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Posted on 2017.02.20 at 21:51
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Moel Famau in the distance
Moel Famau, in the distance, being defended by sheep.

“Climbing up Moel Famau, there’s a chippy at the peak /

At least that’s what they told us; it must be closed midweek”

Mention to anyone of a certain age who was brought up in Liverpool the word ‘Colomendy’ and you will get a wistful, possibly mischievous, smile that harks back to that ‘nostalgic golden age’ that most people remember with misty eyes.

As one of the largest cities at the time, it was feared that children growing up in the city would end up having restricted access to the countryside and fresh air. Originally built as a small concentration camp for prisoners of war in World War II, the site in North East Wales between Mold and Ruthin later known as Colomendy (originally consisting of only a couple of cold, draughty, period dormitories) was requisitioned by Liverpool City Council to provide a ‘base’ for city children to experience country life; climb mountains, explore small villages, meet with farm animals, etc – generally school trips took place in the last year of Primary School (aged 10-11), lasted a week and were often the first time that they had spent significant time away from their parents. Cue the crying, the temper tantrums, etc. Over time it’s expanded to become a full ‘outward bound’ type centre (now called Kingswood) that offers all manner of exciting activities; when I went we had lots of colouring-in of pictures, a walk around a quarry, a walk around the village of Maeshafn, a walk through the neighbouring Loggerheads Country Park (clocked a theme yet?!), and a walk up the nearby mountain, Moel Famau.

Except on my trip, the weather was bad on the day my group was going to go up, so we did colouring instead. I was thus denied my first mountain. And sometimes, it’s the little things that rankle you through your life; sometimes it’s the small things on your bucket list that are the most important. And yet, because they’re so small, and so relatively ‘near / easy’, they often get overlooked.

So, 31 years later … 

Path up Moel Famau
The path up Moel Famau; I’m not sure the picture can really show how steep it was!

I had a free Sunday coming back home from Birmingham, so I thought I’d finally make time to climb it – it was a bright sunny September day, and conditions seemed right. Now, I’d consider myself quite fit for a middle-aged man. But I have to say that was one of the steepest climbs I’ve done for a while – even steeper than I had at Pendle Hill. My mind went back to being a 10-year old and wondering how I would have coped with it. It’s a lovely walk along country lanes, moody footpaths through fields of sheep, and up winding trails surrounded by rocks and low bushes. With a clear sky, the view is incredible – even from halfway up, on the obligatory ‘I need to take a breath’ stops, you can see as far as the windfarm in Liverpool Bay (some 35km away).

View from Moel Famau
The view from the top of Moel Famau, looking (I think) vaguely North-ish.

Despite the rumours amongst generations of schoolchildren, there is no chip shop at the top. There’s not even a burger van. What there is, is a ruined lookout post from which you can see a panoramic across the whole of North Wales and Cheshire, and an awful lot of wind – I felt somewhat uncomfortable up there and you could hardly hear yourself think.

Jubilee Tower
The Jubilee Tower at the top of Moel Famau, and an OS Trig Point.

This lookout post is the ‘Jubilee Tower’, commissioned to celebrate the Golden Jubilee (50 years) of King George III in 1810 (he’s the one history has dismissed as being ‘a bit mad’) and constructed between 1813 and 1817; it originally had a tower/obelisk rising 115 feet high but this fell down in 1862 due to bad weather and worse construction (at one point the architect and the main builder had a row that caused construction itself to stop for two years during the build – one assumes also that Georgian builders put more effort into their houses – see Bath – than their monuments). That said, the base of the tower has lasted quite well ever since, and is a major focal point for the locals. Assuming they manage to climb the hill …

I chose to take a different path down, a longer but less steep route that took me through the heart of Loggerheads Country Park.

Originally a milling and mining area, the country park is now mainly made up of a small forest (ash, oak, and sycamore, apparently) close to the River Alyn. Evidence of its industrial past – including an old waterway – can be seen around the park, which still houses a working flour mill, though predominantly this is for tourism rather than commerce. Going deeper into the woods, natural beauty takes over with limestone cliffs and gorges – many of which would have been mined in the past.

