Saturday, 24 October 2015

Saddleworth Rushcart Re-enactment

Saddleworth Morris Men  or A (not so grand) day out. or An 80 mile round trip to take photographs on your doorstep)
By Barry Quatermass, John Sixsmith and Robert Devenish

I (BQ) heard about the Saddleworth Rushcart event from a friend at work. It sounded brilliant and a check on the website confirmed this was a good place to get people shots. For those who don’t know, the event is a long held tradition of the Saddleworth Morris men who, over the course of a weekend hand haul a huge cart full to overflowing with straw bales up a hill and down the other side. Stopping for merriment at various hostelries along the way. The event promised much, such as a Gurning Competition, Worst Singer Competition and dancing and merriment outside the pub, all of which sounded brilliant for providing photographic opportunities.

Saddleworth Morris Men, so the website informed me, 'are a group of traditional folk dancers from the north of England.Saddleworth is a valley in the Pennine hills between Manchester and Leeds, and each of the six villages in the valley has its own unique dance. Like other Morris dances from the north-west of England, they are performed in Lancashire Clogs, shoes with leather uppers, wooden soles and shod with iron. Saddleworth Morris men are easily identified. Primarily because of the unique pattern and design of the waistcoat material ...' 

John and Robert agreed (unwisely as it happens) to join me and I volunteered to drive - ‘What could possibly go wrong’?

We set of, on a Sunday morning, I knew pretty much where Saddleworth was so didn’t need exact directions, I thought the Sat Nav would finesse the last part of the journey for me once we were well round the M60 – and that’s where things started to go awry. The Sat Nav was not recognising Saddleworth – no matter how we spelt it we were being told “Do not recognise” We were desperately searching on our iPhone for clues and it was some time before we realised that the SatNav was correct there is no village of Saddleworth the event was taking place in Uppermill.

This was mentioned on the Rushcart Website but unless you knew it was a Village you would be forgiven for thinking it was a mill in Saddleworth (that’s my excuse anyway). Our problems didn’t end there.

We got to Uppermill, its a small but pretty village with quite a few day trippers around (but no sign of any morris men) by now the sun had come out and it was a glorious day all we had to do was find one of the hostelries or the church where all the action was taking place – We asked several people and drew a blank then at a Café – The owner said yes (hooray) "the festivities take back over the back” he gestured to the back of his café. “By the church St Chads he said”  - We had a cup of tea and checked in with Google again – Yes it confirmed that there was a street just behind his café and it was called Church St – So off we went we found Church St and we found the St Chads Church all locked up and everything quiet. No sign off any Gurning Competition, No Worst Singer Competition and no sign of a 20ft pile of straw on a Rushcart.  We pondered, cogitated and thought some more then walked back into Uppermill. Eventually we gave up and set of for home without a shutter being pressed.

We set off for home me driving (and embarrassed) John silent and Robert, ever the optimist, searching on google for a Plan B and he found something – There was a Second World War re-enactment happening that very day, all we had to do to get there was head home (it was at Ellesmere Port) - if we hurried we might get there for the last hour (we did and we did).
Rob's Interrogation
Robert had saved the day OK it was gloomy and starting to rain by the time we arrived but we had set of to take photographs and we got the chance to do exactly that.

There were all sorts of WW11 Aircraft, a 40s girl singing group, and any number of people dressed as military personnel from various WW11 armies.

What we now know;

If you go to the road behind the café in Uppermill you will see its called Church road and you will see St Chads Church, if you continue on Church Rd out of the village, up the hill for a good mile further, you come to another Church called, also St Chads. - That’s where you go if you want to see the Rushcart Event (and at least we now know for next year!!!!)