Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

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Wendyf
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Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Wendyf » 29 Mar 2016, 08:24

Whilst searching through the remains of the archived site for something about Hollins Golf Club, I came across this topic and thought it was worth a revival!

I am about to reveal a secret that I have kept for over half a century, and I am sure will be met with incredulity by those who have lived in Barlick all their lives without any knowledge of the following amazing revelations. My story begins one August morning in the early 1950’s; it was one of those dry and sunny days, which seemed to stretch on throughout the summer holidays of youth.

Part One

“Baz, Baz” came the plaintiff cry, “Baz or you coming out to play?” rang out two voices, now in unison, “Oh for goodness sake” mother said “Go and see what they want.”
Why we never knocked on a door in those far off days seems rather odd to me now.
I went to the back door, and opened it to reveal Jim and his sister Siggy two of my chums from Edmondson Street. Jim was a chubby youth with a roguish smile and a mop of tousled hair that had always defied even the best applications of the comb. Siggy was, well a sort of honary lad, we didn’t have much time for proper girls in those days, and girls were usually regarded as too silly. After all girls were always messing with dolls or crying and were just not built to meet the demands thrust on us boys. They couldn’t fight properly, keep secrets nor even write their names in the snow like a proper lad.
It was said that Siggy got her nickname on a return trip from Greenberfield Locks their route had led them past West Marton Dairies depot. As they were passing a group of men taking a break by the loading bay were calling out, one of who shouted out “Look at her legs, like two cigarettes hanging out of a packet.”
Siggy, who was in that phase of shooting up, was, what shall I say, built more for speed, anyway the name stuck, and like these things do, it spread throughout the school.
“What do you want?” I asked, “Are you playing out?” replied Jim, “Suppose so, what we going to do?” I said as I trained my imaginary Winchester rifle on the passage of an overhead crow, “Pow” and another one hit the dust.
“Lets go and see if Eli’s coming out?” suggested Jim, “Ok I replied, he might get his new kite out for a fly”
The prospect of this excitement stimulated us into a jog and graduated into a full-blown sprint. We arrived, breathless, at the back door of Eli’s just off Gisburn Road. Perhaps it was our rasping breathing or Jim collapsing to the floor and banging his head on the gate, but Eli didn’t need a shout, he just appeared.