Devil's Gorge
The “Devil’s Gorge”, in Loggerheads Country Park. No-one was abseiling on my visit…

One such is the so-called Devil’s Gorge, a 120ft cleft in the hillside probably used for lead mining that’s now only normally visible via a footbridge, but which I have distinct memories of walking into as a 10-year-old child (one of other kids on the trip got a huge splinter here and had to be taken to hospital; Health & Safety not having as much day-to-day impact in those days). The trail there is a couple of miles through the woodland, and the path is punctuated by side trails, little tunnels through the rock (great for children to play hide-and-seek), and the occasional view over the fields to the west. It’d be a great place to some trail-running through, actually, as it’s relatively flat and easy terrain. Also a good place to pretend to be a wood-elf and go marching through with plastic swords and tin-foil armour. Not that I have ever done LARP-ing. Of course not. 🙂

Path through Loggerheads Country Park
One of the paths through the country park, sadly devoid of wood-elves!

It’s part of a larger Site Of Special Scientific Interest (covering about 190 hectares, or just under 200 rugby pitches. Its designation means it’s protected from development because of its unique geology. There is also some history here – evidence has been recently found in one of the caves in the park of habitation by humans in the neolithic period; human bones were discovered that have been dated to around 3000 BC.

The park is named after the nearby village of Loggerheads; its unusual name is said to come from a dispute in pre-Victorian days between two landowners (in Mold and Llanferres) about where the boundary between their estates should be – presumably it was a long, drawn-out dispute with little compromise on either side. The boundary is marked by a stone on the main road that dates back to this period, making this the exact location of the dispute that gave the village its name – it’s now the boundary between the modern authorities of Flintshire and Denbighshire. On the Denbigh side, the “We Three Loggerheads” pub commemorates the dispute (the third ‘loggerhead’ being the people watching, in a rather odd case of ‘breaking the fourth wall’), while on the Flint side, the ‘Colomendy Arms’ pub serves better beer …

Boundary Stone at Loggerheads
The boundary stone marking the boundary between Llanferres and Mold.

All of this is inland. When Scousers need some seaside, they often head to Rhyl. Located on the Welsh coast due north of Ruthin, although further from the city than genteel Southport, it is more ‘downmarket’ and caters more for the cheap ‘package holiday’ crowd, with mini-golf, cheesy promenade arcades, chalet accommodation, and plenty of ‘buckets-and-spades’. Seafront multi-story hotels, Full English Breakfasts, warm lager, and hen nights abound. Outside of the holiday season it suffers from the same socio-economic problems as other small seaside resorts, leading to it being one of the most deprived parts of North Wales. I’m not really selling it as a place to visit for the sort of people who read this blog, am I?!

Casino in Rhyl
One of the high-spots of Rhyl promenade – a cheesy amusement arcade and casino.

The most famous spot was the “Sun Centre”; I’d never been and it’s so not my sort of holiday entertainment, but it occupies a firm place in my childhood memories since BBC Radio Merseyside used it as a prize-winning destination (this was, admittedly, in the days before Easyjet and Ryanair, when people’s expectations were maybe more … low-key). It was really nothing more than a glorified sports and leisure centre, but for working-class families from inner-city Liverpool, it was the closest thing we had to the Med. It’s also now closed and a bit derelict; the council ran out of money to keep it open in early 2014, which maybe sums the town up a little.

Rhyl Sky Tower
Rhyl’s Sky Tower. 76m high. Opened in 1989 as a revolving observation point and gondola ride. Closed 2010 due to lack of visitors and repair costs. Obviously Rhyl is that photogenic…

Rhyl does have its bright points; the promenade is lined with weird art installations, mosaics, and sculptures that provide a bit of culture and colour, whilst the beach itself – the main draw for most of the tourists here – is large, sandy, and, by being North-facing rather than the West-facing beaches nearer Liverpool, a little less windy and harsh. You get the same view of the windfarms and oilrigs in the Irish Sea though…

Artwork on Rhyl Promenade
Part of the weird art installation on Rhyl Promenade. No, I’m not quite sure either …

Rhyl beach
Rhyl beach. Interestingly, despite being a warm summer day, it was remarkably empty …

It is, however, more of a draw than the commuter towns on the England-Wales border – Mold, Shotton, Queensferry, Flint – which are almost exclusively residential and serve as cheap places to live for people who work in the industrial belt that stretches from the steelworks and power station at Shotton, across Northwest Cheshire to the chemical works at Stanlow/Frodsham, and ultimately to the Industrial ‘New Town’ of Runcorn. It’s also notable for a large airbase and aircraft manufacturing plant at Broughton. These towns are functional rather than aesthetic, and have a dour, almost grim, feel.

