Derbyshire 116 - Alfreton - Days 62 and 63 /Escape at last /the story of the castrated fish / A walk along the riverbank /Whitsun Holidays /the connection between Alfreton and Ellis Island

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May 22nd 2020
Published: May 22nd 2020
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Two things came to mind today as I walked . On my own today. After all the exertion of walking yesterday Sion has decided not to join me . Walking though is perhaps the wrong word . He really did get carried round and yes he did fall asleep. He reminded me about castrated fish and the fact that I had to tell the story . It appears that the local gentry and more particularly one of Hunloke went off to Italy . Grand tour or not he found himself eating the finest fish he had ever tasted . He asked why it tasted so good and was told that the key was to castrate the fish . Castrated fish apparently and I cannot profess to having eaten castrated fish tastes so much better . Castrated fish equals bigger fish . He came home and as the rich do he sent one of servants back to Italy to find out how to castrate a fish so that he could copy the practice . Filling his ponds with bigger and tastier carp. So there you go another useless fact about the sickeningly rich lords of the manor of Wingerworth .

My walk this morning was in dappled sunlight . I had made the decision weeks ago that I would walk through the Nethermoor Plantation, cross the Redmill stream and find my way back to the A61. It was harder than I thought . I had no planned route, had not printed off the paths and had to rely on guesswork . The path at first ran through the dying bluebells . It was fairly wide and dry . I climbed over fallen tree trunks and kept the river to my left . As long as I kept heading in this direction and keeping close to the river what could go wrong ? Nothing I thought . The sound of the water was peaceful as it bubbled along over the stones . Not a spectacular stream but gentle in its slow meander to join the Trickett Brook and then the Rother. I found a spot I could cross the brook. A stone causeway. At the back of my mind I remembered walking this way years ago. I did cross the stream but for some reason the path on the other side looked too narrow and unused . Not a problem I would continue on . The next crossing point was less easy. No causeway just a few stepping stones which I gingerly stepped on. On the other side the stream headed away from me and I lost it for a while . Eventually though I came out on the ridge above and could see the water glistening below me. Another meander took me away from it until I came to another point where I needed to cross it again . This time thick mud , a few tree trunks and branches to use to help me cross it . Half an hour later I came out on the main road . I heard it before I got near it . I had seen no-one on my travels today . Well that's another walk ticked off . Surely I cannot find any more new walks .

I met other people as I climbed home. Coffee in mind and the thought of escape . I was going in Ziggy today . I was going to Alfreton. No-one and nothing was going to stop me . It is Spring Holiday this week. Normally the kids would be on holiday but they have not been in school for weeks . Spring Bank Holiday weekend - where has that come from ? We used to call it Whitsunday. Whit Bank Holiday . I wondered why we tinker with our language . What was so wrong with Whit ? Did it evoke the working classes going to Blackpool for a weeks holiday ? Was it more a Socialist holiday ? Did whoever changed the name think it sounded better ? No for me this will forever be the Whitsun Holiday .

Coffee and cake over I got in the car and started it up. The low growl sounded wonderful . I had forgotten what it was like to drive a few miles for no reason at all other than to escape. A colleague once talked about his escape . He had bought a car and paid for it on credit over two years . He planned to work part time for the two years to pay for the car . Once he paid he would retire. He reminded me that work was the prison. That you needed a tunnel to escape and he was digging his tunnel bit by bit . A little further every day , every week and every year . Eventually he would dig his way out . Today felt like that . I was breaking free. The drive of 8 miles was a pleasure . The sun by now was beating down . There did not seem to be many about in the town of Alfreton . Much less than I expected . A queue outside B & M Bargains - one out and then one in . I skirted round them and joined a queue of four people waiting for the bank to open . Two in , Two out I was out in no time at all. A better experience I thought than shopping each week. More civilised . The guy next to me in queue talked about his wife - a nurse . His cancelled holidays to Devon, Scotland and Wales . I was soon heading in search of something - another milestone . I felt that I was getting like Sion in search of things to see . He loves his manholes and latrines . I had a fixation on milestones - I found the one I was looking for . Painted white it stood out and it stated the obvious - Alfreton 0 miles .

My short wander round the town took me past a closed church , the war memorial , many closed shops . Some permanently closed and others just for the duration of the virus . Notes in windows apologising for the closure . Thanking customers and asking for their understanding . Perhaps in another couple of weeks some of these shops will re-open . So what else is there to say about Alfreton . Said to have been founded by King Alfred . There was a Moot Hall here and turnpike roads - hence the milestone announcing the arrival of the road at Alfreton. The church is ancient and there is a connection between the town and Ellis Island . At the edge of the town is a development of similar properties. Identical cottages a Primitive Methodist Church , a school , a park and a manse . They were all endowed by Robert Watchorn who emigrated to the USA through Castle Garden . Known as Castle Clinton or Fort Clinton this sandstone fort was the earlier immigration station into the USA. It is still to be found in Battery Park New York City . He did well for himself and became the US Commisioner of Immigration at Ellis Island serving between 1905 and 1909. He later worked as vice president of the Union Oil Company. He was a benefactor of Alfreton after the first World War. Sending money home in memory of his mother . He also had built the Lincoln Library in the town .

With my escape route perfected it was time to head home . Having escaped once there will be no stopping us . Days 62 and 63 of Lockdown over and done with . Tomorrow Gabby will come out to play . It has been a long time.


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