Recent Planning Proposals
Akzo Nobel Site - 174 new houses
We have yet to write to the planning department on this application as considerable concern has been expressed by members of the community, outside our own organisation, at the possibility that contamination on the site may be worse than has been suggested. In addition it seems that there has been a lack of proper perusal of the documentation by the planningdepartment when it received the first application for outline planning, as put forward by Woodford three years or more ago. Documents provided by Woodford do not appear to support the suggestion that mine workings are no problem, indeed everyone seems to be concerned with the mine shafts, the positions of which are known, but not of the mines themselves the extents of which are not known.
The general public may think that mines comprise of tunnels burrowing through the earth, but such tunnels are usually only made when the mine shaft is not over the seam of coal it is serving; where the seam is being mined it can extend for hundreds of yards in every direction. When mine workings are abandoned, even where pillars of coal have been left at regular intervals in them to keep the roofs up, there is a progressive collapse over a period of time where the voids left by the mine workings migrate upwards. This can take a long time but it is almost inevitable that at some point the collapse reaches the surface. Here we suspect that there are at least three separate mine workings at different levels but beneath each other!
It has been suggested that the collapse of workings on this site might not be happening because they are filled with water, which would shore them up because of the pressure. However it has also been suggested that this water is flowing, in which case the water would not provide the support that water unable to move would.
It is all very concerning and we look forward to a public meeting which is to be held in the Coach House at a date yet to be determined.
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Rakewood Conservation Area
It is regrettable that the applicant for alterations to Rakewood Upper Mill, including a large wind turbine, has refused to accept the planning committee’s refusal and is appealing his case to the Planning Inspectorate. It is interesting to speculate on how the planning department will act on this as they originally recommended approval to the planning committee.
However whatever the approach by the planners might be, we feel that where an application has been refused by the elected body of the borough, because of local concerns over its suitability, there should be no appeal rights where an unelected government officer, for that is what the Inspectorate is, can overturn such a refusal. After all how else can the intentions of the much-vaunted Localism Act be shown to be working?
Rakewood is under fire from more than this proposal as there is also an application to develop the Lower Mill as well!
We have written to the Planning department expressing our concerns and objecting to the application in its present form. The proposal isn’t all bad and the letter we sent covers every aspect (we hope!)
We were impressed with the relative quality of the proposal as an architectural concept and in another setting would have regarded it favourably as a valuable attempt to introduce some modern design into the area. The site is however in a conservation area and only a small one at that; in addition it is within the green belt (as acknowledged by the applicant) and a part of the Hollingworth Lake Country Park (not acknowledged). The number of units proposed and the ‘modern’ styling atop the only remaining piece of the mill would make an overwhelmingly strong statement in comparison to the existing conservation area houses which tend to be loosely scattered along the road. We found it to be unsympathetic to the area with little attempt at ‘fitting in’ to what is already there. For instance the appearance of the mill would reflect its industrial heritage better if it remained a single storey structure with a glazed roof as was the case latterly.
We have no problem with some redevelopment of the mill as it affords an unpleasant appearance in its present condition and is potentially dangerous. The proposal however seems to reduce the mill to just the outer walls of the weaving shed, all the remainder being demolished, and we would question the benefit to the area of this, particularly when the so-called ‘enabling’ development of the adjacent housing estate is so large. The number of houses and apartments proposed (27) is greater than the total of those already there; if we were of a cynical turn of mind we would wonder if the mill ‘preservation’ was being used as an excuse in order to allow the building of the houses and not the other way round. An acceptable number of housing units would reasonably be only five or six in order to preserve the pleasantly scattered layout which exists at present.
Considerable emphasis is placed upon the archæological significance of the mill (and the adjacent upper mill) and it is suggested that they are important parts of the conservation area as a whole. It may well be that this originally was an industrial village of the 19th century but it has not been so for the last forty or fifty years and most certainly wasn’t one when the conservation area was created in 1982. The upper mill was ‘running on empty’ then and the lower mill was no longer producing anything and was already in a poor condition and suffering progressive deterioration. Rakewood was then and still is a small rural community and these proposals will disturb this relative tranquillity in an unacceptable way. It may be claimed that the archaeological significance of the original industrial village status should be given some consideration but in view of the amount of mill to be retained we suggest that it has not.
In respect of the overall design, although we are fundamentally unhappy with the size of the proposal, we would make the following comments:
It seems somewhat bizarre to align the courtyard with a roman fort with which it has no connection either historically or visually (the fort is some four miles to the south east and beyond the motorway). It would appear to us that a more important alignment would be with the mill building which is to remain, the weaving shed, which would be the nearest three dimensional object. Aligning buildings with two-dimensional objects such as bridleways has far less impact visually and is hardly worth considering unless it is to preserve an adjacent historic pathway.
The desire to develop a contemporary vernacular language is understood, but any design described as contemporary should reflect the designs of the age which it is contemporary to. To some limited extent this has been applied but in a conservation area the proposed buildings, where new, should follow the local vernacular architecture more closely, built of local stone and roofed with slate, the windows reflecting the shapes of those in adjacent buildings. This is what would be required if conforming to the Littleborough Town Design Statement which appears to be noticeable by the absence of any reference in the application to it, let alone following its requirements. While not advocating a slavish repetition of local design it is appropriate in a conservation area of such distinction that close attention be paid to this approach.
