Waves Fold Behind Villages : A Brief Glimpse of Newstead

A fleeting visit to Newstead in Nottinghamshire, a former mining village whose colliery closed in 1987.

Newstead Colliery

To the superficial eye it ticks the boxes for the identikit “former mining village”.  The rows of terraces are present and correct (though most look reasonably spruce). There is a vandalised phone-box (someone had ingeniously managed to weld a melted cigarette lighter into the coin slot).   Two hooded youths (straight from central casting) loitered outside the closed-down fish and chip shop and were asked by a passing old man in a flat cap “What’s the matter, lads, nothing to do?”.  So far, so predictable.

It is true that there doesn’t seem to be a great deal to do there.  It has a small Post Office and convenience store, a Primary School, a Community Centre (with a cafe, although that seems to shut at 2.00 pm), a Sure Start and a skatepark.  It also has its own railway station (which many villages would die for, or without) and a reasonably frequent bus service.  A little sleuthing shows that the village attracted some serious attempts in regeneration towards the end of the last decade, including the lottery-funded Village SOS project, which involved turning the site of the former colliery into a Country Park.  Ominously, there seems to be little trace of regenerative activity since about 2011.

Above all what it has going for it is its natural beauty, which would particularly appeal to lovers of deciduous forests in Autumn.  One contributor to the regeneration project described what they were trying to do as “healing the scars” inflicted upon the landscape by the industrial revolution (presumably an allusion to local boy D.H. Lawrence).  It seemed to me at least as much like the sands of the desert steadily removing all trace of human habitation, but no doubt that it is merely a matter of temperament.

Inevitably, as a barely regenerate Man of Sensibility, what moved me most were the ruins rather than the signs of renewal.  Close by the railway station is this –

Newstead Cricket Pavilion

What appears to be a functioning football pitch, overlooked by a cricket pavilion and ringed with benches, suggesting that cricket has been played here in the not too distant past.  The story appears to be that Newstead Colliery, a strong side in its heyday who produced several County cricketers (this is Larwood country), merged with nearby Newstead Abbey in 1987 when the Colliery closed and their former ground was purloined for a housing development (though much of that is still scrubland).  The merged club continued until earlier this year, when it disbanded through a lack of players.  The hands on the pavilion clock have been broken off, but they seem to be stuck permanently at about 12.20 (so it’s unlikely that there will be honey, or anything else, for tea).

On the other side of the station is this – the Station Hotel (the rail history of Newstead is complicated: in its heyday the village had two stations, both shut by the 1960s.  Almost miraculously, the Robin Hood line was reopened in 1993 thanks, initially, to support from the local Council) –

Newstead Station Hotel

a rather lovely building to my eye, and the only pub in the village, but no longer open for business, a small notice in the window plaintively advertising “Public House for sale“.

The delicate lettering on the frontage records the date 1911, although a local source indicates that it opened in 1881.   As recently as 2008 the hotel was receiving plaudits for its choice of real ales and beer garden, it seems to have hosted musical evenings, but, like the Cricket Club, it met its end earlier this year.  If I had the money, I’d be tempted to buy it myself.  Part of its appeal is simply that it is a railway hotel, a fossil from the days when it was assumed that it should be possible to step off a train and find a bed for the night, a decent supper and a nightcap in a companionable snug.

But, inevitably, there is a melancholy tinge to these pleasant imaginings : the conclusion of Larkin’s “Friday night in the Royal Station Hotel”:

In shoeless corridors, the lights burn.  How

Isolated, like a fort, it is –

The headed paper, made for writing home

(If home existed) letters of exile.  Now

Night comes on.  Waves fold behind villages.

Newstead Station Hotel 2

Imagine!

Et In Arcadia Ego : shepherd’s pie

Leicestershire 2nd XI v Nottinghamshire 2nd XI, Market Harborough, 21st July

(Disclaimer – This post contains fanciful speculation about the thought processes of some of the characters involved.  I really have no idea what they’re thinking.)

On Wednesday the whirligig world of Leicestershire 2nd XI cricket turned to Market  Harborough  and the familiar territory of Fairfield Road.

I think most of us enjoyed ourselves.  The Last Gnomes were out in force, the Committee were pleased, I was happy as Larry and the Excellent Women who normally provide the teas had a chance to demonstrate their range with a delicious (I imagine – I didn’t get any of it) shepherd’s pie for lunch.  

The nice lady physio we last encountered at Oakham certainly seemed to appreciate the shepherd’s pie, and spent the after-lunch period basking in the grass on the long leg boundary, her first aid kit at the ready in case she was needed (which, happily,  she wasn’t). She also had the chance to make use of an al fresco treatment table (pictured).

 

Greg Smith must have been happy, proving that he could make his way patiently to a large total, in the face of the loss of early wickets and against a decent attack, watched by the coaching staff (who were also had the chance to return to their roots, by retrieving balls from the hedge that borders Fairfield Road).  Shiv Thakor must have been happy, until he was out LBW attempting  an ill-advised and unnecessary reverse sweep when well-set.

The young trialists must have been, if not happy exactly, then excited, looking for signs that the wicket was taking spin, hoping to  impress when their turn came to bowl.  Bilal Shafayat, the famous 12th man, seemed in a jovial mood,  bantering with a teenage teammate about how old he was.

I’m not sure that everyone was quite as pleased to be there though. Charlie Shreck (32), and, not so long ago, in with a distant shout of an England cap, wasn’t pleased when, in mid-afternoon Smith (or Thakor) whipped his bouncer off his nose for four.  He threatened the non-striker with being run out for backing up too far, then followed up the next few deliveries to within a few feet of the batsman and had a few words with him, perhaps a few words of advice about the vicissitudes of a professional cricketer’s life, and the need to prepare for a career after retirement.

Someone else who seemed immune to the charms of Market Harborough and its shepherd’s pie was Leicestershire’s captain for the day.  He joined Leicester in the middle of last season, knowing that he wasn’t going to be offered another contract by Surrey, and must have had good hopes of a regular first team place.  He spent the first half of the season injured, but played all fourteen 20/20s.  If he couldn’t have been down in Glamorgan with the First XI, he might have preferred to be at home with his feet up.

He played a brief innings, not quite timing it and holing out, sat saturnine in front of the pavilion, popping out to his car from time to time, perhaps to make a few ‘phone calls.  And what was he thinking of?  How his teammates were doing against Glamorgan?  The great day, not so long ago, when he put on an opening stand of  296 (with an old school fellow) in a one day match in front of a packed and jubilant Oval crowd, and where he might have thought that would lead him?  Delhi, perhaps, with an IPL contract in his pocket, rather than Market Harborough with a plate of shepherd’s pie, however delicious.

Some interesting cloud conditions today, like so.

 

Reminded me of this –

Scorebox by Rene Magritte