Now Eli (Pronounced “Ellie”) was a big lad for his age, his father, a grocer was also a giant of a man whom we treated with the utmost respect, (My grandfather used to quote “Manners maketh man” should we forget our please & thank you’s) with Eli’s dad it was a case of Fear maketh manners.
Nicknames, which were almost universal during my youth were sometimes cruel, sometimes witty plays on a persons surname e.g. “Mack” – Mc Donald, (all right that wasn’t a good example) “Tinker” – Bell,etc and could well last them all their lives. I have often wondered if Eli’s was destined to last in perpetuity, as it was somewhat different to the others.
It originated at Barlick Secondary Modern School, as it was then, following a cross-country run and the obligatory communal showers, and if I say that Eli was an abbreviation of elephant you may just understand what I mean.
“Are you playing out?” I asked him, adding ”And bring you kite for a test flight” he nodded and disappeared inside the house, moments later to reappear with the kite.
I say kite but it was different to the norm, actually a “Revojet” which boasted revolving red wings on a plastic fuselage, when in flight the wings emitted a loud whirring noise. This had been a present from Fleetwood by a returning aunt.
“Where shall we go, Victory Rec.?” Eli asked, We need a good wind to get it up he warned,” “how about up Monkroyd way” suggested Siggy, “No” said her brother, “How about up Wets, its allous windy up there” he ventured.
We all readily agreed to this and set off down Gisburn Road, crossing Damhead Bridge and turning off just before the Sally Army on the cider path, towards Butts Mill. Passing the hen huts the appetizing smell of hot chicken mash assailed our nostrils; a clanking of a galvanized bucket drew our attention to our right.
There was a man surrounded by a flock of noisy clucking hens with two superior looking cockerels circulating around trying not to look too excited. “Got any spare eggs?” shouted Eli grinning at his witty enquiry, “ Git on” said the man in a gruff voice, “Or thall git a thick ear!”
We laughed and continued on our way as we approached Butts, “Wonder if we will be able to see Blackpool?” said Jim, meaning when we got up on Weets. We had been before but mists had always prevented any far-reaching views to the west. “Mi dad said that its Morecambe Bay you can see, not Blackpool” ventured Eli, we trudged onward digesting this latest information.
We left the path heading up the slightly rising ground of Monkroyd, “The monks used to live here,” said Siggy, “before I was born, me mum said”.
I said “I wonder where about's” to which Eli promptly said “Over there” pointing to a structure in the middle of the field. We ran over not sure what to expect it turned out to be square concrete like structure with walls about three feet high or thereabouts. “Looks like a sheep pen or summat, and anyway the monks din’t have concrete did they” said Jim, with an air of authority.
“How would the sheep get in, there’s no doorway? Enquired Siggy, “Don’t be daft” retorted Jim; “They just pick em up and chuck em in.” Eli, who had been contemplating this challenge to his identification of the location finally said “This IS the place cos me dad showed it to us last Easter.” The matter finally resolved we headed upwards crossing field boundaries with ease, the Right to Roam, is not a new phenomena we practiced it over fifty years ago.
As we gained altitude the Ribble Valley began to come into view with the hills around Malham and Embsay to the east, lending contrast to the lush pastures of the foreground. Suddenly our attention was diverted by Siggy’s cry of “Look there it’s a fox!” we glanced quickly in the direction of her pointing finger, just in time to glimpse the rear end of something disappearing over a bank.
Breaking into a stumbling run we soon reached the bank, half expecting to seen the animal trembling before us, but nothing.
“Was it a dog?” asked Eli, “No” retorted Siggy, “It WAS a fox!” “Perhaps it was a rabbit” I suggested, “I didn’t see any bushy tail” but Siggy remained adamant in her identification.
We lay on the bank, looking up at the sky and the wisps of clouds slowly drifting by discussing the seemingly endless possibilities of Siggy’s animal.
Eventually, someone, I can’t remember who, said “Oh look there is a spring down there” sitting up and observed that there was indeed a spring bubbling at the bottom of the bank which we had been our debating platform. We could now see that the bank fell away into a ditch before rising again steeply, only three or four feet between the banks, a sort of mini version of the ravines on the sides of Weets we had often slid down.
“I am for a drink” declared Jim; this suggestion was greeted by a cascade of youth as we tumbled in haste to be first to quench our sudden thirsts.
The ground was boggy and we felt the sudden chill as water penetrated shoes, but we were intent on being the first to drink. The iced water tasted good, and we drank with the thirst of camels, “Oh look at me trousers” sighed Eli, revealing a rather muddy rear end, we laughed at his plight but reassured him it would soon dry in the sun and brush-off.
Our attention was then drawn to a series of footprints in the muddy ground, “There I told you so “ Shrieked Siggy, “Thems fox prints” we inspected them and readily agreed that they were indeed the fresh footprints of Reynard. “They head that way towards them ‘sives’” said Jim, we proceed with caution the short way to the foot of the bank, ”Look there’s a hole” said Eli excitedly, “Bet he’s in there waiting.”
Jim volunteered to reach inside the hole to see if he could feel any fur. I was certainly not going to explore any unknown bolthole as I could vividly remember reaching up to the armpit into what I thought was a sand martins nest on some sandbanks of the Ribble. But it turned out to be a water voles lair – but that’s another story.
Jim suddenly cried out “Aghh! Its got me” falling backwards clutching his hand, then seeing the shock in our eyes burst out laughing saying “Ah that got you lot.” When he regained his composure he did report that it seemed to open up into a large hole and he could feel rock inside.
Eli got down to investigate his claim and quickly confirmed Jim’s findings, “Lets pull some of this turf away and get a better look” he suggested as he commenced tearing at the surrounding undergrowth.
We all joined in the effort and soon, no doubt aided by the recent drought, succeeded in exposing more and more rock and a growing opening within it.
Pausing for a rest in our strenuous excavations, Jim got down on all fours, and with his face close up to the hole shouted “Hello” we all heard the muffled echo, and insisted in taking turns to test our lungs.
Eli then produced a penknife from his pocket and began to dig around the base of the hole, after some minutes he proclaimed “It’s a secret cave, look the entrance is getting bigger.”
It was indeed, now much larger than previously suspected, “Wish I had a spade he said” we all heartily agreed, all thoughts of the climb up Weets and the “Revojet” flight, now forgotten.
“How about coming back tomorrow with a spade and a torch to see what’s there” I suggested, this was readily agreed upon, with Jim offering to borrow his granddads spade and me and Eli to supplying torches.
We replaced most of the turf loosely to disguise the entrance then formed a tight circle clasping each other’s right wrist we raised our arms three times whilst chanting our oath of secrecy.
Then we set-off back home eagerly discussing what exciting discoveries lay in wait for us the following day.

