My father was an eccentric. Influenced by the media cover of the 'Bay Of Pigs' Incident, he became paranoid and made plans to leave the city and seek refuge in the countryside. He believed that in the invent of nuclear war, people Living in the rural areas would be more secure.Consequently, We moved to a farmhouse in the Rossendale Valley, high up in the hills above a little village called Waterfoot. The road leading up to the house was no more than a dirt track. It twisted up the hillside spiralling into the Heavens like 'Jacks Beanstalk' and branches trailed off to individual farms.
Our house - Higher Lench Farm - was the last house on the road. It was a bleak place in the Winter due to the altitude, and always swarming with midges in the Summer because of the cow manure.The house was rent free, part of an agreement with the owner, Pete. In return my father had to work weekends doing odd jobs on his neighbouring farm. The farmhouse was painted all white and the front door bright red. There were four large windows in the front of the house which looked out onto rolling fields, stone walls,and patches of woodland. An extension to the main building housed the kitchen which backed right into the cowshed, the ground forever, muddy churned up by the daily milking schedule.
The back of the house was dark and shaded by a large hill. The face of the hill had eroded away to form a rocky surface. The roof of the house was covered with old slate tiles – nothing like the horrible red tiles used nowadays on modern buildings - and a battered chimney stood proud in the middle.
Inside the house there were two large rooms : one was the front room, and the other the parlour. Both had stone fireplaces and stone floors. The stairs leading up to the bedrooms were also made of stone with a wrought iron handrail. There were three bedrooms, two at the front of the house and one at the back. The back bedroom was my parent's bedroom and contained the bath. There was no separate bathroom so ifyou wanted a bath you had to have one before they went to bed. The two front bedrooms slept all nine children. The boys slept in one bedroom and the girls slept in the other.
Summer time was always fun at 'Higher Lench'. We would all go swimming in 'Low Lodge' reservoir, and take a picnic. The reservoir was like a huge swimming baths with a stone floor, as it was disused no one complained about us being there. We would all swim together under the watchful eye of my mother, and when we had finished she would rub the younger children down with a towel to get us dry.
My older brothers would take me and my younger sisters for rides on their motorcycles across the moors and down the quarries. We would be holding on for dear life and screaming our heads off. When we got back, our mum would give them a good telling off and threaten them with 'The Iron Shoe’ as it was nick named - which was a belt round the ear with with her sandal - us young ones would be clung onto her blubbering.
Every Sunday our grandma and granddad would come to visit, they lived just down the road in a farm called 'Holly Farm', my grandmother would sit in the front room and tell us ghost stories. Granddad would disappear down to the local alehouse and return just in time for dinner, at the same time my father would be on his dinner break and they would sit together chatting.
We lived at Higher Lench Farm for three years, but the harsh living conditions and the lack of room for such a big family caused my parents to move. We moved into a new house on a large council estate two miles from Waterfoot.