Mold itself does have one minor claim-to-fame; it was the home of the foremost Welsh-language 19th Century novelist Daniel Owen. Although these days the knowledge of Welsh in this North-East corner is relatively small (in the 2011 census in Flintshire, 20% of people claimed to have ‘some knowledge’ of Welsh, while less than 13% said they could speak it), back in Victorian times, it was far more common for people in Wales to be able to speak the language. Educated primarily at the local Sunday School, he ended up training as tailor and ran his own shop in the town for many years; in his spare time he was both a writer of poems and novels, and a preacher at the local chapel. He regularly used Mold and surroundings in his works, most notably in his early novel ‘Rhys Lewis’ where he described a riot which was ‘suspiciously similar’ to a riot following a trial of local miners in June 1869.

Mold chapel
The Bethesda Welsh Calvanistic Methodist Chapel, where Daniel Owen worshipped and where he was encouraged to write.

Authorities visited: Flintshire, Denbighshire. Dates visited: 25-26 July 2015, and 25 September 2016.

Overview of Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill, not raining, but definitely quite imposing and uninviting.

Part of the Pennine range of Northern England, and geologically part of the same branch as much of the Peak District much further South, Pendle Hill (the name ‘Pendle’ derives from the Celtic word ‘Penn’, meaning ‘hill’, combined with the later Old English word ‘hyll’, meaning, er, ‘hill’, with the clarification addition of Modern English ‘Hill’. The name thus means ‘Hill Hill Hill’. Just in case it was unclear that it was a hill. That it’s blindingly obvious what it is when you look at it from Burnley is neither here nor there) stands 557m above sea level and has been lived near (and even revered) since the Bronze Age – indeed a Bronze Age burial site has been discovered at the top of the hill. It’s considered dour, wet, and mysterious, and is most famous in British Culture for being the most notable reference point in the sordid tale of the Pendle Witches.

The Pendle Witch Trials, held mostly in Lancaster on 19 and 20 August 1612, were one of the most ‘intense’ instances of accusations of witchcraft in the history of England. In total, eleven people (nine of which were women, across several generations) were charged, and nine of them were found guilty and executed. In context, in the entire period between the 1400s and the 1800s, only 500 people in total were known to have been executed, and over half of these were as a result of ‘Witchfinder General’ Matthew Hopkins being overly-zealous in East Anglia in 1645. Basically, the English never perceived witchcraftery as anywhere near the threat that the rest of Europe believed it to be.

Pendle was, and to some extent still is (the M65 isn’t the most busy motorway in the UK), a pretty remote area, tucked away on the edge of the wider mountain ranges of Bowland and the Pennines. In the early 1600s, the church still held much of the power of the land, but at the time, the area around Pendle Hill was covered by the Parish of Whalley, which was large and pretty much unmanageable by the standards of the time, with small villages in hidden valleys connected by nothing more than farm tracks. In addition, its remoteness made it a hotbed of Catholic support – the witch trials must be seen in the context of wider religious animosity; the Gunpowder Plot (Remember Remember The Fifth Of November) had only been seven years previously, and King James I/VI, who had only been king of the new dynasty for nine years, was widely believed to be more pro-Catholic than his predecessor Elizabeth I. Some of the accused were still practising Catholics, and that they were caught ‘having secret meetings’ (in reality, going to illicit Catholic ceremonies) was used as proof of their witchcraft.

It was also an area stricken with rural poverty; the ‘witchcraft’ covered a blanket of occupations and practices undertaken to either earn money, or to prevent the need to spend money – including primitive healing and herbalism – with a side of extortion/curses. In other cultures, these ‘witches’ could be described more as ‘witch doctors’, using traditional herbal medicines to cure illnesses and/or provide moral assistance to afflicted persons, in return for a small payment. (Voodoo Priests in places like Benin operate in much the same way, even today). This was also a ‘family business’, in that mother trained daughter to carry on the knowledge and traditions, but since the base population was small, even though the area was relatively large, this meant that families often clashed, in a sort of ‘Godfather meets Capitalism’ way.

Statue of Alice Nutter
One of the most famous of the Pendle Witches was Alice Nutter; unrelated to the two families involved, and quite affluent by the standards of the area at the time, she seems to have been caught up in the crossfire. Statue is in her home village of Roughlee.

A combination of these factors led to the accusations and the trial. Most of the accused came from within two families – the Demdike/Device family and the Chattox/Redferne family – both of whom accused the other of witchcraft, in order to corner the ‘market’ (such that it was – though the margins were so small that any advantage was worth the risk). The fear of anything other than Anglicanism was still high in the country, so any deviance, any reluctance to go to church, was seen as anathema to the civil order, and the state was fearful of areas like Pendle for this reason. In addition, the trial judges were, for their own personal reasons, trying to curry favour with the King so wanted to demonstrate competent handling. It’s partly for these reasons that, running concurrently with the Pendle Witch Trial, was another trial of three ‘witches’ from Samlesbury, some 20 miles west of Pendle, but all three were acquitted since the judges proved beyond all reasonable doubt that all three had been ‘framed’ as part of a Catholic plot. The ‘Pendle Witches’ weren’t so lucky.

