Sunday, April 08, 2007

Are You Local?

We went to Hadfield yesterday, it’s on the edge of Greater Manchester and the Peak District and is a.k.a. Royston Vasey – “You’ll Never Leave!” – the setting of ‘The League of Gentlemen’. Unlike Avoca in Ireland, where ‘Ballykissangel’ was filmed, there aren’t coach loads of tourists everywhere and apart from a few posters in the shops there aren’t any obvious signs that the series was based there. Still if the fictional account showed your town populated by grotesques, weirdoes and freaks, maybe you wouldn’t want to publicise the fact.

First we wander down the main street looking out for ‘Burger Me’, the infamous charity shop with the harridans who had a fixation about plastic bags, the dole office where Pauline, with her fetish about biros, ruled the ‘dole scum’ with a rod of iron and finally there’s the war memorial where Chubby Brown’s foul mouthed mayor held his press conferences (trivia point Royston Vasey is his real name).

The four writers were all brought up during the 1980s in economically depressed northern towns and this combined with a love of gothic horror movies was the inspiration for ‘The League of Gentlemen’.

Hadfield is also the starting point for the Longdendale Trail – part of the Trans Pennine Trail that stretches from Liverpool to Hull. It runs along an old railway line opened in 1845, salt from Cheshire one way and coal from Yorkshire to power the Lancashire cotton mills the other.

It was a beautiful clear, crisp day, the buds of spring on the trees, lambs with spindly legs in the fields, peacock butterflies a splash of colour and robins in full voice staking out their territory. Planes from Manchester Airport soaring into the sky, motorbikes roaring away in the distance.

The reservoirs snake through the valley but somehow they can never replicate the natural beauty of lakes. When we get to Torside it’s been drained and is like an open, gaping wound, the boats from the sailing club stranded above it forlorn and useless.

The Woodhead Reservoir is full, shimmering in the sunshine; the chapel sits above it in lonely isolation. In the graveyard there are the unmarked graves of the navvies who died in the 1849 cholera plague, many more died building the Woodhead Tunnel. The line eventually closed in 1981.

We hurry back to catch the end of the Chelsea .v. Spurs game in the friendly Palatine Pub.


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