I grew up in Hartshorne (near Swad), where I lived with my mum and dad, big brother, some rabbits and a couple of cats. When I was young we’d walk to Carver’s Rocks and go swimming in Foremark Reservoir. We used to treasure hunt too in disused factories around Woodville, surrounded by unloved sanitary ware, sewerage pipes and old, crumbling bottle kilns.
I remember the miner’s strikes in the 1980s and my friends’ Dads and Grandads protesting around fires burning in oil drums. We never really appreciated how serious the situation was, but knew it affected nearly everyone in the community. During that time, Swad was full of hard-working folks, ‘salt of the earth types’ who were working in the potteries, factories and mines of South Derbyshire.
Eureka Park, Gresley Park and Swad Ponds were my teenage stomping grounds. My friends and I would be there (almost) every night – probably getting up to no good – and I have many happy times to remember. In the summer we’d bomb off to Ted Moult’s (now Scaddows) on our new mountain bikes and go strawberry picking. Eat one, put one in the basket, everyone did it!
In the late 1990s, I left for University where I studied for my HND in Graphic Design. I worked and lived in Nottingham for a few years, before moving back home to Swadlincote. What we’d known and loved as kids had gone. The potteries had almost all closed – apart from T. G. Greens – and the coalmines had shut.
As my friends and I reached our mid-20s, growth of The National Forest had begun. Trees were sprouting up from where there had once been a pit and lakes were beginning to fill old quarries. It was fabulous. We witnessed the regeneration of our homeland and all that was black started to become green.