Allegedly Alice Nutter's grave
This is believed to be Alice Nutter’s grave, in the churchyard in Newchurch-in-Pendle. While the grave seems to be dateable to about the right time, and the next grave along is for someone else in the Nutter family, no-one knows for sure (the ‘skull’ motif on it was a common emblem at the time).

Signs Around Pendle Hill
The footpaths and roads around Pendle Hill are dotted with witch-related signs.

Of course, these days the area now revels in its ‘witchcraft’ past. Shops advertise their wares with ‘witchy’ names or decorations, the small village of Roughlee has a statue of one of the accused (Alice Nutter), and even the local bus route to Manchester has the moniker ‘The Witch Way’ with individual buses named after some of the witches involved. Each Halloween, Pendle Hill itself sees hordes of people climb up it dressed in appropriate attire – much to the chagrin of the local church. It could be argued however that the Pendle Witches were just the most famous example of the supernatural awe and feeling that people have had from the Hill for as long as the area has been inhabited – it has long believed to be haunted by ghosts and spirits, and even today ghost hunters have made a beeline here.

A shop in Newchurch-in-Pendle
A stereotypical shop in Newchurch-in-Pendle. Note the witch standing guard outside too.

This may be the cause of Pendle Hill’s second most famous claim to fame. In 1652, George Fox – founder of the Quaker movement – came to the area and upon seeing the Hill, felt “moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it”. Once there, he is believed to have looked out at the surrounding area and felt a ‘vision’ of all the lands of the Earth beneath him, and all the people of the world he needed to gather together to preach the word of the Lord. There is definitely something foreboding and mysterious about Pendle Hill – with that traditional British pessimism regarding the weather, locals assume it’s always covered in cloud (“If you can’t see Pendle Hill, it’s raining: If you can see Pendle Hill, it’s about to rain” is the moniker) – meteorologically they have point as it’s the first highest point clouds reach coming in off the Irish Sea, but still ..

Climbing Pendle Hill
Really? That looks quite a gradient!

Climbing Pendle Hill
George Fox describes his climb up as “with difficulty, it was so very steep and high”. I can see why …

Evidently the experience he had at the top of the hill stayed with him for the rest of his life, and formed a core part of Quaker belief and study. One of the Quakers’ main centres for study, in Pennsylvania (the ‘Penn’ here being purely co-incidental!), is called ‘Pendle Hill’; it was founded in 1930 and named as a direct throwback to George Fox by the first Director Henry Hodgkin, because (as he wrote) “The name of Pendle Hill symbolises the call to climb to spiritual heights through hard thinking and self-discipline…to see deeper into the meaning of life and farther out into the great world, and to come down, as did Fox from Pendle Hill, with a fresh zest for the service which reaches to ‘that of God’ in all.”

View From Pendle Hill
The view from the summit of Pendle Hill, looking out towards Burnley.

Pendle Hill Trig Point
At the summit of Pendle Hill is this ‘trig point’, used by the Ordnance Survey to accurately map the UK in the days before GPS. The view is looking out towards Clitheroe.

It may also be the cause of issues of my own descent. According to the map, there was theoretically a path that headed West towards Clitheroe, although all the descriptions I’d read online before my visit only talked of paths from the East/South (the way I climbed up, from Barley) – note they didn’t specifically say there *wasn’t* a path. One of these routes was a long looping trail that did head West before curving South and then back East – a much longer but less steep path back to Barley – the trail to Clitheroe branched off this somewhere. Well, I never found it. I did come across a narrow path that broke away, but after I’d followed it for maybe a mile (Mearley Moor) I realised that it had been made by sheep, when it came to an abrupt end on a very steep slope. Looking out across the hillside all I saw were farmers’ fields – no obvious paths of any kind, but I figured I didn’t really have a choice but to go down anyway (200m down in a distance of about 400m). At the bottom of the hill were more sheep, some damp, reedy, boggy, ground, and a few fences. Now, I was wearing relatively new sandals; comfortable but I was aware they lacked a little grip when wet – not grip with the floor, but rather grip between my foot and the top of the sandal. Well, I made one too many bad step in the reeds, slipped … and broke the connection on the side of the sandal where the strap meets the sole.

