I always pause for thought……


Magpie Mine, Sheldon, Derbyshire

Derbyshire is a fabulous county for those who love the outdoors.  Walking, climbing or simply enjoying Derbyshire’s wildlife and its varied countryside.  Despite being a tourist destination it can still be a very quiet peaceful destination and a place to explore.

On many of my walks, I regularly have to stop and pause for thought. The deceptively peaceful countryside just cannot  hide some elements of its busy industrial heritage.

High on the White Peak area of Derbyshire you will probably stumble upon the ruins of a Lead Mine.  Magpie Mine is perhaps one of the largest. The chimney stack, winding shed and other buildings are a familiar icons of our mining heritage.  Magpie is very advanced compared with its predecessors, of which there area many.  Most of the mines were simple holes in the ground or a tunnel into a limestone hillside.  Mining was intensively competitive.  Underground disputes and robbery added to the already tough mining life……  protecting many of those simple ‘holes in the ground’ was often solved by building a house over the hole and living on site!  Truth is many miners were actually Farmers, securing a second income.

Many areas of Derbyshire are now sparsely populated, and despite regularly pausing for thought, it is hard to visualize just how well populated the area once was. Ruins of old farms, barns and small cottages, spoil heaps and mineral waste now overgrown, are dotted across the Peak, each a reminder of busy industrial/farming communities….. still very hard to put a number to the population it once supported….. it now just looks so quiet.

Times change, the economy has changed from industry to tourism.

Pausing for thought in a busy day or relax….. Please..

Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

25th January

(C) David Oakes 2022

Moody Monday……. A Redundant Industrial Site


An abandoned Gritstone Millstone in Padley Gorge, Derbyshire.

A quiet wooded Derbyshire Gorge.  One – time it would be far from a quiet location.  One of many working stone cutting quarries initially shaping random gritstone boulders in to valuable Millstones and grinding wheels. Technology moved on and the need dried up and a once very valuable industry died.

Moody Monday, woody November weather but please still..

Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

29th November

(C) David Oakes 2021




It could be the Calm before the Storm


Shardlow, Trent and Mersey Canal, Derbyshire

Early morning sun on the Trent and Mersey Canal at Shardlow.  But the sun did little to ease the cold….it was the coldest morning so far this winter.  Till now, November has been a benign month. As for autumn, well if you blinked over the past week you would have missed it. 

Now the Met Forecasters tell us we have sever storms heading our way, so this truly could be the “calm before the storm”.

So this was a day to enjoy a winter walk along part of this historic canal..


The sun never did warm up the day but we were not complaining …. just great to be out


Whatever your weather wherever you are….

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

27th November

(C) David Oakes 2021


Have we really made progress…… ?


Cromford Canal, Derbyshire

It was the very late 1700’s that the Cromford Canal was dug to create one of many water highways that would crisscross the country… new super highways for horse drawn barges.  The Cromford Canal was built to transport goods from Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Spinning Mills.

Today the Canal is a peaceful location for a quiet walk through this part of the Derbyshire countryside, it also takes you past some other very significant indicators of our historical industrial progress.  It also made me ponder the question – have we really progressed.

Here in the Derwent Valley, much of what was soon to be taken as a given was created.  The Canal, a very environmentally means of transport was quickly overtaken by the arrival of the railways.  Indeed it is right here that rail transport was developed as a practical alternative…. not that Derbyshire was the ideal location to start the process.  Many geological and  geographical problems had to be overcome, but they were.

A good deal has vanished over the years, but much still remain, mainly the buildings.

Take the Leawood’s Pumphouse.  Built in 1845.  It is a solid stone construction with a massive smoke stack.

Within these stone walls is a Steam powered Beam Pump Engine.  It stands between the Canal and the River Derwent, the river  runs at a much lower level in the valley. The Canal was busy and lots of traffic created water loss. The pumphouse was built to ‘lift’ water from the River to top up the canal. The Beam Engine is very much still in working order.  Regular ‘In Steam’ weekends are organised across the summer months, a spectacular event to witness..

The legacies of the railway are many.  Gone are the rail tracks, but its supporting infrastructure is still very visible…. again some very solid buildings.  A Transit Shed and Warehouse, Linesmen’s sheds,  and Offices for the Managers…. it has to have been a very busy hub for canal, rail and road transport distribution.


The Locomotive Workshops, the second oldest in the Country are still maintained for visitors, a snapshot in time…  the workshops finally closed, along with the rail line in 1967, and the contents preserved as they were left.