To be continued. (Subject to demand and re-negotiation of fees)


© Barrie K. Sharples, February 2005



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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Wendyf » 29 Mar 2016, 08:24

Weets a secret world
Part two

The following morning we met behind the advertising boards near Damhead Bridge, as agreed, to preserve the secrecy of our mission.
The walk up to the foothills of Weets was largely uneventful, Jim had problems with his bracers as he had forgotten that his old trousers had a button missing at the back and the other was only hanging by a thread or two. He was carrying the promised spade all wrapped-up in sacking to disguise it. Siggy had acquired a couple of wax candles and a box of Swan Vestas matches. I had an old army surplus torch equipped with new batteries, and Eli had done us proud, having procured a Tilly lamp and a bag of apples to sustain us during our expedition.
As we neared our destination we spread out to cover our final approach and to check for signs of any enemy presence, but all was well. It was obvious that the camouflage had done its job, as there was no evidence of disturbance to the turf covering the entrance.
We agreed that we needed a lookout and that Siggy should be the first to set up watch and also guard the food supply.
Setting about our task we soon had the sods removed and stacked neatly aside, “Who’s going to be the first with the spade” Eli asked, “Me” said Jim its my spade, so I’m first.” Baggy I’m next” shouted Eli, “Ok” I said and suggested that we rotated between digging and sentry duties, this met with approval so work continued.
The spade kept hitting rock so progress seemed slow at first, but as the digging went deeper it became apparent that the depth of earth in front of the entrance was quite deep. It was hard unaccustomed work for us so rest periods became more frequent and sentry duty more popular. Siggy had tried her hand at digging but the spade and her legs and feet did not seem to coordinate properly.
Eventually we managed to reveal an opening roughly two foot square, but it had come at a price, two of us had blisters to our hands, Jim’s bracers had failed and were now tied around his waist to support his muddy trousers.
It was decided that we should take a break, scoff the apples and plan our next move. We lay there with the crunch of apples ringing in the air; the soft breeze now turned quite chilly as it evaporated the sweat on our arms and faces.
“Right we need to decide who will try to get inside,” said Jim in a tone that implied reluctance. I was just about to volunteer a preliminary investigation when Siggy declared “I will do it, I haven’t dug much so it’s only fair.” We readily agreed to her suggestion with something of a relief, someone said “Fair does, and heads nodded in approval.
Siggy, clambered down to the entrance hole, it required her to get down on all fours, then flat out on her stomach, “It’s a good job I have got old clobber on she sighed”, as she disappeared from view.
We rushed forward and getting as close as possible to the entrance as we strained to hear noise of her progress. Along with the grunts ands gasps we could hear loose rock being kicked about, then a faint “Oh it slopes down here”
“Be careful Siggy”, called Jim, “What can you see?” I think it was Jim who then asked to borrow my torch to follow Siggy, but before he could enter there came a piercing scream, which seemed to echo through the rock.
We glanced at each other and before we could act we heard a rumbling noise and then saw Siggy’s rear-end emerging propelled by her spindly legs working overtime. Ejected out into the sunshine she was sobbing though the mudpack on her face.
“What’s up chuck? Said Jim placing an arm around his sister, “Oh its that fox its in there, dead, and I put my hand on it” she sobbed. I went and dipped my hanky in the spring for her to wash her hand, which seemed to help the situation.
We could hardly wait for her to calm down before asking her what else she managed to see.
“Its amazing” she cried, “It gets a bit bigger, so you can clamber on all fours, then it starts to drop down and I could see a big black hole and I could hear running water” it’s a bit scary”
We congratulated her, our admiration of her and her efforts boundless, unaccustomed to all this fuss she was keen to elaborate and bathe in all the adulation. “There were those dangly things hanging from the ceiling, and it was so quiet.” She reported “It was like that place we went to on that school trip”. “ Stump Cross Cavern’s?“ offered Jim, “Yes” she replied, “If I had looked down instead of up I wouldn’t have put my hand on that thing.” Said Siggy shuddering at the thought of it.
“Well what are we going to do now?” I asked, “I’m hungry,” said Eli, and there was mutual agreement that it was time to pack-up.
“What we gonna do about our cave” asked Eli, “We can’t leave it for others to find it can we?” we agreed that we must tidy it up and replace the sods as best we could.
Finally, we completed a less than convincing camouflage, and started back home.
“Are we going there again tomorrow?” asked Eli; “No, I don’t think we should,” said Siggy. “Is it because of that fox?” replied Eli, continuing, “It might be better if we left it a while until there are just bones.”
This suggestion seemed to meet with general approval, especially when it was noted that dead bodies could be full of dangerous bugs.
We parted company near Damhead each going their separate ways, we must have look such a sight, covered in mud but each with a sense of achievement; especially Siggy, who was now really one of the lads.