Coming Down Pendle Hill
I had to walk down this, as I lost the path. This is the point I put away the camera and started to concentrate … :p

A couple of minutes later I found a gate that led to a farm, so at that point I thought my luck had changed. However this led me onto a purely gravel farm road with not even a verge either side; although only 1km long it felt much worse due to being barefoot-by-necessity (yes, I’m often barefoot. I draw the line at gravel!). Then, once I hit the main road I still had a further 3.5km slog along tarmac and dodgy pavements into Clitheroe. Both stretches were made longer by virtue of my not having a map and therefore missing the two short-cuts …

(I was going to have a wander around Clitheroe as apparently it was worth a visit. Needless to say all I saw was the railway station and the inside of a couple of shops … !)

My research into Pendle Hill for this blog post has also brought up a third notable historical incident; one as far removed from religion as you can get, yet still one answering the basic questions of the way the world works, and also, co-incidentally, in the 1600s (evidently in the 17th Century, Pendle was “The Place To Be”…!). In 1661, the scientists Richard Towneley and Henry Power conducted an experiment with the newly-created ‘barometer’ on Pendle Hill, and became the first people to prove that there was a relationship betwen air pressure and air density – that as air pressure decreases with altitude, air density increases. This then became the basis for that fundamental part of GCSE Physics, Boyle’s Law (“For a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional”), without which knowledge we wouldn’t have the bicycle pump, the syringe, aerosol cans, or cars (pistons in the combustion engine run on this principle).

Pendle Hill
Closer view of Pendle Hill, from near Roughlee.

Pendle Hill – historic, mysterious, significant.

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“I heard the coiners took the scissor to the Union Jack, with a snipper and a clipper and a bloody close shave making fivers, tenners, twenties, change.”

The Calder Valley, looking out over Hebden Bridge towards Cragg Vale
“The hills of Hebden, Hell, and Halifax” – view from Heptonstall overlooking Hebden Bridge looking towards Cragg Vale.

History is such a wide-reaching subject, but at school (certainly in the UK) we’re only really taught the mundane stuff – the Kings & Queens, life in Roman / Saxon / Norman / Elizabethan England, the Industrial Revolution in a general sense, and World War 1. It’s more amazing to hear what we don’t learn – neither the Wars of the Roses nor the three English/British Civil Wars of the 1600s, not really much about colonialism (indeed, almost nothing outside Europe, even if we were directly involved – I learned more about the War of 1812 after one day in Quebec City than I ever learned at school), and certainly very little about everyday life, the occasional peasants revolt aside. The childrens’ TV series ‘Horrible Histories’ fills in a few gaps, but sometimes you end up learning about odd titbits from completely random sources.

And so it is with the Cragg Vale Coiners, whose existence I only learned about through a song by the Yorkshire-based anarchist indie punk rock band Chumbawamba – ‘Snip Snip Snip’ from the album ‘Shhh!’ is an aggressive rock-rap summarising the background to the gang, although it doesn’t go into their demise. Although a minor footnote in the history of Yorkshire, I figured if it was interesting enough to write a song about (albeit Chumbawamba being a slightly biased source, given their standpoint would be aligned very much with the coiners), it would be interesting enough to blog about, especially as I was in the area.

The Cragg Vale itself is a small valley in the hills just south of Mytholmroyd, and is pretty isolated even today, so back in the 1760s it’s likely that the area was lightly policed and very little known about it on an everyday basis, although the coiners themselves operated at least as far as nearby Hebden Bridge, in the Calder Valley. Although supported by many both then and now due to their cocking a snook at the establishment, and seen as ‘jolly rogues’ (in much the same way as people like Dick Turpin), in simple terms what the coiners were doing was very definitely illegal – hacking bits off the edges of coins (enough to get a good sliver of metal but not enough as to make the original coin noticeably worthless), then melting the scraps and reforming them into new coins, essentially therefore literally ‘making money’ in its proper sense. It needs to be remembered of course that in those days, the coins used as money were actually worth something – made of silver rather than a cheap alloy – so were easy to work as well as being of intrinsic value in and of itself.

The road through the Cragg Vale
The road through the Cragg Vale, near the Robin Hood Inn – unfortunately too recent (c.1800) to have been one of the coiners’ haunts.

