Review of ‘Footloose in the Peak’, by Peter Clowes

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 28th June 2004, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

FOOTLOOSE IN THE PEAK

With a long career in journalism behind him, Peter Clowes goes into print these days for the sheer pleasure of reliving his explorations of the Peak, something he describes as one of 'the greatest pleasures of my life'.

Between the pages of this book he finds a high spot where on a clear day you can see the Welsh Mountains, he illustrates the railway which crossed two village streets and a recreation ground, and uses photographs from a unique collection over 100 years old, including a group of farmers posing between their labours in 1897.

The author is particularly good at bringing people back to life, so to speak. Memories will be fading of the days at Buxton Picture House when usherettes wore long grey dresses with crisp white aprons and grey shoes, and where the admission price included a cup of tea at the interval. Gone but not forgotten is the farmer who used to throw stones to dislodge 'climbing pests' - not squirrels but rock climbers. And apparently it was once rare to find a landlady in the Peak who could be persuaded to make a cup of tea for ramblers.

A chapter about Giant Rainbows turns out to be a gathering of fishermen's tales, not just of trout but salmon and eels, and the poaching expedition which ended in a charge of murder. Elsewhere there are illegal pugilists caught toughening their fists in a bucket of pickling solution (caught red-handed?); lords of the manor who liked to exercise their rights to hang and draw criminals; and, amongst assorted travellers' tales, the Buxton hotel which was so crowded that guests slept three to a bed and the beer was too awful to drink.

As with his earlier work, The Peak District at War, Peter Clowes has brought history and living memory together to create a most absorbing read.

Footloose in the Peak, published by Churnet Valley Books, is on sale locally priced £7.95 (ISBN 1-904546-07-2).

Review by Julie Bunting


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