The brook

The first morning of our stay with our grandparents would include going to look at the brook.  This minor waterway did not seem to have a proper name, or if it did, no-one bothered to use it.  It was “t’brook.”  A cobbled entrance at the side of the butcher’s shop led to a bridge over the brook.  Water emerged from under an archway, then went under the bridge which gave access to the butcher’s outbuildings.  Even in the 1950s and 60s a country butcher was exactly that.  His meat arrived on the hoof.  At the back of the shop, across the brook were cowsheds, pig sties, hen houses and pens for sheep.  When we were taken to look around them, the unfamiliar smells and the interesting animals occupied all our attention.  It never really occurred to us that these animals might well appear on a table later.

There is always a fascination with flowing water.  Sometimes it is clear; after heavy rainfall it can be muddy.  One year when we arrived the brook was flowing orange, the colour of rust or iron ore.  No-one seemed to have an explanation.  Another year it had flat coloured plastic discs flowing in it and scattered all along the banks.  They were about three or four inches in diameter and various colours.  Where they had come from and what they should have been used for again we did not manage to find out.  About this time the cotton mills were changing their use.  The Lancashire cotton industry was finding it difficult to compete with cheap imports.  New industries based on plastic were coming into being.  The old mill buildings were being put to new uses and the local workers were doing new jobs.  It was too soon for everyone to be trying to look after the environment.  I doubt that the word environmentalist had been coined when these two incidents of pollution occurred.

Away from the main street the brook flowed through fields.  We often went for walks.  One fairly easy walk took us across the brook by another bridge.  Here we saw king-cups and other wild flowers which were unfamiliar to us.  Reeds grew all around on the moors and near water in the valley.  We used to have competitions to see who could  get the longest length of unbroken white pith from the middle of a reed.  This could be done while walking along and enjoying the countryside.

Grandad used to come on walks with us.  The path through the fields was flagged with the local stone and the ‘stiles’ between fields were an arrangement of stones which allowed people but not animals to pass.  In wet weather the stone flags became very slippery.

As a child Mum had once been in disgrace, because she had fallen into the brook on a Sunday school treat.  Helen limited her falling to the path.

“Don’t run, lest you fall!” Grandad told her.  It was no use, she had not long learned to walk and was at the stage toddlers go through when they have to run everywhere.  The damage was limited to her bumped knees, her pride and her muddied clothes