The Village Of The Damned. 8th March


Snow was falling when we woke, but it wasn’t settling as it had rained overnight. The snow turned into sleet and then rain again. All this white weather and winds that accompanied it put Tilly off going out. But the sun soon came out, the temperatures rose and the world became cat friendly again. By now we’d decided to stay put for the day and have a bit of an explore ourselves. However we needed Tilly to be home to be able to do this.

P1240886smTilly sometimes comes home when called, but other times she is far too busy with something to even bother to hear me. Today was one of the latter occasions, which wasn’t then helped by a boat pulling up behind us. This was the plant boat we’d seen last week in Nantwich. They have a Collie who spends all day every day running back and forth from bow to stern, Connie is on a constant duck hunt! With Connie sat at our stern I opened up the cratch for Tilly and we settled down to have lunch.

P1240944smTilly eventually showed her head out from a huge pile of brambles only to be spotted by Connie who charged forward barking. Her owner called her back and the only harm done was raised heart rates all round. Tilly soon made the dash across the towpath to the side hatch and safety. What a lot of noise! If only woofers didn’t woof, I’d get on better with them.

P1240887smP1240891smNow free, we headed up to the village to have a look round. First we stopped at the Canal shop by the Shroppie Fly pub. Here is the best stocked canal book shop on the network. Shelves upon shelves of books tell of the history, design and life of the canals. Upstairs is a floor dedicated to crafts, wool, tapestry, beads, rug making, allsorts. So I had a good look round before Mick ventured up the stairs, he didn’t need to make use of the chair set aside for husbands though!

P1240896smThe doors were open on the church, St James the Great. Inside the church was fairly standard, nothing stood out as a gem, maybe we missed something. Built on a hill overlooking the village, possibly an old Celtic burial ground the church dates back to the 13th Century. It commands it’s position with paths leading around made from old grave stones.

P1240908smWe walked on to have a look around the cemetery, we can see this from our current mooring. Two fine chapels Grade 2 listed sit either side of an archway leading into the cemetery which was founded in 1872. What a view from your final resting place, overlooking the valley towards the canal. Here several things stood out to us.

P1240919smP1240932smA large block of polished stone remembers those who were buried in the paupers graves here, many very young children. An unusual headstone of glass sat amongst all the black granite. Etched on the circle CLARKE and on the back of the grey base stone ‘Sleep well old Biddy’. I can’t find any more information on who this was for and why it is such an unusual design.

P1240925smThen a low circular yew hedge surrounds a short tree with paving and a stone bench. On it’s back a list of names. This is an area dedicated to the memory of eight local young people who lost their lives over the period of a year in the 1990’s.

The catalogue of tragedy began in October 1994, when Alastair Clarkson died in a car crash, 12 days after his 19th birthday. His best friend Stephen Mayne meet a similar fate only months later. In April 1995, a head-on crash with a milk tanker killed four teenage friends – Abigail, Simon Dakin and Jason Knight, and Robert Hawes. There was talk of a curse on the village and by August the “curse” had claimed three more lives. Phillip Wibberley, 23, Stephen Mayne and his girlfriend Charlotte Nield, both 18, from Congleton, died after their car careered off the road at Cholmondeley, near Audlem.
A week later, Neil Brookes, 19, who lived in nearby Nantwich, was also killed in a car crash.

P1240915smWith only a population of around 1800, the loss of eight young people left a big hole in the village. You can read more about The Village Of the Damned here (link). A lovely memorial.

P1240939smP1240942sm0 locks, 0 miles, 1 snow flurry, 2 hours, 1 pesky woofer keeping me from my lunch! 0 craft purchases, 1 church, 2 chapels, 1 faded bird, 8 lost lives, 1 glass headstone, 1st flowering daffs, 1 twinged back, not good with 13 locks tomorrow!

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