Derbyshire 46 - Clay Cross / the historic mining town and the time between the cherry blossom


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April 13th 2018
Published: April 13th 2018
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What a lovely sentiment. Between our two lives there is also the life of the cherry blossom. Written by Basho it sounds such a thought provoking few words. As a child I loved to see my mum coming home arms full of branches of pink and white frothy cherry blossom. She put them in vases . Dad hated the smell of them. He hated the petals that fell on the floor. I loved them. They heralded Spring. They were delicate, pretty and so short lived. A haze of colour which lasted less than two weeks and then they were gone for another year. I loved the pictures of them flowering in Japan and vowed that one day I would see them in their natural glory. It has not happened yet but it will.

The sentiments made me think of nothing spiritual but more about the time between one part of my life and another. From returning home last Autumn to now when we are about to head for France. What have we done in that time between the Cherry blossom? Not a lot . A few trips out to Yorkshire and to Shropshire. Life had got in the way of visits to anywhere in particular. We had kept our days out to local spots . Not too far away. Nothing to write home about. Our moments between the cherry blossom were rather insignificant.

Gabby is packed. She just needs a carpet on her floor. Continental vans have wooden floors which look nice but are cold to the feet at night. We had already bought a black carpet for the passenger and driver footwell. What we needed today was a couple of mats to put on the floor from the door to the bathroom. Having picked them up we made our way around the historic mining town of Clay Cross. We have been many times. I worked there for a few years but sometimes it is interesting to walk round and look at the ordinary, the mundane and the sheer ugly.

Clay Cross is one of those ex-mining towns stuck in the past. It is not pretty and cannot lay any claim to fame other than the brother of Dennis Skinner the MP for Bolsover lives here and it had the highest number of men on sickness benefit in the country. When they were employed at one of the local mines they had money to burn. They bought new cars, went on holidays and spent money in the local shops. When the mines closed the money dried up, the sales of new cars slumped , the holidays ended ubruptly. Life changed and Clay Cross went downhill rapidly. Empty shops sprung up. The local Woolworths closed and is now empty. The cinema now a seed and pet shop. The A61 which bisects the town is to the left is pure Peak District , affluent clean and tidy with reservoirs , green fields and pristine stone walling. The other side seems derelict with brown field sites being quickly swallowed up by social housing.

As we walk we pass the old ghost sign "John Bull Tyres are the best" A reminder of Kenning Motor Group a large Clay Cross employer whose offices and yards are now empty. Whose presence in the town is denoted only by a street name - Kenning Street and a Park - Kenning Park. The old coal tubs filled with flowers lay rotting. The holes getting larger year on year, Like Clay Cross they decay. The church ST Barts built for the large population is open today and a service goes on inside. Beyond that we pass the impressive Clay Cross District Council offices . Once the pride of the High Street they now are home to a line of shops. They once shouted out those Victorian values now all we see are tattoo parlours, fast food shops and empty broken facades. Its a sad affair . The area that once was full of railway lines has been redeveloped . The new buildings house a Citizens Advice Bureau, an e-cigarette shop, a couple of charity shops and a spiritualist church. I think I would have preferred the railway lines and the muck tubs.

On the one hand Clay Cross felt depressing but walking with someone who knew it when it was thriving and prosperous made it an interesting experience . It was hard to imagine it bustling and full of life but once upon a time it must have been that way. Where has it all gone? Somewhere between the life of the cherry blossom.

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