We never returned to that cave site again, in the following September I saw little of Jim, he was missing a lot of school, we were put into different classes and even though he lived close by, we didn’t play out. I saw him once, coming out of the corner shop at the bottom of Edmondson Street carrying a loaf of bread. He looked pale, almost the same colour as the tissue paper the loaf was wrapped in.
A couple of weeks later we heard that he had died, their house was empty for a long time after that.
My mother said that she heard that Siggy and her mother had moved to an aunt in Liverpool.

Eli, too missed quite a lot of school, once he told me it was because his dad was poorly, we noticed that the shop was closed for awhile; then learnt he had died from a heart attack. His mother ran the shop after that with Eli helping as much as he could, but it didn’t work out, after a while it closed down and they moved elsewhere.

I did walk up to the where I thought was the site about two years ago, the area has changed quite a bit from that in my memory. I found the grassy banks, and what I think was the location of the spring, but disappointingly no more than a slightly boggy area. I had been looking forward to testing it after all those years to see if it still tasted as good as I remembered. There was no sign at all of the cave mouth, perhaps some landslip had occurred to reclaim its secret. I know its there, and every time I’m in Barlick I look up towards Weets and contemplate what wonders lie there beneath.

If by any chance Siggy or Eli read this humble attempt to record those far off August days, please forgive me for breaking our promise; do get in touch there is something important I must tell you both.


Footnote:
It may come as a surprise to some of you but the same rock sheet (Carboniferous limestone) which forms the spectacular formations of White Scar Caves, Malham Cove, Goredale Scar, Attamire; Stump Cross Caverns etc extends south to Earby and Barlick. In fact it dips quite a distance to the west, almost to Blackburn. The uninitiated may be forgiven if they were to conclude that carboniferous strata ends suddenly around Malham, (Craven fault) giving way to low-lying alluvial plain (Aire Gap) before the ground rising again but with gritstone predominating.
These carboniferous limestone rocks are overlain by Triassic sandstone’s and in turn covered by a deep layer of glacial drift in the form of boulder clay with alluvial soils, we see the profusion of steep-sided rounded topped hills, called Drumlins, so typical of the area.
The presence of limestone outcrops in the Barlick area has been known for centuries, they are found at Thornton and at Gill with quarrying for limestone at Rainhall being so important as to necessitate a cut from the Leeds & Liverpool Canal to enable its extraction.
So you never know what really lies beneath your feet.



© Barrie K. Sharples, February 2005




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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Stanley » 30 Mar 2016, 04:09

Thanks for that Wendy, what a shame we lost so much material when the site went down. If any of you find material like that, copy it and repost.....
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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Moh » 30 Mar 2016, 12:35

That was a good read, I don't remember it from the old site.
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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Bsharp » 03 May 2016, 12:56

Thanks folks glad to see I'm still appreciated!
Barrie

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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Tripps » 03 May 2016, 15:54

I enjoyed that. Thanks to Bsharp and Wendy. there's an air of Richmal Crompton to it. :smile: . Nice to see the phrase 'shooting up' meaning a growing spurt, and not its modern meaning.
I've been trying to find the bike ride story by Barrowford John (Clayton) -but failed. That was another gem. Good to see such a childhood - such a tale would have Social Services involved today. Fancy letting your children out of your sight.
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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Stanley » 04 May 2016, 04:12

Yes, there was good stuff in that archive.....Great shame.
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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Wendyf » 04 May 2016, 06:18

Trips I'm sure you re-posted that story on the new site. I'll go and have a look.

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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Wendyf » 04 May 2016, 06:35

Here is a Link to the story "Spud's New Bike" where Tripps posted it in 2013. The original is still on the archived site but the formatting has gone a bit peculiar.

Welcome back Barrie!

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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Stanley » 05 May 2016, 04:28

Well done Wendy......
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Re: Weets - A Secret World by Barrie K Sharples

Post by Tripps » 05 May 2016, 11:58

I found I had taken a copy of the story after my last post, but was undecided whether or not to put it up on this thread. A link to last time seems a good compromise. Thanks W.
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