While the arrangement of the houses, in the main around a courtyard is desirable, one thing which seems to be clear is that the discrete parking areas would be overwhelmed by the number of cars generated by such a development; it would be expected that family houses of this value and size would attract people likely to have two or more cars per household. The likelihood is that cars would fill the courtyard, destroying any pleasant views into it that might exist, and spill over into Rakewood Road which is virtually a single-track road and inadequate to carry even the traffic presently using it, particularly when there is an event at the nearby club. There is a real danger that this development would exacerbate a problem already existing: we understand that when a rugby match is being played cars are parked in every available space including the roadway; there is nowhere for coaches above a certain size to turn around and it is not unknown for a coach to have to reverse the whole length of Rakewood Road. In such conditions emergency vehicles could find it impossible to attend the scene. Any ‘improvement’ to Rakewood Road however would be likely to destroy its rural appearance and should be strongly resisted.
As already stated it is also almost certain that more than one further spaces per unit will be required over time as families mature and visitor spaces will increase this number further. Car space requirements for the houses alone will likely be in the order of 70 to 75 at a minimum. We would therefore suggest that the proposed car parking provision of 47, excluding visitor parking, is inadequate and will result in considerable annoyance parking on the adjacent roadway. A suggested parking monitoring plan would be unlikely to work as so many cars simply will not fit the available space; we also wonder who would be responsible for the operation of such a plan over time. We have knowledge of a similar plan in another part of town where disputes have become very unpleasant with those who shout or bully other residents win out!
Although describing the retained structure as being light-filled, the addition of a second storey is likely to ensure that the ground floor has less light than when it had its original glass roof. We also feel it is inappropriate to invoke some former mill structure, which hasn’t existed for a long time, in order to explain the second storey proposed for the weaving shed. We feel that this alters the appearance of the conservation area beyond reason; there is nothing in Littleborough that we can recall looking anything like this. ‘Evoking the memory’ of a building which no one living can remember is just so much verbiage. We appreciate the desire to create a ‘punctuation point’ on the corner of Rakewood Road and Schofield Hall Road but the present building, returned to its weaving shed appearance, would do this almost as well but would not be ‘in your face’ with its modernism.
Describing the new houses as ‘nestling in’ behind the mill thus reducing the impact on the surroundings is inconsistent with the description that the views from the houses are good; if the houses can see the surrounding area then the surrounding area can see the houses. Reducing the impact begs the question of how much impact there is: an unquantifiable effect. Either there is an unacceptable impact or there isn’t.
Whether the proposed hostel is intended to be a YHA hostel or otherwise it is likely to attract people in cars and this will add to an already difficult situation in the area. Basically it becomes a choice of having sufficient car parking facilities creating barren areas for that purpose or inadequate facilities leading to problems alluded to earlier.
There is another point we felt we should raise although perhaps not specifically a planning issue per se. This would seem to be a speculative development and we feel it is important that the ‘speculation’ be substantially removed from the proposal before any approval is granted. We asked if it had been established that those parts of the development, other than the housing, had been researched sufficiently to ensure they would be taken up by tenants? We queried if there were prospective tenants waiting eagerly for the buildings to become available? Had a business plan been written to ensure that the proposed units would attract occupation by going concerns? In the past similar speculative ideas have failed to be realised with the result that other proposals then follow, in this case, for instance, to change the original plan to include more housing or apartments within the mill curtilage.
We cannot understand why an architectural firm of international standing, which the applicant is using, could get it so wrong. Either a conservation area is worth conserving and protecting from unsuitable development or it might as well not be a conservation area! By that we mean that if it was felt to be suitable to be conserved when the original designation was made there should be no argument now that that was no longer the case.
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New Retaining Walls at Temple Lane
Many of you will have noticed the tremendous amount of work going on where Temple Lane drops down to the main Todmorden Road in Summit.
We have watched with interest as the work progressed and, not to put too fine a point on it, we were fearful that another ‘yellow wall’ might be built like the one which now glares at you as you travel up Halifax Road.
It is now clear that a considerable effort has been made by the Highways Department to ensure that, once the structural parts of the walls were built, they would be clad in local stone to match other structures in the area. The workmanship is delightful to see and we are pleased that it will grace Summit for many years to come.
Whether this was because we raised a certain amount of dust when the Halifax Road wall was being built, because it was being done in concrete block work (mock stone), rather than the natural stone of the area, is questionable.
Prior to the yellow brick wall the Engineers had carried out three other separate retaining wall refurbishments on Halifax Road all to a high standard in appearance and in local stone, presumably much of it from the old retaining walls that had been taken down. The reason given for the aberration of the concrete wall was that the original stone wall couldn’t be taken down because of the risk of collapse to the houses immediately above and consequently the new reinforced concrete retaining wall had to be built in front of this.
