S.V’s night under the stars along with six others from Ewing School
As I write this entry, it is exactly thirty years since my last breakaway with a few fellows from Ewing School. In addition to the Middle Group’s annual holiday, yours truly with four other pupils (who left Ewing School the following month) had a weekend away in Crowden.
For some, the two days offered a welcome break from World Cup Italia ’90. At the time, I cared little about football; my previous football shirt was a secondhand 1982 Southampton shirt with the white bib (as worn by Kevin Keegan and Frank Worthington). That would change in a few years after my induction day at my next school.
My first and only camping trip made a great impression on me. I gained a greater interest in the Longdendale Reservoirs. Also the long closed Woodhead line and the Dark Peak scenery. At the end of the break, I slept better for knowing that Compo’s submarine was in The Last of the Summer Wine Museum. The best thing for me was being in ‘Real Country’.
Seven Go Camping in Crowden (29 June – 01 July 1990)
- Mrs Butterworth;
- Carsten Earle;
- Jeni Mobbs;
- Catherine Thompson;
- Stuart Vallantine;
- Karen Warburton;
- Rebecca Willis.
Two orange tents; a bigger tent with space for two people with a communal lounge; and a red Manchester Education Committee Freight Rover minibus.
29 June 1990
As school days went, Friday 29th June 1990 was a typical school day with the Middle Group. Afternoons meant gardening with a tea party to take us to the weekend. At 3.30 pm, the usual flurry of taxis and minibuses left Central Road for parts of Greater Manchester, Cheshire and West Yorkshire.
There was one spare place in my usual taxi to and from Ewing School: my seat, which meant a slightly early finish for my usual chauffeur. As soon as the traffic died down on Central Road, myself and six others set off for Crowden campsite.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Crowden, it is literally in the back and beyond on the Woodhead Pass. What passes for public transport is three return journeys, on a National Express coach to Sheffield. It is on the banks of the Longdendale Reservoirs and along the Pennine Way, where Laddow Rocks is a challenging stretch.
If you can yomp a little way towards Holme Turn, on certain days, you can get South Pennine Community Transport’s 351 route from Holmfirth to Glossop.
From West Didsbury, we continued our merry way via the M63, M66 and M67 motorways. Unlike 2020’s pre-pandemic traffic levels, the approach was clear. We slowed down a little at the end of the M67, though not to a grinding halt.
Our next stop was J. Wood’s Hardware Shop for a few bits: midge repellent for the tent was one item. At teatime, we arrived at the campsite. Firstly to pitch our tents, then a modest tea. Then we took a walk from the campsite to the confluence of Crowden Great Brook and Crowden Little Brook. Had we continued northwards, we would have been on the Pennine Way up to Laddow Rocks.
Another gate took us into Brockholes Wood. What struck us on the walk was its wildness: foxgloves and bracken growing freely, interrupted only by gates, fencing and North West Water signage. For a while, Catherine, Rebecca and Karen walked into the bracken, waxing lyrical over its springiness.
After walking towards the first few yards of Crowden Little Brook, we walked across the footbridge and took in the barren, yet beautiful landscape. Then we made our way back before supper (tea and biscuits), before retiring to bed. After cleaning my teeth in the shower room I went to my tent, which I shared with Carsten.
30 June 1990
The following Saturday was a busier day. As well as taking in the sights of Holme Moss and Torside, we learned about the unpredictable Pennine weather. The day began with sunshine, with yours truly and Carsten, then Catherine, Karen and Rebecca rising for breakfast with Mrs Butterworth and Jeni Mobbs.
First up was a trip to Holmfirth. From Crowden, the most direct route to the Holme Valley town is along the A6024 from Woodhead. If you are unfamiliar with that road, it is too steep for lorries though adequate for red 1985 Freight Rover minibuses. Today’s 351 route goes that way.
For the outward journey, we approached Holmfirth via Dunford Bridge, Winscar Reservoir and Hepworth. On arriving in Holmfirth, our first stop was The Last of the Summer Wine museum. In 1990, it was (and remains) in full view of the River Holme. You would have half expected to see Nora Batty by the door.
After exploring the town, we made our way back to Crowden Campsite – albeit with a convoluted, yet necessary diversion. With the inclement weather, we gave al fresco cookery a miss in favour of the chippy. We returned via Holme Moss, where we had a photo stop. Then the A6024, to the strains of yours truly warbling Gary Numan’s Cars.
From Holme Turn, we continued towards Padfield before stopping at a chippy in Glossop, opposite the Norfolk Arms. We went for the traditional fare: pie and chips, fish and chips… that sort of thing, though I went for the pie with chips. (The chippy is now Norfolk Pizza). Then we were driven back to Crowden, eating our chips in the big tent.
With the wet weather, walking was off limits. We were treated to a bit of thunder and lightning which looked spectacular atop Hey Edge. For a while, I turned to my drawing pad, with the strangest of muses inspiring my latest sketch: a hotel called The Green Worm.
At the time I had a slight interest in petrol stations and their petrol pumps, and thought the green coiled midge repellent would inspire a motel. Possibly somewhere in Derbyshire near Stoney Middleton, or off a beaten track in the US of A. Strictly speaking, the name wasn’t just inspired by the midge repellent; it was also the Green Kettle Inn, north of Garelochhead in Finnart. Only with a green worm instead of a kettle in the drawing.
01 July 1990
After spending two days without television or radio, I somehow succeeded. Today, I probably would find having no WiFi nor mobile internet a challenge in the middle of Crowden. On Sunday, we spent our last breakfast together before taking down the tents and returning to urbanity.
Sunday was also Karen’s 12th birthday. With the tent being no place to enjoy a drink or birthday cake, we had another plan before going our separate ways.
From Crowden, we headed towards Etherow Country Park, a semi-regular day trip with Ewing School at the time. Our journey took in the Woodhead pass before we continued to Tintwistle and Mottram. Then we reached Compstall via Werneth Low and Greave.
To all intents, our stay at Etherow Country Park was only a brew stop. Soon afterwards, we were dropped off at our respective homes. As I lived closest to Etherow Country Park, I was dropped off first. On passing All Saints R.C. High School, Mrs Butterworth reminded me that this was my new school. Part of me thought “Really? That has soon come around.”
And “soon come around” it did. After being in the Dark Peak with two teachers and five classmates from the Middle Group, I said my goodbyes on arriving home. For my fellows the following Monday, another day with Jeni, Rita and Mrs Butterworth. For me, the start of a new adventure: what would become my new school in September.
Needless to say, the camping holiday had me in the right frame of mind for what would be an important Monday at All Saints. The Monday that was my Induction Day.
Where did the time go? I shall leave you with this tune which captured the mood of this weekend. As well as that year’s World Cup Finals.
S.V., 29 June 2020.