The landscape of Palterton during my childhood and teenage years was a far different scene from the view of today. This was a mining valley and looking westwards from Palterton's Main Street were no less than twenty two slag heaps!
Now they have been raised to ground level and the picturesque countryside you see is as beautiful as it was prior to the late nineteenth century, before coal mining came to the district.
So many happy hours of my childhood were spent "down the fields" in Palterton playing with my friends. Generations of children and their families had done likewise.
There were many locations that attracted our attention as youngsters seeking mischief and adventure. Here is brief glimpse of a few of these locations as remembered with nostalgia.
To the east of Palterton village was the 'Long Yards', another 'adventure playground'. Access was via the farm cart track which went through "Highfield Farmyard" to Back Lane where at this point the farm track runs in a straight line through the 'Long Yards'.
I walked along this ancient track many times as did most of the village folk.
In yesteryear, the village feast, held annually in October was located on Long Yards. On such occasions, schoolchildren were given a day off school. The 'feast' was like a 'fair' with childrens swings, rounabouts - all very simple, nothing like todays 'theme parks'.
Still in the same vicinity we would extend our walk to Scarcliffe via Poulterwell Lane (a bridle path between the fields from Palterton to Birch Hill Plantation).
At the Scarcliffe end of Poulterwell Lane there is a spring well that is the actual source of the River Poulter. This spring forms a small stream about two or three feet wide, which meanders through a field and skirts Langwith Woods to where it joins another spring which forms a small pond before continuing on its journey to beyond our ventures, to Nether Langwith and on to Cuckney and from there, to the Great Lake at Welbeck Abbey and on to Carburton (Lakes) and Clumber Park, then on to Elkesley, West Drayton, Askham, Darlton before running into the River Trent at Laneham.
Palterton children spent endless hours of their childhood paddling in various parts of this stream and fishing for sticklebacks and redbreasts. Always we used our hands to catch the fish; none of my friends had fishing rods, other than a piece of stick with string attached and a worm dangling on the end!
I recall primroses and cowslips growing in this area too, alongside the River Poulter as it skirted Langwith Wood. Pussy Willows or Sallows grew by the water side at the bottom of Poulter Wells and as a young boy of about eleven I took a sapling home and planted it in the garden at the rear of number 1 Ten Row. It grew each year and made a nice bushy small tree, that actually produced pussy willow palm in the spring!
Often we wandered in a south westerly direction to the 'Crow Hills' and then west down the valley to 'The Bogs', 'The Swamps' near 'Black Bridge' and sometimes we extended our walks as far as 'Sutton Scarsdale Hall', which even in those days was in ruins.
To the east of the village we played at the 'Long Yards' and frequently roamed across the fields and down the cart track to 'Poulter Wells'.
There were rabbits in abundance, although whilst I was still roving "down the fields" the rabbit population were struck down with the disease myxomatosis.
At the bottom of the 'Crow Hills' there is a wood, known as 'Fox Covert' (Grid Reference 674 471) which consists of many tall trees where a colony of rooks nested annually. These trees, with the 'rookery' at the very top, were at least forty feet in height, but that didn't stop us from climbing the trees to steal the eggs; though we always left some in the nest and we never took any eggs from anywhere if they had started to turn into 'sitting' (chicks).
Having climbed these tall trees and found a nest complete with eggs we then dropped the eggs one by one to our fellow conspirators on the ground, who held out a coat to catch them. Miraculously the eggs were always intact on landing!
Sadly, the rooks have now gone! They were killed by "mindless morons" with guns purporting to be "sportsmen"!.
The process of preserving the eggs for one's collection was quite a skilful and delicate operation. The contents of the egg had to be extracted, and this was achieved by piercing a hole at either end of the egg with either a sewing needle or pin; through one of these apertures you then blew the egg yolk out and the egg was then ready to put amongst your collection.
My eggs were always kept in one of Grandma Fanny Richards' sideboard drawers on a bed of cotton wool at Ten Row. George ('Bandy') Marsden and I formed a kind of 'egg partnership' and we quite often sent away for rare eggs to enhance our hoard.
"Highfield Farm" in Palterton is situated on Main Street and stands at the entrance to Low Road leading to Rylah Hill. Since 1943, the MacDonald family rented "Highfield Farm" from the Duke of Devonshire and since that time the farm has passed from grandfather to son to grandson John MacDonald and latterly to his sons.
John attended the village primary school at the same time as I. We both left Palterton School on the same day to start our secondary education, but John went to Shirebrook Central School whilst I went to Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School for Boys at Mansfield.
As a matter of interest "Highfield Farm" in 2003 comprised of 660 acres and is the second largest arable acreage under one tenancy of the Chatsworth Estate Company.
The route "down the fields" starts at "Highfield Farm" continuing for about one hundred yards down the 'Low Road' towards Rylah Hill, then diverting to the right between some allotments and orchards to the spring, which is known locally as 'The Bogs'.
From here the footpath goes through the middle of a couple of fields belonging to "Highfield Farm" and then meanders across the fields to the 'Black Bridge' and 'The Swamps' (both of which have long since disapppeared) and leads eventually to "Sutton Scarsdale Hall" on the other side of the valley.
Along Low Road there was a small man made 'cutting' (directly below Main Street's Mission Church) on the east side, which had a high stone wall on three sides. An iron water pipe, about six inches in diameter, protruded out of the rear wall to a length of about six feet.