Very understandable, but begging the question as to why new local stone couldn’t have been purchased elsewhere and used there. It was presumably a question of cost, but this should not in our opinion have been the deciding factor as the wall will be there for the next hundred years or more; to preserve the appearance of the area it was an absolute must that real stone was used.
As we are, more often than not, in complaining mode we felt it was only proper that when something is done which is to our liking and to the benefit of Littleborough we should let those involved know. Consequently we have written to the Highways Department praising its efforts at Temple Lane and thanking those involved for the excellent work. It is also worth noting that, coincidental to this work, more was being done just south of it at Gale; this also has been done with excellent workmanship.
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Do we have one? If so he doesn’t appear to be interested in Littleborough or in local issues.
As we reported in the last newsletter we had written to him asking for his opinions on wind turbines. After many weeks and two reminders we received a one line reply from his local helper blandly saying he thought as his party does.
We mentioned this to one of our (new) local councillors who immediately offered to contact him and ask for a more detailed and personal reply. He did as he promised, but so far there has been a resounding silence.
In a way the lack of response tells us something about the attitude of our MP on the matter on which we wrote. He presumably doesn’t give much thought to such issues despite the impact these structures are having on our moorlands; in other words he doesn’t appear to care!
He also doesn’t seem to think it important to respond to local people’s concerns where these intrude on his own or his party’s agendas. A great pity really as we could surely do with an MP who truly represented us rather than posturing along party political lines.
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Old Police Station on Todmorden Road
At the Littleborough Civic Trust meeting on Tuesday 12th June the Chairman invited Beryl Hughes who lives on Joseph Street, which is to the rear of the old police station on Todmorden Road, to address the committee on an issue concerning her. The building has recently been converted into six apartments.
She informed the meeting that these apartments had, unfortunately, been rented to Meadows Care, a company which ‘looked after’ youths who had been put on probation.
Although this is supervised care there had been a lot of concern locally that the police had had to be called out many times to incidents there, including a drugs raid. Beryl Hughes said that she had attended the meeting simply to make the Civic Trust aware of the situation which appeared to be beyond either the police or the council to control adequately.
I attended a meeting on the 26th June at the Community Campus along with many concerned local residents, Councillors Anne Stott, Stephanie Mills & John Hartley, Inspector Davies (Police), two officers from Rochdale MBC (Child Care) and two Managers from Meadows Care.
The managing director of Meadows Care said that there was provision at these apartments for up to five youths plus two permanent staff in this ‘supported environment’ though at present only three youths are there. He said that although he was troubled by the amount of local concern he had no legal duty to inform the local residents before setting up and moving in.
The residents stated that although Meadows Care had no legal duty to inform them that they were placing offenders in their midst they surely had a moral duty. The residents then listed details of various incidents including noise at all hours, abuse to residents and their children, damage to property and cars and blatant drug dealing.
Police inspector Davies revealed that in the last few months 43 separate incidents had been logged.
With 43 incidents reported and Heaven only knows how many not reported these three individuals are a crime wave in themselves and the residents are correct in their view that they should not have to put up with it.
The Councillors, Rochdale MBC officers, the police, Meadows Care and residents all agreed to meet again on 4th September to review any progress and in the meantime Inspector Davies would liaise with Meadows Care management to see what can be done to improve the situation.
I would say to the residents ‘Don’t hold your breath, this will be with you for a long, long time’.
Editor’s note: We have consulted with a probation officer and it appears that the problems described above are being repeated all around the country. Although he was naturally sympathetic to the needs of youngsters who, for whatever reason, have strayed from the straight and narrow and who want to be integrated back into society, the officer conceded that when the company running such a project allows things to get out of hand it would seem to be ’not fit for purpose’.
It does seem unacceptable to us that such situations can be imposed upon unsuspecting communities without so much as a ’by your leave’, indeed without any prior consultation with local people at all.
The fact that the managing director of Meadows Care seemed to feel that he had no obligation to inform residents prior to the setting up of the centre seems to us to show a lack of understanding of what his obligations are; the probation officer said he felt appalled that this was the case as it was essential in his view to get any community on board with such an enterprise.
Not fit for purpose… ?
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Littleborough Action Group
Littleborough has definitely had its fair share of people who have demonstrated a passion for getting things done. When I became a councillor, I was recommended to attend the Littleborough Action Group meetings. That was because a certain Keith Parry chaired them. He was a person with a reputation for driving things forward I was reliably informed. He was a true son of Littleborough, his parents having run a shop in Victoria Street. As well as being a retired journalist who had worked in London, he had a profound knowledge of canals and boating, indeed, he owned his own boat. His experiences in journalism included TV and radio – so he was a rather exceptional communicator.
My first meeting with the Littleborough Action Group took place in the Wheatsheaf Hotel where we sat on the right as you entered from the side door. My main intention, being a totally green councillor, was to listen and take in all the news and learn about the issues and the problems that hampered progress. My background in management had removed a fear of tackling difficulties and had been replaced by an eagerness to get stuck in should that prove helpful.
