Assorted Toffees from Colne Engaine

Assorted Toffees from Colne Engaine

An aromatic stroll in the valley of the Colne.

Let us think back with our noses one hundred years. What would have been the overriding smells in Colne Engaine? I think horses would have been significant. Sweaty heavy horses, mowing the hay in the meadows; hot leather, steaming grassy messes, their greasy summer coats, their sweet breath, their huge, horsey presence, essence. Then there were pigs; some more prosperous households would have kept a couple in a sty at the back of the house, and a half a side of bacon hanging in the larder. That very special piggy smell. House cows too would have been familiar, and small domestic dairies: the rich creamy smell of milk in pans, cream, whey, beestings, calves` breath, straw.

Down at the station there was acrid coal smoke from the steam engines, the smell of hot metal and engine grease; more horses, pulling carts from Hunts, waiting for their next load of pig iron to pull up the hill. Mingled with this was the smell of human sweat, of dirty clothes and unwashed bodies. The smell of poverty. On Mondays, coppers would be lit, to boil up sheets and clothes, and hang them on hedges, or on the green to dry. Faggot smoke rising from the baker`s chimney, the fragrance of hot moist bread.

In the houses at nightfall the hiss and smell of Tilley lamps or tallow candles would accompany children as they fell asleep. Cottage gardens as they cooled would yield up the fragrance of roses and lilies, lavendar, catmint, thyme and sage.

Now, use your nose, and walk at dusk from your own house; what can you smell? Down on the railway line, where it crosses the Peb, savour the ramsons or wild garlic where it grows in profusion. Loiter by the river then, and breathe in the ancient muddy smell of flowing water, reeds, bog mint. Walk slowly up the green lane to Lodge Farm; oh joy! The smell of horses from the stables! Pass Lodge Bungalow, where Ron and Muriel are cooking a delicious barbecue.

Proceed along Mill Lane, there is no hurry. To your left the blossom of broad beans, to your right the ripening barley. Stand still for a minute at Far Cotton and breathe in the aroma of that huge lavender bush. Then turn in, gratefully, to the Five Bells for a long sweet draught of your favourite beer, and if you`re not too late, order a meal; how about lamb chops with rosemary? Rosemary for remembrance.

Polly Clarke


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Paperback, 76 pages with 21 illustrations price £6 plus 60p for postage and packing

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