It was a particularly good spot for such activity. The main road through the Calder Valley to the North was an important trade route across the South Pennines/North Dales, linking the towns of West Yorkshire like Halifax and Huddersfield with Lancashire towns like Bacup and Burnley, from which there would be easy access to the sea. However, off the main road the mountains were relatively high and remote, so the many valleys off the Calder would have been little-known and little-ventured; even today the Cragg Vale has only one road going through it – back in the days of the Coiners, it would have been incredibly quiet and hidden, and even if people were to come through, they would have been very easy to spot from a distance, making it a simple process to hide everything away in good time before they arrived.

The leader of the coiner gang was a chap called David Hartley, who had the nickname ‘King David’ (as the leader of such an influential and rich group, complete with their own power base, it’s not hard to see why); the exact number of coiners will probably never be known but by the end of the scheme, 30 people had been arrested across the whole Calder Valley area in suspicion of forgery, some from as far away as Sowerby and Halifax. Many of the local villagers, especially the publicans, were actively involved in other ways, including providing some of the original coins from which the forgers worked (with the promise of a small ‘return on investment’, of course). The beauty of forgery of course is that most people never check their coinage to see, and as long as someone is willing to accept them as payment, no suspicions are raised. (In a sense the only people to ‘lose out’ are the government – as they’re no longer in control of the money supply – and the very last person to handle the coin, as banks/officials will check). In addition, at the time the quality of the genuine coinage was quite poor anyway due to over-handling (it was quite ‘old’), and there was a reasonable amount of ‘foreign’ (or at least non-standard) coinage already in circulation that was accepted, so the Cragg Vale Coiners wouldn’t have needed to work too hard to create a coin that people would accept, never mind shave little bits off coins that were already accepted.

This isn’t just a tale of forgery (a crime in and of itself punishable by death in those days); it’s also a tale of murder, almost out of the pages of a children’s Victorian-era novel. Once the law got wind of what the coiners were up to, they despatched a law enforcement official (William Dighton) to do some research. Initially his investigations brought fruit – one of the coiners (a chap called James Broadbent) gave damning evidence in return for immunity from prosecution, and as a result, David Hartley was arrested. His brother Isaac didn’t take too kindly to this and arranged for William to meet an ‘unsightly end’; he offered a reward of £100 (a not insignificant sum in those days) for his murder, and two of the coiners (ambushed and shot him while he was in the nearby ‘local capital’ of Halifax.

Overview of the Coiners, in the Cross Inn, Heptonstall
Overview of the Coiners’ activities, in the Cross Inn, Heptonstall. Allegedly on this spot a related murder was committed..

Ultimately, this proved a step too far for the law, who sent in what amounted to a small brigade led by an ex-Prime Minister, and promptly had the whole lot arrested. James himself was swiftly executed in York, and is now buried in nearby Heptonstall. The two coiner-murderers were eventually caught and subsequently hanged (one for the murder itself, the other for a separate charge of highway robbery). As for the other coiners, most of them seem to have been placed on what we might now term ‘on remand’ for a year until the following ‘assizes’ (court in session), but while many death sentences were handed out, they were only carried out in less than a handful of cases, and apart from a couple of deportations (to Africa, it seems), the matter seems to have been quietly dropped (according to the rolls, many of them were eventually acquitted – I assume that getting ‘King’ David Hartley had been enough to demoralise the whole group into submission). Oddly, Isaac was never brought to justice for his role in the murder of William Deighton due to a lack of evidence, presumably no-one would testify against him, and he died in Mytholmroyd many years later at the age of 75.

James Broadbent, the initial ‘grass’, seems to have escaped unscathed, although a couple of other locals/coiners thought close to the police were not so lucky; while not the ‘flame for your pants, poker for your eyes’ retribution mentioned in the Chumbawamba song, David Hartley’s gang did murder a couple of people who threatened to inform the authorities, including a coiner called ‘Abraham Ingham’ who boasted about knowing of the murder of William Deighton.

'King' David Hartley's Gravestone
The grave of ‘King’ David Hartley, in the churchyard at Heptonstall. He died in 1770; more of his family was interred in the same grave later.

As to why the coiners operated in the first place; apart from being a remote area (and therefore likely slightly less affluent than places on the trading routes), the main industry in the area was weaving (mainly wool). Since prosperity depended on a single industry, any changes in the demand for woollen goods would have drastically affected life here, and at the time the wool industry was experiencing a ‘depression’ due to, amongst other things, world peace (English army uniforms were woollen at this time so there was less demand for army uniforms). Conversely, that it was so close to a trading route meant that access to a small but regular supply of coinage was guaranteed – but thus why they needed the help of the publicans to provide them.