Imagine my surprise when, with a knowing twinkle in his eye, Keith suddenly arrived at item 7 on the Agenda. He looked straight across at me and said that he had failed to elicit any proper answer to his claim about finding errors in the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Rochdale Canal Society. I listened intently to the excuses proffered in the past and determined to do what I could to resolve the complaint.
I acquired a copy of the said document and studied it carefully for errors. Keith had identified three and I went on to believe that I had identified seven – not that there was any competition here – it was merely a desire to be able to converse with the Rochdale Council’s solicitor in an informed way.
I chatted with the appropriate solicitor and we arranged to have a meeting. This took place in the Chief Executive’s suite in the clock tower. Mike (the solicitor) listened politely and asked me several questions to which I replied. At the end of our meeting Mike asked me to telephone him at 11am thefollowing day which I duly did.
When I arrived in Mike’s office I was informed that all 7 of the alleged errors had been acknowledged as true. Due to this, Francis Done CEO had conferred with Mike and action had been authorised which would result in the necessary corrections being in place by August – a couple of months away. The corrections necessitated more than just modifying the document, there were functional changes required too and that explained the delay before the changes could be completed. Meanwhile, everyone was asked to be silent about these measures as, otherwise, it could attract a debate that would only delay the inevitable – and cost more money in the process.
Accordingly, I did not ring Keith immediately but waited for the next Action Group meeting.
On arriving at the agenda item, Keith again looked across at me with a mischievous look in his eye. He grinned, clearly believing that I had encountered the same problems as he had.
“Well!” he said dryly, “No doubt we’re still in the same boat as before – but let’s hear what’s been said to you: it may prove interesting!”
Trying not to sound too pleased with myself, I replied, “No – actually they agree you’re right,” The look of shock on Keith’s face was a pleasure to behold! He stared across in disbelief, “Say that again,” he pleaded, “It’s worth hearing again,” he said as the fact dawned on him that his long awaited answer had finally arrived.
I repeated the reply and went on to tell him about the request to keep quiet about it until August while Francis Done supervised the work necessary to put matters right. Keith agreed.
That, in a nutshell, is why I always got on well with Keith – when he had an issue there was no “messing about” as he would put it, we both had the determination to get stuck in to sort a vexing problem. When someone sunk his boat and ruined the generator and all of Littleborough’s Xmas lights, stored on his boat, it was me Keith turned to and I advised him what to do to allay the threat that he had sabotaged his own boat. I’m glad to say that Keith was subsequently able to prove that he was not in any way culpable for that disgraceful act.
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A Year in the Life of the Chairman
As you all may know I was elected as the Chairman of the LCT at the AGM in April 2011, even though I had only joined the Trust the previous year.
This was a bit of a surprise even though I knew I had been nominated for the job; what experience did I have?
Well I can tell you, not a lot.
So why would anyone want me to take the job on?
These were the questions I asked myself as I took the over the Chair at that meeting.
Did I know where to start? No. Was I in shock? Yes. What happened then? Some members of the committee said they were not standing for re-election. These were valuable members with good view points on matters affecting Littleborough as well as valuable knowledge of how the Trust has run for numerous years including a founder member; her knowledge on the LCT, its history and management is vast. What a blow for the ! Still as they say, the show must go on!
With the help of the then secretary Margaret (who was not standing again) we muddled on and elected the new committee and officers, a total of 13 in all.
The meeting closed and after refreshments the normal committee meeting for April was held to discuss the 40th Anniversary arrangements and recent planning applications around the Borough.
Well, for the next meeting in May 2011, this was taken up by more 40th Anniversary planning & more discussion on relevant planning applications & discussions on membership of the various other organisations that the LCT are members of (such as the North West Association of Civic Trusts and Societies ) and the impending subscriptions to these . The loss of the public toilets was also discussed as was the LCT website.
For the June meeting we managed to attract two councillors Peter Evans and Ashley Dearnley as well as the service director for RMBC Planning Department, Peter Rowlinson .
Ashley Dearnley explained to the committee why the public toilets had been removed; the cost of hiring and maintaining them had been £31,000 per year while the income was only £6000.
Peter Rawlinson explained the Littleborough waterside initiative, a report that had been presented to the Pennine Township Committee on 24th May 2011. He detailed each point of the document from Durn Bridge through to the Arches and continuing up to Hollingworth Lake via the Akzo Nobel site.
A planning meeting for the 40th Anniversary was held on the 30th June to brainstorm ideas for the night invitations, numbers attending; entertainment and such like were discussed.
The July meeting was pretty active with more 40th Anniversary discussions, the details of the Rushbearing Festival stall agreed, more planning applications to consider and the fact that the original tree planted in memory of Betty Pickis had died and should we replace it? If so with what type (tree now replaced with a weeping willow)?
Finally, the on-going assessment of the conservation area .
By August we now had two regular attendees from our councillors, namely Ann Stott and Peter Evans, both of them were very forthcoming with ideas and information about anything we asked of them .
By this time I now had an idea of how the Civic Trust was run and just how much is done by the committee away from the committee meetings.
With myself and others working for a living and those who aren’t busy with the other voluntary groups that they are involved in, it’s a wonder anyone has the time to do the LCT work at all.
