Bench 177 (and 0): Welbeck Way
Here we are. Full circle. Seven months, sixty-four blog posts, and one hundred and seventy six benches later. This is Bench Zero, and now it also has a number: 177.
Welbeck Way is off Mill Lane, itself a turn-off from High Holme Road. There used to be a working mill here, according to Cait Green's The Streets of Louth, as recently as 1910. As with a fair proportion of land redeveloped into residential usage in the inter-war years, this was an agricultural nursery. The land that Welbeck Way stands on was some of the last to be redeveloped.
The bench is on the corner. It looks pretty good. It's the same one that stood for forty-ish years at the top of Cinder Lane on Newmarket; where the blog started. Check out the comments for the first post, and you'll get the full (ish) story about the bench's re-siting.
I sat on it when I was five, and I did my shoelaces on it when I was forty five. It was there, throughout, in-between.
I have a sit down.
Early morning light; it's the middle of summer and I'm up and walking about in a snatched couple of hours before work. The sun's barely full over the horizon. There's still long shadows and a dawn chill about. That'll all burn off soon enough doubtless.
Welbeck Way itself ends in a community of bungalows; sheltered housing administered by the local housing association. It butts up to - and is overshadowed by - the hulking buildings of the older parts of the County Hospital.
This isn't a bit of town I know well. There used to be a cut-through at the far end of Mill Lane that leads to a 1970s housing development where the streets are all named after stately homes. Blenheim, Buckingham, Sandringham. Longleat, Chatsworth, Arundel. You get the picture.
All that 1977 Silver Jubilee patriotism; why wouldn't you buy yourself a little bit of the aristocracy for yourself? The bus from here to Grimsby goes round there; that's how I know it now.
That estate had a pub; the Lady of Shallot (Louth has connections to Tennyson, and indeed, the pub closed down and then reopened, rebranded, as the more direct Lord Tennyson before succumbing to the bulldozers). The pub site was taken over by a residential nursing home. There's a whole history of demographic shifts for you right there.
There was a bit of park through there back in the 1970s and very early 80s with a particularly vicious Witch's Hat. I never liked those things.
I'm not sure if it's there any more, and looking down Mill Lane, I can't see if the way through still exists.
I decide that not knowing is best. So it give it a few more minutes. It's long past dawn chorus, but there's a fair amount of avian activity. And it's just beginning to warm up a little.
I rest, my back against the name plaque on the bench. A momentary tickle of cold from the contact when I settle, then it fades.
It may sound trite, but it's nevertheless sometimes true; we miss things only when they're gone. That was what it was like with this ordinary bit of public seating. I'd seen it - heck, I'd used it - so many times for all of my life that it only became truly real when it had been shifted away.
So it's fitting to be here last. And it's good that the bench wasn't lost; that it's got a new home. May it rest many more legs and numb a fair few bums yet.
I don't think that I have, but I'm entirely expecting to be told that I've missed a bench or two along the way. It doesn't matter if the count is right or not. This hasn't been about redundant accuracy, or making a personal inventory.
If it's been about anything at all, it's been about sorting out what I feel about a place. Not just any old place either. The old home town. What I remember, what I know,what I'm prepared to do and find out about. It's not been a history nor a geography or an accounting.
But it has been a lived experience. Two sets of experiences, thinking about it. The last few months as I've walked and criss-crossed the town, and the long route as well. The bulk of the last forty-six years. Day by day, then walk by walk. A construction and a reconstruction. Memories, immediate feelings, observations along the way.
I'm glad that I've done this though. It makes it OK to leave if that's the way it goes.
Any lessons? These are for me alone; I hope I wouldn't be so arrogant to presume that they'd apply for or to anyone else.
Pay a little more attention. Don't be in such a rush. Be part of the surroundings. Life isn't solely a first-person experience. Walk. Make a record. Have a drink to hand; a bottle of water, a coffee, whatever. And every now and again, go somewhere you don't usually go. Make up a reason, or else just wander. Be curious. You're not in that much of a rush. Not really.
That's it. I'm done. I start to walk home. Might treat myself to a bottle of chocolate milk on the way.
The Google Street View image was taken June 2009. Of course, the bench isn't there yet. But there's a space that'll suit it nicely, with what looks like a couple of concrete slabs waiting. Maybe there was a seat there before. Maybe.