Several generations of village children, including my friends and I, spent many hours swarming along this pipe and swinging from it, as well as drinking the water that continuously flowed from it! Local farmers used to reverse their horse and carts loaded with empty water drums into this 'cutting' to fill their drums from here for the cattle in the fields. (The metal pipe has now disappeared, apparently broken off and stolen by a scrap metal collector!)
Nearby was another watering hole the locals called the 'trough', (actually two troughs) which was located on the north side of Rylah Hill about fifty yards from Rock Corner and is simply two horse troughs approximately three feet square by two feet in depth. A constant supply of running spring water is fed into the 'troughs' by a six inch iron pipe trough, which overflows and forms a small stream that runs along the roadside down Rylah Hill. These 'troughs' have attracted village children for decades and is an ideal spot to play in water!
My father's sister, Annie Saxton formerly Richards, recalls she too played around the 'troughs' in her childhood, prior to 1920. During my childhood and before, cattle on their way to and from the fields stopped at the 'troughs' for a drink and I regularly saw shire horses drinking from them.
The miners walking on their way to Glapwell and Ramcroft Collieries also stopped at the 'troughs' to fill their water bottles. Going westwards down the valley from the 'slip road' into McDonald's first field was where a natural spring rose that made this area into a quagmire, hence it's nick-name, 'The Bogs', but correct name Trough Issues. (Grid Ref. 683 473).
On the left-hand side of this field the spring stream ran parallel to the hedgerow and at about three quarters of the way down in the hedgerow was an old tree, clad in ivy, which leant over at an angle of about 45 degrees. This tree was aptly named "The Ivy". Children used to have great fun climbing "The Ivy", it was different from other trees because it had distinguishing features at different levels.
The first stage of the tree was easy to ascend because of the acute angle; we could almost walk up the trunk to a height of ten feet to reach the initial branches! Further up we would rest at the 'armchair' - this was where you could sit on the wide branches with your back on another branch and it did resemble an armchair.
"The Ivy" was really a marvellous playground for local children but sad to say it is a thing of the past and has now gone forever.
Local children no longer play down 'The Bogs' and hardly any people walk this footpath through the fields.
Continuing down the valley to the mineral railway line, which led from Glapwell and Ramcroft Collieries through to Carr Vale and beyond, and at a point parallel with Palterton village some two miles away, was an area of swampland.|
(Ordnance Survey G.R. 684 462).
These swamps were the annual nesting sites of a variety of birds such as moorhens, coots, grebes and many smaller birds such as pied wagtails, reed buntings, sedge warblers and reed warblers, which frequent areas of marshland.
Any mention of the 'swamps' in the village at the time and everybody knew the location to which you were referring.
Often we waded up to our chests in these 'swamps' in an effort to reach a nesting site - a dangerous activity, especially as some of us, including myself couldn't swim!
These 'swamps' were a mosaic of wildlife and the grasses, rushes, sedges and the water were a natural habitat for a variety of creatures. Dragonflies with their sleek sparkling stout bodies and powerful flight - they flew around whirring like miniature helicopters. Then the Damselflies (males) with iridescent purple / brown or deep blue band on their wings; I can picture them now.
There were water shrews, which we called 'water rats', very secretive but I saw them many times - they burrowed and made a system of runways and tunnels. Frogs were plentiful and every year we collected the frog 'spawn' and took it to school as part of our 'Nature Studies' and watched the tadpoles develop.
Telegraph poles and wires ran alongside this mineral railway line, where, every fifty yards or so, Yellow Hammers sang their songs. My late father (Arthur Richards) used to call Yellow Hammers "writing" larks or "scribbling" larks because their small white (or pink) eggs had brown or purple/brown "squiggles" drawn on them.
Lovely primroses and cowslips, which have been brought to the edge of extinction in many parts of the countryside, flourished around the 'swamps' too.
Sadly, the swamps disappeared when the area was opencasted for coal.
Another favourite escapade and meeting place for Palterton children was to stand on the mineral railway bridge at a location called the 'Black Bridge' and wait for the empty mineral train on it's way to either Glapwell or Ramcroft Collieries. The smoke from the coal fired engine used to choke us and we would be smutty, but it was adventure.
Another venue for villagers expeditions (walks!) was the magnificent ruins of Sutton Scarsdale Hall and the adjoining Deer park, although in my time there were no deer in this park. We followed the footpath from Palterton Lane (B.M. 364.2) across the fields and park to Sutton Hall.
In those days there was an established colony of jackdaws nesting high up in these ruins. The inside walls of the ruins to the ledges, is where jackdaws made their untidy nests with a pile of sticks lined with hair and wool, which they had plucked from the backs of grazing sheep.
This Hall was built by the fourth Earl of Shrewsbury in 1780 which was the same year that Palterton Hall and the Manor House in Scotland Yard, Palterton had been built.
I cannot recall which water in the park attracted our attention but I think it was the Island Pond inside the Island plantation (lat.53. 13.5. lon. 1.20w.). It was 'out of bounds' and ther was a gamekeeper around but I can't remember his name, but in 1922, it was Mr. Melvyn Hayes.
The large area in front of Sutton Scarsdale Hall was the subject of an opencast mining operation during the late 1950's and 1960's and has since been restored to it's former beauty.
With hindsight generations of Palterton children played dangerously, but as village children we were oblivious to such trivialities as 'danger'!
How quiet the village now seems compared to our heyday!
Ordnance Survey Pathfinder Series Sheet SK 46/56.
Life down the fields
Created 2 December 2001
Last updated: 1 February 2004