There was yet more planning for the 40th Anniversary by the subcommittee that had been formed specifically for this as well as the normal committee meetings.
The parking issues within the borough were brought up and discussions on what solutions there might be? It seems everyone just parks where ever they please with no regard to any parking restrictions; we know people have to park but on double yellow line?
Our present secretary (Iain Gerrard) was approached to design a new toilet for Littleborough Square. We asked what the design should be, a single room with multi use or single cubicles? Finances would be hard to come by so would this restrict the type/size of it?
September was taken up with discussions on green spaces, a new initiative by Rochdale MBC to protect and enhance the existing spaces within the Rochdale area. The Pennines Township Committee had been given a presentation and it was noted that councillors hadn’t been too impressed by this as no details had been given.
English Heritage had asked us for details of the positions of blue plaques in the area as they wished to include them in their new database.
Very little planning in that month, the main item reported on was by myself regarding the proposed emergency drain in Hollingworth Lake. This was for a plan to build an outlet drain that would allow for a one metre drop in the water level within a 24 hour period. This looked OK until you work out that the area of Hollingworth lake is 475,000 sq. metres and a drop of one metre would mean 475,000 cubic metres being pumped out into the Ealees Brook within one day. We were concerned over how would this affect the area downstream. You only have to look at the recent weather this year to see what its done to the river levels in the area and that effect equates to only about four inches of rain. Get your sand bags now just in case they have to use it AS ITS NOW IN PLACE!.
October came and we made last minute preparations for the Anniversary. We discussed Lancashire night and if we were to have a stall and if so who would man/woman it? We agreed the date and venue for our Christmas meal and I agreed to manage the booking arrangements.
The night of the 40th Anniversary came suddenly quickly and we had to set out the room at the Coach House with our chairs, tables, food... all hands on deck , mad rush getting home from work straight to venue… an hour and half later everything ready, rush home, scrub and brush up, back to Coach House time to greet the guests .
What a fabulous night, every one pulled together to make it a Big success.
WELL DONE EVERYONE…
(to be continued)
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From Brownie to Blluetooth
“I’ve got a good camera, but my photo’s don’t come out right” I berated to some people as we were sat talking after a meeting that I had attended. It was getting late in the evening and we had finished putting the world to rights, and the conversation had drifted into other topics and somehow round to the tak-ing of pictures.
“Most cameras can take good pictures” said Alan “It’s just knowing how to use it properly” And so began a passion that has lasted almost a lifetime.
Alan, Alan Butterworth, was one of the adults in a group of people with a shared interest in politics, I was in my early teens and I had `graduated’ from a Kodak Brownie 127, to a camera with an adjustable aperture, in the form of four symbols, from bright sun, to dull and cloudy! however, Alan suggested that I take the camera up to their house and we would see what we could do with it; so it was, that one Saturday afternoon I took my camera, and a film to Alan’s Mum’s house, he explained the symbols, and we took some pic-tures, the camera used 120 film, allow-ing eight shots to a roll. Alan then said “Right now let’s see what we have got” he went into his dark room explaining that the next step had to be done in total darkness, a bit later he came out carrying a round black plastic drum type thing which then had the exposed film inside it, I was to learn later that it was a developing tank, and once loaded, it allowed the developing of the film to be carried out in daylight.
He showed me the procedure for devel-oping a film, and when it was done we gave it a short wash, and hung it up to dry, I had seen negatives before, but never all joined together on a long strip of celluloid, and which, less than an hour ago was removed from my cam-era. Oh, I was full of questions. Could I do that? Did it mean that I wouldn’t have to take them to the chemists to have them done? Could I now take the negatives to the chemist for some pho-tographs to be made? And there was probably twice as many questions still buzzing around inside my head. Alan, showing great patience, then unclipped the film strip and told me that first we needed to see the pictures before de-ciding which ones to keep, and to do this we would make some contact prints.
In the darkroom, each negative was cut off the strip and the first one placed in a frame, I was to turn off the light and Alan turned on a red light, and so we were able to see a little of what we were doing, a piece of light sensitive paper the same size as the negative, ( about three and a half inch by two and a quarter inches ) was put next to the negative, the frame was then clipped together and laid on the bench under-neath the room light, I was to turn on the light when instructed, at the same time Alan switched on a time clock, as soon as about twenty seconds had elapsed I turned off the light, the sensi-tive paper was then put into a tray which had Developer in, the clock was started, and we watched and waited, at first nothing happened, all we could see was a white piece of paper moving about whilst Alan rocked the tray, then, slowly, a ghost-like image appeared, getting stronger and stronger until we could almost see it clearly under the red light, when two full minutes had past, the paper was lifted out and rinsed in water, before being placed in the third dish, this I was told was Fixer, and meant that the paper would no longer be light-sensitive.
