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U3A Writing: Colne Valley Splendour

…Its people are as solid and steadfast as the hills with a warmth and sense of humour unequalled anywhere in the land. It is a splendid valley….

Peggy MacKay writes of her beloved Colne Valley in Yorkshire.

Although I wasn't born in the Colne Valley, I have spent almost half my life living in it, and it is to me a beautiful place. I was born in Huddersfield and spent my early years on the other side of town — Quarmby and Sowood — but school holidays saw us with a one penny scholars return to town and another to Marsden on the tram, equipped with a picnic and a towel to go to Blakelea or Eastergate. My two sisters and our friend Maud would spend most of a summer's day paddling in the stream, gathering wild flowers and playing happily and safely with a host of other youngsters. It was heaven out in the country — no traffic and lots of space — all we needed for our happiness.

During our teenage years our Easter Monday hike often took us up Wessenden Valley to the Isle of Skye pub, where a room was available to eat our own food and buy a drink — lemonade usually, until we got a bit older and more daring, when the boys would have a gill of mild ale and we young ladies drank cider.

These were the years of industry in the valley and the only time you could really see across it was during the textile holidays — one week in August — when all the chimneys stopped smoking.

During the war years, my friend of that time lived on Manchester Road, Linthwaite, and we walked along the canal side. The canal then ran straight through Slaithwaite and my memories are of dirty water and rubbish which certainly didn't make a beautiful sight.

I went to live away for many years after the war, returning in 1962, to find a much prettier village with trees and flowers. My first return visit to the valley was on a bitterly cold evening of fog and frost. The mills were still in full production so the air was far from clean.

I came for an interview that evening for a job I did not want but was talked into applying for, as there was a house with the job — a necessity at that time. Of course, I got the job and have lived happily in the Colne Valley ever since. I stayed in that employment for 23 years and have now spent 19 years in retirement, living a little further up the road.

The valley is now green and beautiful, whatever the season. I look at this wonderful vista and never cease to thank God for guiding my footsteps to the Colne Valley. There are people who try to tell me that it is not so pretty as the Holme Valley but they will never convince me. It has beauty and character and even the empty mills — some now coming back to life with small business units — have a charm of their own. They are all part of the history of this corner of Yorkshire and there is no place quite like it.

Its people are as solid and steadfast as the hills with a warmth and sense of humour unequalled anywhere in the land. It is a splendid valley.

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