting point. We must have been given directions by someone as we were soon turning south to pass through a series of industrial era villages, the houses characterised by stone blackened through the years of heavy industrial acivity in an area known for dyeing, smelting and textiles. We were still walking along roads, albeit now on pavements. Our spirits had been lifted in the small victory we had achieved navigating our way from Rotherham, to Sheffield then Tintwistle and finally Charlesworth, the start of our expedition across the moors.

Entering Charlesworth we looked around for the sign post to Edale. There was none. The guide book gave very little detail about the start, except a drawn map which we could not relate to the land our feet stood upon. I have a recollection of walking back and forth along streets, with no real idea what we were looking for. Eventually we decided on asking for directions to Edale. The person we chose was a newsagent, probably on the basis that they delivered newspapers to houses and therefore should know where places were. In hindsight this was a wrong move, but we were’nt to know that then. “Excuse me. Could you tell me how to get to Edale?” “Edale. You want to go to Edale?” “Yes” “You’ve no chance of reaching Edale today from here. It’s too late. Where have you come from?” “Sheffield” “It would be quicker and easier to walk back to Sheffield. You don’t want to be setting off to Edale now.” “Oh. Right. Back to Sheffield you say.” “Much easier and quicker” So that was it. This font of all navigation matters had spoken. He was an adult and a shopkeeper, which in our young eyes meant he knew more than we did. Which in retrospect he probably did. After some deliberation, a packet of crsips and a bottle of orangeade we decided to take the adults advice and walk back to Sheffield. It was coming up to midday so we thought we had plenty of time. We chose to return via the route we had arrived and follow the Woodhead Road all the way back in to Sheffield. The distance would be 28 miles!!

Only the naivety of youth would attempt such a walk and we fitted that description perfectly. All was well at first. We retraced our route with a slight feeling of failure but also one of relief. We were in new surroundings so it didn’t seem too bad, even if we had never so much as stepped one foot on to grass, let alone moorland. It was when we started to walk back along the Woodhead road that things started to go wrong. Anyone who knows the Pennines will know it has a high rainfall. This is not the same for Rotherham where we lived, so it was one heck of a surprise when the heavens opened and God threw buckets of water down upon us. It was also very dark and very windy. To two young boys, (note we are young boys now and not intrepid adventurers!), unprepared for such weather it was a frightening experience. At one point we became so scared, what with the rain soaking us through, the wind howling around us, the skies as black as night and the lorries thundering past us, we attempted to seek refuge in a lonely house situated at the side of the Woodhead road. We banged on the door and when opened by a man shouted to be let in out of the storm. The door was slammed firmly shut leaving us outside dejected and forlorn. If ever that house owner needed help I hope he received the same response he gave to two young boys seeking protection in a storm. Even today when I pass the house I think it was, I feel a sense of loss in the human spirit at that mans actions. We had no option but to keep on walking back to Sheffield. We trudged in horrendous weather back along the road, fearing being hit by either vehicle or lightning, heads down, unresponsive we moved along through the storm which seemed to stay with us every step of the way.

Suddenley we came upon a phone box, the red standing out against the blue black of the storm clouds. Behind the phone box was a building. Refuge. It was the Crowden Youth Hostel and we weren’t members. For no reason I can explain today we decided not to go into the YH but instead packed ourselves into the phone box to seek protection from the storm. My friend phoned his dad and pleaded to be picked up. From listening to my friends side of the conversation his dad was not a happy bunny to be called out on a Saturday afternoon to rescue two halfwit boys who had got themselves lost. But he agreed to come and pick us up, what else would a father do.

We waited in the phone box, hoping no one would want to make a call. At some point the rain stopped and then we experienced one of those glorious special days when the rain clears, the sun comes out and heats the land so quickly steam rises from the sodden roads and also drenched boys. We sat outside, still not daring to enter the YH and waited for my friends father, basking in the bright 70’s style colours that are only available after a storm has passed.

He arrived in a great woosh, his large car turning round in the layby. As soon as he got out the tirade started. What did we think we were doing, how stupid could we both be, etc, etc. Bundled into the back of the car we were driven home whilst receiving lectures on various points of being responsible, not being idiots and not calling a dad out during the Saturday afternoon footie. We were relieved and dejected. A sense of adventure and of failure all in one.

I cannot remember what my parents said, not much probably as they had no connection with the outdoors and no inclination the danger their son had actually been in. I didn’t at the time, but looking back I can see how lucky we were. Amazingly, a few weeks after, we went for another walk, this time on a more gentler route, within easy reach of public transport and with lots of people around. It was a success and led on to a lifetime of walking.

I look back now on that day and fancy I see the gates to a future which I could not discern as a boy back then. We were coming to the end of our school days. My friend would go onto college, university and a distinguished career as a scientist. I would enter the steelworks as an apprentice, fed into the steel mills like thousands of others before me. I often think, what would have happened to me if we would have walked in to Crowden Youth Hostel. Would I have met someone who would fan the frail embers of outdoors interest into a career outdoors or a more adventurous life, rather than one of steel mills, pubs, unwanted marriage, mortgages, careers and responsibilities. I type this as a fifty two year old man, thrown on the scrap heap by bankers greed, trying to make sense of this new world and how I can fit into it. Maybe I am trying to reach backwards to that boy and to tell him there is another way of life, it isn’t money you need to concern yourself with its doing something you enjoy, something you want to do.