Well, I couldn’t wait to see the result, after a further two minutes of gentle rocking in the dish, the print was ready to be viewed under white light, I switched on the light and we both looked at the print, and there, in the sink now being washed under the tap was a picture – albeit small – but quite well defined, of our avenue, just outside the house, one of the eight we had tak-en, just to test the camera, we then turned off the light and developed the other seven prints, whist I was gaining more information from Alan, things like, how, if I wanted bigger pictures, I couldput the negative into an Enlarger, which is a type of projector, that beams the negative image onto a larger sheet of paper, and that contact printing was still a useful method of judging which prints to make larger. Well my next step was to learn how to make my own contact prints; I found out that our local Chemists sold these kits. After much reading of books from the library, I progressed from contact printing to enlarging in my own dark-room. I had darkrooms in most of our houses, sometimes improvising, some-times dedicated ones, with my last en-larger being an automatic self focusing machine that stood alongside other modern equipment, allowing me to make pictures with very little effort. But, for all the time and effort I spent making prints, and the countless hours in the darkroom, I never lost that thrill I first experienced when watching a print develop in that developer dish.
I also kept up with advances in cameras, (finances permitting) moving onto thirty five millimetre cameras, trying to keep up as they became more and more so-phisticated; from built in light metres - a method of measuring the exposure – to fully automatic cameras, with auto fo-cusing and auto exposure. I was almost a gadget freak when it came to cameras.
And so to the digital age, and an age where more people than ever before have the facility to take pictures, with more intelligent units than could never be imagined when I started, and con-signing the darkroom to the dim and distant past, for all but the seriously dedicated photographers, but my feel-ing is that with the technology available today, the same and sometimes better, results are often obtained with the digi-tal cameras and computers that we use today, and for the real photographer/ computer buff, the possibilities are infi-nite, but we are in danger of possibly going beyond the parameters of pho-tography as such, and entering into a world of computer art.
But for most of us a quick snapshot, or even a short video, on our mobile ‘phone is what we aspire to for the most part, having to send it to the com-puter through Bluetooth, simply be-cause we have lost the connecting USB lead, and we want to let our “friends” see it on one of the social networking sites.
I, for my part, am still a camera freak, something which I am able to indulge in, thanks to E Bay. I can buy a camera that I like, try it for a few weeks, and sell it again, with little or no loss if I do not like it. So, it just goes to show, that from a simple box Brownie to the latest digital innovation, some things never change!
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The Memory Box
Another extact from Rob Broome's memories of a bygone era in Littleborough
The Challenge Spring Egg Balance
It’s Sunday afternoon and the sun is shining. Mum has decided she’d like to go for a Sunday afternoon walk. I’m quite pleased about this because it means I won’t have to go to Sunday school.
Every Sunday (except when Mum decides to go for a walk) I have to go to Sunday school twice – once in the morning and once in the afternoon. It’s at Greenhill Chapel which is on Clough Road, a rough track leading to the hills about half a mile from where I live on Calderbrook Road.
Now I’m eight, I don’t have to sit with the babies on the chairs at the front any more. We older ones sit on the long polished benches at the back. They’re really strange benches because the backrest swings forward and back so you can sit on them facing either way. You can have some fun because if people are sitting on them and you give the back a shove, it pushes them off the seat!
When you go in through the door you hand in your Star Card to Vernon Kershaw who is sitting at the table just inside. He stamps it with a star. At the end of the year, they count up all the stars and you might get a prize. I’m a good attender because every year I get either a first or second prize. Last year I won a second prize, and as we’re allowed to choose our own, I picked a Romany book called Out With Romany by Meadow and Stream.
I’m getting a bit fed up with Sunday school because it’s boring, but Mum says I have to keep going. And what’s more, if Mr. Fielding gives her another bad report about my behaviour I’ll be in serious trouble.
Anyway, this afternoon I’m not going to Sunday school because we’re going for a walk. Over dinner, Mum and Dad have a talk about where to go. Mum’s favourite walk is along the Carriage Drive which leads from Todmorden Road to Town House. That’s a large stone house owned by the Harvey family, and Mr. Harvey is a mill owner. It’s a short walk, but it takes you right past the servants’ entrance and the stable block at the back where they used to keep the carriages. Mum likes it because it’s flat and she can wear her high heels and we sometimes meet her friends on the way.
Dad would rather walk up Shore Road, past Shore Mills, and on through the fields towards Stubley. And that’s where we’re going today. Mum still decides to wear her high heels.
When we’re ready we all set off along Calderbrook Road until we get to Caldermoor corner, and then take a right turn. Shore Road is a really steep hill and soon we stop for a breather and turn round to look down over Littleborough all laid out before us. We can see the tall windows of the Central School where I go, glinting in the sunlight next to Harehill Park, and the dark dome above the Co-op Offices on Harehill Road. I can even see the clock on the spire of the Parish Church overlooking the Square.
After a few minutes we go on again. On our right is Mr. Hawkshaw’s house. He lives with his wife in a stone cottage half way up the hill. His job is making wickerwork baskets out of lengths of cane and strips of raffia and he works in the front room of his house. You can’t tell he’s blind because his eyes are open all the time – although they look a bit funny – and he talks just like everyone else. I went with Mum once when she bought a new basket to carry our shopping in, and he knew I was there even though I didn’t say a word.
