How can you adequately describe the subject of a heartfelt crush? Even hindsight still does not allow me to see beyond the glow of disproportionate admiration.
In October 2014 I was invited to a project meeting at a maintenance yard, not the stuff to get most people’s heart racing but it certainly did for me. I first visited Hartshill a week before that. I drove around for quite a while before I found it. I had looked at Google Maps, was let down by my 1994 road atlas and my facial GPS (read nose) needs updating. I was out for a leisurely adventure so I enjoyed the circuitous route and discovered Hartshill Hayes Country which was nearly on my way.
Having stretched my legs in the woods I was ready to reach my destination. Unafraid of being unfashionable, I stopped and asked directions. The local mechanic working on his forecourt gave me the knowledge I needed. It would be easy to miss the gap in the low lying brick walls lining the lane. The familiar hump in the road signalled the waterway beneath, and the iconic swan clearly said turn in here. The narrow entrance belies the surprise beyond.
What a fantastic place. I parked and got out. Single story working buildings, rounded corners of brickwork, crenelated eaves, capped with tiles pierced by chimney stacks, a slatted clock tower with its aspiring point. It was only the first glance, but everyone knows true love can strike like a bolt, sparked by a glance. Workshops, a blacksmith’s forge, sheds, cottages that arch over the water, small wharf and lifting gear, an empty manor house, operational offices and so much more still unseen.
On that first, heart stopping, visit the yard was a little overgrown; the vestiges of summer’s prolific growth. When I returned to Hartshill I found the misplaced vegetation was gone, cleared by the efforts of a voluntary crew. The Yard looked clean and bigger. I had the chance to go inside the buildings. Revelling in the childish delight of exploration, I nosed upstairs and down, in the forge and in the clock’s working chamber. I met the resident workers, Trust staff and tenants, all members of the new regeneration project team.
I’m now looking forward to getting to know the many knowledge people who are clearly as passionate as I am about working in this special place. It’s a national treasure one of the waterways’ gems. It’s a real delight to be volunteering with Audrey, the heritage adviser, on such a fantastic initiative. I can tell this is just the beginning of a life-long love affair.
Lucky Lowe, volunteer heritage adviser
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.See more blogs from this author