One of the challenges of understanding my grandfather’s and mother’s diaries has been mastering, what to me has been, the relatively unfamiliar geography of Kirkby in Ashfield. This is because although I was born in Kirkby, we moved away when I was a baby and I have never lived there. I have described some of these challenges in another post entitled “Finding the 44 Steps“.
Mentioned in the Diaries
One of the places mentioned in grandad’s and mum’s diaries were the cowpastures or cow pastures. Grandad described going there for Sunday afternoon walks. Mum described going there for rambles with the youth club or junior youth club from chapel.
In June 1932, grandad had a walk through cow pastures to Sutton etc. The following year, in August 1933, grandad noted that after tea he had a walk to Sutton via the cowpastures. Then, in June 1939, grandad noted that “we” had a walk through the cowpastures.
In May 1948, mum went a ramble on cowpastures with the youth club (YC). Four years later, in May 1952, she went on a junior youth club (JYC) ramble over cow pastures. She described it as very nice.
Frank Ashley, Sylvia Sinfield and Gerald Lee, in their book “Kirkby & District in Old Photographs” (p33) feature a photograph of Cowpastures Lane looking towards Sutton Road. They note that it led to the cowpastures, a huge expanse of common grazing land. The lane was described as a favourite summer walk particularly between the wars.
Mark Ashfield mentions the cowpastures in two of his books. In “Horses, Herbs and a Cockatoo“, he mentions them on the very first page. He was returning from a summer Sunday morning walk there with his father. In “A Carnival Crown and a Roasted Ox” (p30), that is where he went with his father to fly a kite. He described the cowpastures in similar terms to Ashley, Sinfield and Lee, “then a vast piece of grassland at the top of Cowpasture Lane – common grazing we were always told, where it was permissible for anyone who had a few head of cattle to let them roam. How long that free grazing arrangement had existed, I don’t know, but there were usually a few cows about…“
Visiting Cowpasture Lane and Cowpasturess
So, when I visited Kirkby in August 2023, I decided to go and see if I could find Cowpasture Lane and the cowpastures. Finding the former was fairly straightforward given that it starts very close to Kirkby Cross in Old Kirkby. We walked along Cowpasture Lane for a bit but the land beyond there now seems to be cultivated land rather than pasture as it was previously.
I am grateful to various contributors on Kirkby Living Memory Facebook Group for their comments on this post. Denise Francis noted that she loved this walk and also the Dumbles down Dole Lane. She concluded that there are “so many lovely walks on our doorstep“. Margaret Murray commented, “I’ve lovely memories of walks on the cowpastures you could always see and hear the skylarks“. Jenny Keeling recalled that she used to “walk over cowpastures to Duke of Suffolk and then down to staff of life pop and crisps then bus home. We lived southwell lane mid to late 50s and 60s With mum dad and sister Janet“. Frank Ball explained, “in your mum and grandad’s time, the cow pastures weren’t ploughed, all meadow with wonderful flowers, a popular picnic place. A great walk through Coal Pits wood, to South Normanton.“