The canal and its water are the most obvious reminders of just how busy the birthplace of the industrial revolution once was.

Back to my opening question… have we really made progress ?

Of the very many industrial and commercial buildings I passed on my way home, mostly were new builds ( What I call Tin Sheds –  skeletons clad in aluminium panels ). Will any be able to stand the same test of time _ I doubt it.

As for the Cromford Canal, I am sure it will be with us for may generations to come.


Lets all please….

Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

26th October

(C) David Oakes 2021

A Coastal Landmark…. and a Historic Rescue


Lytham Windmill, The Fylde Coast, Lancashire

The Fylde is a an area of the Lancashire Coast that looks out across the Irish Sea.  Bordered to the North by the River Wyre and here at Lytham in the south, the River Ribble. Across the sands that are a feature of the  Ribble estuary,  lies the resort of Southport.

Today the attraction of Lytham’s seafront is a long promenade edge by a broad grass ‘green promenade’. 

Lytham Windmill is a distinctive landmark for the town.  Whilst windmills have long featured in the Fylde’s history, Lytham Mill was only built in 1805 (though suggestions are that an early mill was on this location).  It was built as a grain mill.  The interior shafts and milling equipment supposedly were from other mills. By all accounts it was a productive mill.


Lytham Mill is a Four Sail Windmill.  Only 3 on the images, as one ‘replica’ sail was lost in high winds a few years ago. Nor are those replica sails the correct size.  Originally they were much longer….. and that is why there is a plinth around the base – built to keep both people and animals away from the dangers of the rotating sails.

Whilst Lytham started to prosper and become both a ‘new’ home for Lancashire Industrialist and as a Seaside Resort, thanks to the Railways.   The Mill continued its work.  But it was also became an added, and interesting visitor attraction.

Fortunes changed in 1919.  A sudden severe Gale sent the giant sails into a uncontrolled spin.  The brakes wouldn’t hold and in the process became hot and set the building alight.  Interior, Cap and Sails all destroyed. 


In 1921 the Stump of the windmill was given to the people of Lytham. Restoration work was undertaken.  A new replica Dome or Cap fitted, sails added and interior workings for demonstration installed..  It became at times a museum, cafe and at one point an electric substation.  But age and damp became an issue.

So in 1987 the Council attracted funds and refurbished the Windmill as we see it today.  Still attracting visitors as it did in Victorian days.


Sheltering in the lea of the Windmill is another very important building… The Lytham Lifeboat Station.  Important both in terms of Local History but also a very significant moment in the history of the Royal Life Boat Institution.

In severe gales on the 9th December 1886, the Lytham Lifeboat was launched. It was summoned to take part in an attempt to rescue a German Cargo Boat ‘The Mexico’.  Mexico had departed Liverpool on its way back to the Americas. The gales blew it relentlessly toward the River Ribble and the extensive sandbanks that straddle the estuary from Southport to Lytham. 

The Lytham Lifeboat was not alone.  Sister Lifeboats from Southport and St, Annes on Sea were also sent to the rescue.  The weather was described as extremely sever and the task of reaching the distressed vessel near impossible. Boats who’s only power was the brute strength of the manpower, with  long oars,  supplied by the volunteer crews manning each of the boats, it was indeed a tough task and a very big ask.. 

The Lytham Lifeboat managed to rescue 12 crew from the wreckage of the Mexico (I believe this was the entire crew) and returned them to the safety of dryland.

But the event does not reach a happy conclusion.  Both the Southport and the St. Annes Lifeboats were overwhelmed by the rough seas.  All Lifeboat crew drowned.  14 volunteers for the Southport boat and 13 from St. Annes…. all of course, like all Lifeboat men today…. Volunteers.

The Mexico Disaster is still the worst in the history of the Lifeboat Service.



The wreck of the Mexico was later found washed up on sandbanks in the estuary.  Interestingly, some many years later, the Anchor above, was snagged in the nets of a fishing vessel  working off the coastal estuary.  It is believed to be, and may well be, the anchor from the Mexico.

Not sure just why the Lifeboat Station was built here in the shadow of the Mill…. but it seems to be ‘just right’.  Today the building houses a restored Lifeboat of a similar era and is also a Museum for the RNLI and related local history. 

The Building also has the additions of weather shelters for visitors to Lytham Promenade….  a venue of rescue of a very different form.


The RNLI is there for those who need help on the seas and sands around our coast…  So lets

Please Remember ….

Stay Safe …. Be Kind…. Look After Each Other

19th October

(C) David Oakes 2021