Incidentally, although only active for a short period and in such a short area, they have left an important legacy – it is because of people like the Cragg Vale coiners that the UK £1 coin has a ridged edge …

Authorities visited: Calderdale. Date visited: 14 May 2016, aside from the pic of Cragg Vale taken 20 August 2016.

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Return of the Barefoot Daisy

Posted on 2016.08.24 at 20:54
Tags: ,

This post will appeal to different people in different ways … 😉

Earlier this month, I was invited to a wedding in Southampton. I’d known the bride for maybe 12 years, and she’s quite a casual, relaxed soul (it’s the Dutch mentality) – after the ceremony in the church, she arranged for us all to ‘decamp’ to a country park a few miles away, where they’d organised some small marquees, beer, a barbecue, and all manner of small games & fun stuff. As a result, the “dress code” for the wedding was “festival” (specifically, wellies were okay but no high heels!). One of the events on the afternoon programme was “bare feet dancing in the grass”. Obviously that got me thinking … :p

Now, in principle I should have always been fond of barefoot sandals. In general they look like normal sandals, usually with a bit of ‘bling’ or fancy designs, but importantly they have no sole (hence the name – they’re more akin to foot jewellery than sandals). Whereas often with sandals/flip-flops there’s a strap going over the foot, between the toes, that connects to the sole, with barefoot sandals the ‘strap’ (usually a long piece of cord or thick string) loops around a toe, and then ties around the leg just above the ankle. The reasoning behind why I’d wear them is twofold – they make my feet look less ugly whilst giving the impression that I’m not barefoot at all, but rather just wearing some thin sandals. I also have this thing for daisies (I’m not sure why, but it might be something to do with the fact they’re one of the few things I can draw/doodle!), so I’m naturally attracted to that kind of design – I’m basically a wannabe hippie!

Traditional barefoot sandals in the grass
Traditional ‘barefoot sandals’, definitely very ‘bare’ and more akin to foot decoration.

However, on the few occasions I’ve worn the ones I had, I wasn’t really that ‘taken’ with them. Since the ‘strap’ was quite a thin piece of string, no matter how tight I tied them, the knot slowly worked its way down to the ankle. This means I kept losing tension in the over-foot bit, so they continually felt ‘loose’ and like they were about to fall off. As they’re crocheted, they got dirty rather too quickly – this shouldn’t be so much of a problem but as they were quite thin and fragile, they were quite difficult to clean. Finally, the trouble with most barefoot sandals to be fair, and these in particular, is that it was blindingly obvious they’re just a piece of fabric and I really am barefoot – they wouldn’t fool anyone who takes more than a passing glance. This is fine for festivals, but not for walking through city streets in the UK. (Except in Sheffield, where no-one seemed to care one iota that I was completely barefoot when I had a wander last month. Maybe they’re just so used to seeing people like my friend Bea?!)

Searching online, via Pinterest, didn’t bring anything up I liked, but then I had a chat with a friend who said that one of her friends (Mrs Blake’s Makes) might like the challenge, as long as I didn’t mind crochet again. After a few e-mails, and a tracing of my feet onto squared paper, she said she’d completed them.

New barefoot sandals
Close-up of the new barefoot sandals.

New barefoot sandals worn with jeans
This is what they would look like if someone saw me wearing them on the streets. I’m at a mosaic in the Hampshire boating port of Hamble.

This was the end result. The strapping is made with a thicker cord than the sandals I previously had, and they have a little more weight behind them, which means they stay on my feet pretty well – I wore them for the whole of the wedding weekend, and never had any problems with them. The daisies over the forefoot are unusual, and meant there needed to be two toe loops rather than one to ensure that they keep their shape when I walk. That there were so many daisies crocheted meant that a few people at the wedding were fooled – I was complemented with “nice flip flops”; when I showed them they had no soul they were impressed and would never have guessed. (I was wearing jeans for much of the day – it’s more obvious when wearing shorter trousers, when they look a little like old gladiator-like sandals). They’re very comfortable, are easy to slide on and off, and fit perfectly. They even felt like I was wearing proper sandals.

The Barefoot Backpacker in the wild
At the wedding reception in the country park – here seen with the long shorts rather than the full-length jeans.

I did get a few stares when walking through the streets of Southampton and London in them, but that was more due to the daisies than the bare feet – even though I was still a little self-conscious about them, no-one questioned my lack of footwear at all, and I went through some busy areas, certainly in London (including the South Bank and Brick Lane areas).

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I'm not here ...

Posted on 2014.07.03 at 17:46
No GPRS but: Amy's house, K-in-A
Feeling: tiredtired
Background Noise: background radio, tennis on TV
... no, seriously!

