Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday's spotlight - Crooked and Twisted

By guest blogger Pete.

A week ago last Thursday, Pam and I set out to visit a friend of a good few years, who now lives in Chesterfield. Chesterfield was our home in the late 1960s and early 1970s and we have many fond memories of it.

To the east of the town lay the Derbyshire coal mines - gone now!! The picturesque mining villages remain - picturesque in appearance but not even utilitarian to live in. Quite a few from the mining community lived in Chesterfield and the Markham Pit Disaster in the 1970s hit the town very badly. On that occasion the pit cage dropped from the top of the mine shaft right to the bottom, killing all who were in it. All that almost immediately after the annual 2 week holiday period when most of the important maintenance work would have been undertaken.

To the north of the town - now unseparated from it by any green belt area - lies Sheffield. At one time this was the steel making centre of the U.K. but I'm not sure what it is the centre of these days. When we lived in Chesterfield the skyline from the city centre was a mass of flats. It's a long time since we were last there but I think they've all gone now.

Derby, the county capital, lies to the south and this is well and truly separated from Chesterfield by green belt areas and smallish villages and towns. Derby and trains used to be synonymous but I think that link has gone also.

Chesterfield is the gateway to the National Peak District (lying east and south of the town), which is one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. Here you can see Derbyshire at its very best with views to take your breathe away. There are hills and valleys where ever you care to look and some of the most attractive villages in the country. Eyam, one of the villages in the Park, was also one of the plague villages centuries ago and was the place referred to in the nursery rhyme "Ring a ring of roses".

Ask most people in the UK what they know about Chesterfield and the answer would be that the Parish Church has a crooked spire. You really have to see this spire to believe it. If it was built today the "'elf and safety" people would soon have had it pulled down. How it came to be so crooked and twisted can only be surmised. Popular opinion says that they used green timber to build it and when the timber dried out so the spire twisted.

Chesterfield used to have plenty of heavy industry to employ its citizens but all that has gone now. In the area we lived such major factories as "Chesterfield Tubes" and "Brian Donkins" flourished. Now these factories have been replaced by rows of guppy style flats and employment is not so plentiful.

Chesterfield can still boast of what, I consider, to be the best open air market in the country. Different days bring different types of market. Thursday is flea market day when most of the stalls sell a wide assortment of 2nd hand collectibles and rubbish. You have to be there to see it. You don't have to buy anything to really enjoy an interesting morning wandering around the various stalls.

When we first arrived we had a cup of coffee sitting out in the shopping arcade. We hadn't been there for more that a few minutes or so when we were accosted by two people. It's over forty years now since I married them. Good place for reunions, Chesterfield.

If you're ever in the Peak District then do give Chesterfield a visit.

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