Barry’s journey down memory lane calls in on the time the ‘Lads topped the old Division 4 and when he enjoyed a brief encounter with a girl he loved more than she him.
A Rudyard Love Affair
It doesn’t surprise me that my parents had a different love affair with Rudyard than most of the grownups in our village. Not only was it known as our Blackpool in the Potteries, it was also just a Kingfisher’s flight away from Horton Hall – the ancestral home for many born with the name Edge. But that’s a story for another time.
As a child I would be amazed by nature’s gift in providing us with lake in a fold surrounded by a steep wooded valley at the southern end and opening out into the rolling countryside at its northern point. It simply is a lover’s paradise. Well, for me it is, and was. More about that last part later.
As you all probably know Rudyard is named after Ralph Rudyard who is said to have killed Richard lll, and is the name given to Rudyard Kipling whose parents first met on its leafy shores.
Did I say one of nature’s wonders? Well, in a way it is if you take into consideration it was man made to provide water during the summer months to the Trent-Mersey canal system and played a vital role in the early days of the industrial revolution. But by the time yours truly arrived in the world it was becoming a favourite place to rest and recreate for people from all over the County. For those who came from afar they would refer to it as a reservoir. To us it was a water wonderland.
There was a camping ground on the west side a few hundred yards up from the dam head and it would be there that my mum and dad would pitch our bell tent – always a talking point for other campers. From memory Lake Road ended suddenly into a large field belonging to one of the many small farms in the area.
With all our camping gear and other luggage having been sent on the week before, we would travel to Leek either by PMT, Proctors or Beresford’s. We usually left from outside the Werrington Hotel in Bucknall before changing buses in Leek to travel the short distance up the Leek/Macclesfield Road to Rudyard Road. Our journey would be completed by walking into Rudyard, turning left at the junction of Dunwood Lane, then left again into Lake Road, past the Hotel at the top of Dam Road – and the little souvenir shop further up on the right hand side – before veering off to the left onto the camping ground.
With the tent up, and the primus hissing away under the kettle to make a cuppa for mum and dad, my sister and I wasted no time in taking off to enjoy ourselves. It didn’t matter we’d been here before because we could always find something new to do without costing a single penny. In fact, you could say it was cost neutral when it came to spending with only a small Penny Arcade and Carousel to prise away our pocket money. The Wall’s ice cream man came by daily, and our supply of Burton’s pop seemed to materialise from thin air.
The Penny Arcade and Carousel were side by side and located alongside the dam head at the bottom of Dam Road. The ‘Arcade had seen better times and, unless it was teeming down, we rarely went in there. As for the Carousel, a combination of 6 to 8 horses and cars, the least said the better. One thing I clearly remember about the Carousel is the music of Chuck Berry and Lois Armstrong because their records were played over and over again – especially ‘On Top of Old Smoky’ (Chuck Berry) and ‘I Found my Thrill on Blueberry Hill’ (Lois Armstrong). To this day those two songs connect me to Rudyard Lake.
What was I saying about love affairs? Ah yes, now I remember.
It was the 1958/59 season and we were in the old Fourth Division. Port Vale and Coventry had been running neck and neck for top spot – even though the top four teams would gain promotion. We had lost 1-0 at their place two or three weeks earlier. It was April when Coventry made the trip to Vale Park.
Spring was in the air, and I’d just started going out with girl who lived with her folks near the junction of Ubberley Road and Beverley Drive, Bentilee. But not long afterwards she and her family moved to Cobridge. In my mind’s eye I can still picture Dorothy, and she could have been my guide anytime down my ‘Yellow Brick Road’.
On the occasion of Coventry’s visit to the Hamil I suggested to Dorothy that she might like to go to the game with me. In response she suggested we go to Rudyard Lake for the day. Sadly, my heart was in her hands (no smart comments, if you don’t mind). So we went her way.
Boy was I annoyed to have missed the game. Port Vale 3, Coventry 0. My mates were talking about that score-line for weeks afterwards – generally to get ‘under my skin’ for not having been at the game, and particularly because I was ‘persuaded by a wench’ to miss the match.
In hindsight Rudyard and Dorothy are remembered not so much as bringing two love birds together. But more for saying goodbye to each other – although at the time I wasn’t aware that was going to be the case.
Port vale eventually finished the season as Division 4 winners. Coventry was second.
See you later…
March 26, 2005