I went away on holiday on 30 April 2014 and I haven't been onto LJ since. Normally when I holiday, I provide links to my travel website on daily entries here, but this time I haven't been doing that (mainly because the scope of my travel is more than just daily updates).

Since I only have a couple of friends here who regularly post, I've made the decision to mothball this journal and only come back to check those journals.

Travel journals can now be found at: http://barefoot-backpacker.com
For general contact, my standard twitter feed is : @planet_leesti

To be fair I've barely used LJ for the last couple of years, so it's not going to be much of a loss for me to not come here on a standard regular basis.

Speak laters,

Ian :)

last waltz

The End of An Era

Posted on 2014.04.14 at 19:10
No GPRS but: my bedroom
Feeling: sadsad
Background Noise: none
Tags: , ,
I go travelling at the end of the month. For a year. And I'm going to have to get my place rented. Regardless of whether it's to someone I know or not, I still need to clear out lots of stuff that's cluttering the place.

In my bedroom there is a walk-in closet. Sat at the bottom of that closet, in a large black plastic box, is very penpal letter I've ever received, going back to 1991. It's a very heavy and a very full box. It also hasn't been opened for about seven years.

That was two hours ago.
It is still a very heavy and very full box. Now however it contains all my travel-related nostalgia; stuff that might be useful when I'm writing about travel in the future.

And my penpal letters?
They're all in the recycling bin.

Farewell to them all. Once friends, now mostly merely names written on old paper envelopes and sheets of paper.

dead railway lines

Even My Bank Called To Check!

Posted on 2014.03.28 at 17:35
No GPRS but: Living room, Sarah's house, Northampton
Feeling: melancholymelancholy
Background Noise: BBC 6 Music - Steve Lamacq
Bloody expensive, this travel lark!


But What Happens Then ... ?

Posted on 2014.03.25 at 22:24
No GPRS but: my bedroom
Feeling: tiredtired
Background Noise: none
Tags: ,
... or do I worry too much?!


Strip Strip Strip to my Lou ...

Posted on 2013.12.25 at 20:55
No GPRS but: living room
Feeling: tiredtired
Background Noise: BBC 6 Music - John Lydon
Tags: , ,
A quick glance at my travel guidebook to Chile suggests that the city of La Serena and the nearby Elqui Valley are interesting enough to while away a week in. I'd forgotten about there. Observatories, pisco sour, UFOs, and hippies. Mmmm.

Spent the day stripping wallpaper. Yes, I'm sure there are more interesting ways to spend Christmas Day, but I'm not allowed to work it so given that I have two days just sat at home, it's the perfect time to do big jobs like that which need doing and which require a couple of hours of effort. Done the best part of three walls of my living room. Mostly it's coming off quite easily, as if it's been stuck on with pritt-stick. Just the occasional random patch that seems to have been spot-welded, and half a minute with the steamer isn't even touching it!

Dinner this evening was trout, pasta, and spinach. Total preparation and cooking time combined: 20 minutes. Ha.


Around the World the long way, but not "literally" ...

Posted on 2013.12.24 at 21:21
No GPRS but: living room
Feeling: indifferentindifferent
Background Noise: BBC 6 Music - Gideon Coe playing alternative Christmas music
Tags: ,
It may transpire that most of what I blog about on here may well be travel-related rather than life-related. Maybe I should create a new journal just for travel, separate it out from my historical stuff. Or maybe not. Maybe I should change my username. Maybe not.

But anyway.
Have booked the first series of flights for my Round-the-World trip. First stop Romania, then travel upwards through the Western edge of the ex-Soviet Union to Lithuania, where I fly back to the UK. The best part of a whole day later, I fly out to Chile.

That's as far as I've got.
My original plan was to then fly across the Pacific, calling at Easter Island, French Polynesia, and New Caledonia, before arriving into Australia. However, the cost of doing this is astronomical - it's £912 alone to fly from Easter Island to French Polynesia. In fact, due to the fact it was cheaper to get a return rather than a single from the UK to Chile, it actually works out substantially cheaper to fly from Chile to Australia via the UK, rather than even direct over the Pacific. It is, in fact, less than half the price to do this.

My return flight is about a week too late, which means that unless it doesn't cost too much to change it, I'll have an extra week to spend in Chile, if I choose to do this routing instead. It would give a whole new meaning to 'Round the World', but equally it means I wouldn't have the notable aspect of crossing the International Date Line.
Alternatively I fly across the Pacific, get to Sydney, then sell my body in the gay quarter ...


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