He said, ‘How are you, young man?’ and I said, ‘Very well, thank you.’ And afterwards Mum said that was very polite.
Soon after we pass St. Barnabas’s Church we come to Fred Fielding’s house. He’s the superintendent at Sunday school, but he’s not at home this afternoon because he’s at Greenhill Chapel where I should be. There’s a lady looking out of the window so I hurry past with my head down. But then – Oh no – Mum waves to the lady through the window and she comes out and they start talking at the gatepost. So I walk on for a bit and wait for them up the road until the lady goes in again and Mum and Dad start walking after me.
When they catch up I ask Mum what she was talking about.
‘That was Mrs. Fielding,’ she says. ‘We were talking about Chapel and when the rehearsals start for “The Messiah”.’
‘Did you talk about me?’
'No, of course not. Don’t be silly!’
So I just carry on walking, wondering if Mrs. Fielding will tell Mr. Fielding that I was out walking when I should have been at Sunday school.
We come to the Gatehouse of Shore Mills where the lorries drive in, and from then on, next to the footpath is a high stone wall. I can’t see over it so Dad lifts me up and I rest my arms on the top. On the other side of the wall is a mill lodge and a great big weaving shed with a zigzag roof and lots of oblong windows.
Mum says, ‘Arnold, he’s scuffing his shoes on the stones!’ so Dad puts me down again and I give them a rub and we carry on walking.
Through a gap between two of the huge buildings I can see the house the Manager lives in. It has five windows at the front: one at each corner and one in the middle over the front door. It has a garden wall with a wrought iron garden gate, but all he can see from his front windows are the mills that he works in. Still, as he’s the boss I don’t suppose he minds.
We get to the top of Shore and suddenly we can see for miles! The old King Bill is on our right looking out over the fields as far as Featherstall and Stubley just as we are. Dad says that as it’s Sunday we should give him his proper name which is King William IV Inn – and it’s true because that’s what it says over the door.
By the side of the bridleway that leads over to Wardle village – which we’re not taking – I can see some large brick houses with the windows boarded up, so I ask Dad about them.
‘Those are the Cottage Homes,’ he replies. ‘They were used for orphans before the War, but they’re all empty now.’
‘Why? What happened to the children?’
‘I’m not sure. I suppose they all went back to their families.’
‘But I thought you said they were orphans…’
‘Which way are we going?’ asks Mum, and we look at the three routes to Stubley. We can go down the stony track that leads across the meadows past Bent’s farm, or we can go along the path towards Starring Potteries, or we can cut through the rhubarb fields and end up at Featherstall and Grandma Broome’s house.
We usually go down through the rhubarb fields so I go towards the path that leads between the two hawthorn hedges. On the other side of the hedges are fields filled with rhubarb. They have large flat leaves and long red stalks, and they take up all the space in the fields. Dad says when he was a boy, he used to pick some stalks and dip them in sugar.
‘What did they taste like?’ I ask.
Dad pulls a face and says, ‘Pick one and see.’
I lean through the hawthorn bushes and pull out a nice pink stalk. I take a bite from one end. It tastes terrible! I screw up my face and spit it out and shake my head because it’s so awful.
Dad laughs and Mum says, ‘Arnold!’ and then she says, ‘I’ll decide which way we’ll go’, and walks off down the path towards Starring Potteries. So Dad and I follow on behind.
We stroll along for a while, stopping now and then to look into the clear, bubbling brook which runs by the side of us, until we come to a field with a horse looking at us over a gate.
‘It’s waiting for you to feed it,’ says Dad, and I wonder what he means. To show me he pulls a tuft of fresh green grass that is growing on our side of the gate and holds it out to the horse. The horse leans over and gently takes it from his outstretched palm.
‘Right,’ says Dad. ‘Now it’s your turn.’
‘Will it bite me?’
‘No… just be sure you hold it on the flat of your hand.’
I pick a tuft of grass and he shows me how to flatten my hand so that it’s like a plate with the grass in the middle. Then I move timidly to the horse and stretch out my arm towards it, with Dad right behind me. The big head moves down and I can feel the leathery lips gently rubbing my palm and a second later it is empty!
Flushed with my success, I pick another clump of grass, and then another, and Dad and I spend a few minutes feeding the animal and patting its nose. In the meantime, Mum has strolled on ahead, so we hurry to catch up with her and continue along the lane.
Soon we come to Starring Potteries, which is not really a pottery but a ruin. The brick buildings have tumbled down now but there are piles of brown earthenware pipes stacked here and there and lots of broken pieces on the ground. Dad says that years ago people used to mine coal and dig out the clay close by. They moulded it into pipes before firing them in the kilns.
We wend our way through the remains of the old pottery and carry on towards Stubley, where we’ll find Grandad Broome’s hen pen. I run on ahead until I come to a shaded hawthorn path on the left and turn into it.
Grandad is sitting on a bench leaning back against his biggest shed with his forefinger curled around the pipe that he’s smoking. He looks up without a flicker of surprise on his face as though he knew we were coming. I push open the gate and run in to say ‘Hello’ to him, and he gives me a silent pat on the head.
