Yesterday I took a look out of the window and it was sunny! Ooo. The compulsion to get out into the countryside made me leap out of bed – well, with as much dexterity and speed as this aging body can handle. But then the question arose. Where could I go? It had been raining almost constantly since Thanksgiving and so footpaths through fields were more suitable for a slalom kayaking course than a pleasant walk. Then, out of the blue (sky, that is) came the answer – I think there’s a tarred footpath all the way round Hollingworth Lake. It’s a reservoir situated in beautiful rolling countryside just outside Littleborough. Sarah and I had ended up there, quite by accident, and had found a wonderful little café, The Olive and Pickle. (I later found out that the son of Peter, the churchwarden from Sowerby Bridge was a chef there!) So, I could walk round the lake and combine it with coffee or lunch, depending on the o’clock. It was also one of my mum’s favourite excursions. Perhaps I can even find a photo of her there in one of my holiday diaries. I also recollected, vaguely, that the place had cropped up in doing some ancestor hunting – the name Pickthall came to mind. I discovered that there is a railway station only 10 minutes walk away from the lake, so off I trotted to the railway station and booked a return off peak ticket to Smithy Bridge – with a pass. In the summer I’d gone to the lake but walked from Littleborough not realizing that it was closer to the Smithy Bridge station.
Elevenses at The Olive and Pickle
There was a little frost on the road to the station and the platform had been generously gritted to prevent people with their heads glued to tiny screen from obliviously slipping into the path of an oncoming train. Snow covered ‘the tops’ as the train passed over, or rather, through, the Pennines and into Lancashire. I was the only person to leave the train at the tiny station of Smithy Bridge after a half hour ride. Amazingly, the sun was also out in Lancashire. Ten minutes later the Lake came into view, as did The Olive and Pickle. The temptation was too much. So much for a walk and then lunch. It looked as if it had to be coffee, then a walk, but at least the weather looked as if it would stay good. Why is it that the weather takes on a persona in this country? Even the forecasters on the TV and radio say things like, ‘I’m afraid it’s going to be frosty again today’ and ‘Another gloomy day in store in the North West’? It makes the weather far more personal, and I like that. The Olive and Pickle was crowded but I managed to find a table for ‘just one.’ It’s a place where retired people in little groups dress up to go for lunch and new mums treat themselves to a well earned break from the daily routine of chores, feeds and naptimes. I’d planned on beginning to read my Christmas present from Anna, Eat Pray Love, and as I opened it the waitress came over to me. “Great book” she said, “I loved the movie, and my friend read the book.” Within the first three section(that’s how long it took to consume my coffee and a scone) I’d found so many comments that I could identify with, that I just wanted to copy down word for word and claim that I’d written them.
With the sun still sparkling off the water I went to feed the ducks. I tried to feed a swan too but when I ran out of food it hissed at me in a very threatening manner – whoops! I soon had to resort to donning my sunglasses which makes me look, or perhaps I should say feel, very American. Sunglasses are just not worn here in the winter. There were loads of people walking along the water front, sampling the fish and chips. At the Wine
Brrrrr – the hardy ones
Bar, many of the outside tables were occupied. I mea, the sun was shining, so obviously you have to sit outside. Never mind that the temperature is 2 degrees above freezing and that the ice crystals surrounding the snow drops hasn’t yet thawed and its lunchtime.
First snowdrops of the season
Walking around the reservoir made me think of the hundreds of times I walked round Lafayette Reservoir, and all the people I’d walked that with over the years I lived in Walnut Creek. I stopped many times to take photos, often with some art project in mind. It’s about 3 miles in total and as I came back to a little track close to the ‘Beach’ I suddenly felt as if I’d been in that spot before. When I got home I looked it up in my travel diaries. Indeed! In May 1998 I had returned to England for a week when my dad died, and this is what I wrote: May 4th 1998 Bank Holiday Monday in England signifies lack of public transportation. Mum and I had tentatively planned to visit Hollingworth Lake and when a bus did finally appear in Tottington that was going all the way to Rochdale we thought our luck was in. However, there were no buses to the lake from there so we resorted to finding a taxi – something that my mum would never have dreamed of doing. As we neared the lake we saw that all the parking spaces were filled and the place was packed with hoards of holiday makers in T shirts and shorts, freezing in the cold wind blowing off the water. The sky was black and foreboding as children licked their ice creams
From my 1998 journal
and people in ubiquitous anoraks sat outside the pub, enjoying the fresh air whilst desperately trying to warm up their frozen hands by cuddling their mugs of hot tea. We elected to eat our pork pie inside the café where we had taken the girls on their last trip out with my dad. A pot of tea cost £1.95. I can see why so many people take thermos flasks. Instead of walking along the lakeside we opted for the less populated walk to Littleborough. I hadn’t done this before but I knew it was one of my mum and dad’s favourite walks.
My mum – 1998 journal
They used to go to a lunchtime music recital in Rochdale and then catch a bus to the lake and walk into Littleborough. So glad I have these journals. I now have no recollection of the café with the extortionate price for a cup of tea! Ending my little outing I returned to the station. Trains were every hour and my phone didn’t get a signal to find out the time of the next train, but as luck would have it, the next train to Hebden Bridge was in two minutes. I had a fun evening trying to put one of the photos I had taken of the lake into watercolour and charcoal.
This morning I found this is my mum’s journal from July 28, 1992
Regarding the letter which appeared in the Bolton Evening News approx.. 2 weeks ago. It was in the Readers’ letter page referring to a mantle clock which a person in Stockport was holding and had had in his possession for 12 years. Apparently it was inscribed ‘presended to F. V Denton and M A Pickthorn as a wedding present from the members of the choir of St Paul’s church Astley Bridge in 1913. It is a 400 day clock. I think it has a brass face. The person who advertised it was hoping to trace the descendants of the people so as it pass it on to them. Now Frank Vernon Denton and Martha Ann Pickthorn when married lived in Rochdale and had two daughters, Vera (aged 75) and Irene, known as Rene , aged 77. Rene became Mrs Cheetham of 61 Rooley Moor Raod Rochdale. Wed July 29, 1992. I phone Jack’s cousin, Rene Cheetham. She told me that in 1929 their parents (i.e Jack’s uncle Frank) left Bolton to live in Rochdale. Vera was 12 and Rene 14. She recalled the mantle clock and that it was presented to her parents. She has no recollection of the clock in Rochdale but she will ask her sister. Rene does remember the clock going to Rochdale with the family in 1929. Incidentally they used to live near Hollingworth Lake where Jack and I visited frequently after enjoying listening to Music at Lunchtime in the Champness Hall, in Drake Street, Rochdale. She also told me that whilst living there one winter the lake was frozen over and she remembers horses and carts being driven onto the frozen lake. Her dad, Frank Vernon, died in 1942 and her mother, Martha Annie, and Vera and her husband all lived together at Lake Road. I can’t find a Lake Road, just Lake Bank, which is the road that borders the lake, on which the Olive and Pickle can be found! Yet another thing to add to my Find Out Where They Lived dossier.
Work in progress