‘What are you doing?’ I ask.
‘Nothing. I’ve just been checking the hens.’
By this time Mum and Dad have arrived and Grandad gives the answer to Dad instead of me.
‘You know that broody hen that’s been sitting for a couple of weeks, Arnold?’
‘Well, I think it’s going to desert. She’s been off the nest an awful lot.’
Dad nods again, and I ask, ‘Is that bad?’
Dad says, ‘If the hen leaves the nest, the eggs won’t hatch into chickens.’
‘Because the hen’s body keeps them warm.’
I sit quietly next to Mum for a minute or two thinking about this, whilst Dad and Grandad disappear into the big shed. A moment later Dad comes out again and fills a bucket from a nearby water butt. I follow him back in and find Grandad lifting some little squirming, pink creatures out of a box on the floor and dropping them into a cloth bag. They are making squeaking noises, and a tabby cat is walking round and round mewing loudly.
‘What are those?’ I ask.
‘Tiger’s had another litter,’ says Dad, ‘and Grandad can’t keep them. There are too many.’
‘Are they kittens?’
‘Can we have one of them?’
Grandad ties up the top of the bag and drops it into the bucket of water that Dad has brought in. I stare at it for ages expecting something to happen, but it doesn’t. There’s no squealing or wriggling or anything. The bag just stays at the bottom of the bucket and Dad and Grandad carry on talking about the hens. Tiger keeps walking round and round mewing.
After a few minutes, Dad notices that I’m still staring at the bucket and says, ‘It doesn’t hurt them, you know. It’s all over in a minute or two. Come over here and give the hens a handful of corn.’
So I go over to the big tub and put my hand in and go out through the other door and throw the corn into the hen-run. The hens run towards me and moments later they are pecking it up from around my feet as fast as they can go!
Back in the shed, Grandad and Dad are putting some eggs on a tiny set of scales and watching the little pointer move up and down the dial at the front. As they take them off they are putting some in a tray on the left and some in a tray on the right.
I watch them for a while and then I ask, ‘What are you doing?’
‘Grading’, says Dad briefly and, knowing that’s the only answer I’m going to get, I go outside to where Mum is sitting on the bench. And that’s when I have a big, happy surprise, because Auntie Nellie and her friend Edith are just walking in through the hen pen gate!
As soon as Auntie Nellie arrives, everything cheers up immediately. She says, ‘Fancy seeing you here!’ and bursts out laughing. I tell her we have been on a long walk up Shore Road, and then down through the fields past the potteries, and that I fed a horse on the way.
Edith settles down next to Mum on the bench, but Auntie Nellie says, ‘Let’s go for a walk around the garden,’ and we set off round the other part of the hen pen where Grandad grows potatoes and parsnips and rows of peas and ‘chrysants’ – which is what Dad and Grandad call chrysanthemums.
We talk about everything. She lets me pick a few pea-pods from the rows of peas even though they’re not quite ready yet, and we look at the beetroot pushing their little fat red bodies out through the soil, and I ask why you have to bend over the tops on the onions, and what would happen if you accidentally ate the butterfly eggs on the cabbage leaves.
She says, ‘Good gracious me, what will you think of next! I’ll have to have a cigarette!’ And she gets out her packet of ‘Craven A’, takes one out and lights it with her lighter. Then we walk under the damson tree and sit on another bench that just holds two. I find lots of little green damsons on the ground and pick up three or four.
‘Can you eat these, Auntie?’
‘You can eat them when they’re ripe, but they taste better when they’re made into damson jam. I’ve got some at home that I made last year – I’ll give you a taste.’
And so we go on, chattering about everything you can think of until I hear Mum’s voice calling me from the other bench near the big shed.
Whilst we’ve been away Mum and Dad and Edith and Grandad have decided that everyone is going to Grandma Broome’s house for tea. So we all walk out of the hen pen together and Grandad locks the gate behind us, and we make our way to the main road at Stubley. We walk down Stubley Brow, past Stubley Chapel, and soon come to Grandma’s house.
When we go in at the back door we find Grandma sitting in an armchair in front of the fire and Auntie Annie peeling some potatoes at the kitchen sink. Mum goes across to Grandma and asks how she’s keeping, and Grandad takes off his jacket and then his waistcoat and hangs his pocket-watch in its usual place on the little nail above the fireplace.
Auntie Nellie gives me a wink, takes a spoon from the cutlery drawer and goes over to the cupboard to reach down a jar of damson jam. I watch as she twists off the lid and decide that our afternoon walk has been much better than going to Sunday school!
* * * * *
In my Memory Box there is a small brown cardboard container with a fold-down front and a loose lid bearing the faded inscription: The Challenge Spring Egg Balance. Inside it is the tiny contraption that Dad and Grandad were using all those years ago.
It is less than 4 inches high and is topped with a shallow oval bowl to hold an egg, and a spring-loaded pointer which moves up and down a vertical scale on the front. The scale ranges from one to four ounces, partitioned in drams.
I have no idea how it comes to be in my possession, but as it has many fond associations, I think that is where it will stay.
Copyright © Rob Broome 2012
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