Orphan Articles

Being Freelance means occasionaly writing articles that are not required. These are a few, articles that no one wants! So if you own a magazine  and want to use them, let me know.

A true story

      "We're going to Chechen Itza the Mayan City in the jungles of Mexico." I told our new friends at the Blue Bay Village, an all-inclusive holiday complex in Cancun, the 'jewel' of Mexico. They had already been there and were able to offer advice.
      "Don’t go on the official tour - that costs £45. It's only £5 return on the public bus."
'Well', we decided, there is a big difference between £90 and £10; it's worth a try. We settled back to enjoy the sultry evening in this idyllic place. The fairy lights glittered around the pool and the 'free' drinks flowed and flowed again.
      "Dos returno to Chechen Itza." I said in my best Spanish. It must have been good because the clerk handed over two bus tickets and pointed to the correct bus. We climbed aboard and settled into the seat, it was comfortable and air-conditioned; we had obviously had good advice. The journey passed pleasantly with the lush jungle passing us on both sides as we sped along the well-maintained highway only stopping at the tollbooths on the way. The journey lasted two and half-hours and we arrived at this famous tourist destination.
 Being on an all-inclusive holiday, we tended to carry little in the way of cash and after paying the entry fee and for refreshment, there was not much left.
      "Stop buying things," my wife, Rose, commanded as the time to leave drew close, "we’ll have no money left."
      "It's alright," I replied, “we have return tickets. I'll just get this painted native mask and glass pyramid, and then we'll go." The place was about to close, so we made our way to the exit, as did the other tourists. Outside they all climbed aboard their tour buses and we waited in the queue for the public one, 'What mugs' I thought looking at the tourists in their overpriced tour buses.

      "You need return ticket," said the ticket collector looking disdainfully at my proffered offering.

       "These are return ones." I said.

       "No they're not," he said looking at the queue stretching behind me. "Next!"

       "But we have to get the bus," I insisted.

      "Not this one, you try next one, it cheaper anyway, Next!" He wasn’t going to change his mind and it didn't matter how cheap it was, we had no money.
       "You can have my watch and credit card until we get to the cash point," I said looking through the door imploringly at the driver whose knowledge of English was on a par with my knowledge of Spanish. There was a great hiss as the brakes were released and the bus drove off.
 The bus station was becoming quiet, the old woman in rags with the piece of cardboard saying, 'my house has burned down and my children have nowhere to live, please give me money.' Had changed into nice clothes and driven off in the smart car that was hidden around the corner.
 We joined the only remaining queue. It included people with boxes of live chickens and a goat! The bus was different, the windows were open and the occupants included animals of all description, now I knew why it was cheaper.
      "Go Cancun, I pay at other end, you keep card." I said in my best pigeon Spanish and offering the driver my gold card. I got that same look that said, 'I don’t know what you're talking about, but I'm not interested anyway.'
 Now we had problems, we were in the middle of Mexico in a place that closed for the night with no habitation nearby and was probably extremely haunted by the Mayan virgins that had been chucked into the nearby water hole. Rosemarie was sitting on the footpath in tears. But wait! One last chance, there were a few taxis left with the drivers talking together prior to going home, why didn't I think of that earlier?
      "How much to Cancun?" I asked the nearest driver. He told me, and after a little mental arithmetic, I calculated that he was asking for nearly £300.
        I went back to Rosemarie who was now in the sitting up foetal position rocking back and forwards and anticipating a night in the jungle with wild animals, big insects and ethereal Mayan virgins who would not be too happy about being sacrificed. I was about to tell her to find a comfortable bush as my pride did not allow me to pay £300 for a taxi when we were joined by an ancient Mexican. He offered to take us for £100 in his antiquated and battered Nissan Bluebird taxi.
 I thought about it, looked at my wife and agreed and we climbed in. The journey was exciting, because on that money, he couldn't afford to use the nice toll road; we had to travel on the rough jungle roads, a journey of over four hours!
         Every few miles we were stopped by a contingent of the Mexican army who searched the car from top to bottom. As they did, we stood on the roadside listening to the myriad sounds of the jungle and looking at the rough open fronted Mexican houses, each one with the friendly glow of a colour television coming from within.
 Eventually we reached our destination and Rose was held hostage whilst I went to the cash point to get the money for the driver.
      "Well, was it cheaper?" asked our new friends as we joined them in the bar.
      "Well, yes and no," I replied, "we spent about ten pounds more but had an unforgettable experience, it was quite exciting really."
       "You speak for yourself," said Rose darkly, still thinking of the big animals, insects and ghostly Inca virgins at Chechen Itsa in the Mexican jungle. "Next time I will look after the money and sort out the transport and you can just leave the wooden native masks and glass pyramids were they are."
         We were back in civilization, bar staff noisily made tequila slammers, a Mexican quartet played and the late night buffet was set out. 'It was good fun I thought', but this time I kept the thought to myself!

Copyright Paul Hurley
January 2007
Words 1,000

Cuba. Sunny Climate and Sunny People

Spain, Portugal and the Canaries. The usual foreign holiday destinations for the settee bound Corrie watching and kebab eating Britons. Why not flaunt the flab at a more exotic destination? Why not go to Cuba? 
         Cuba has reinvented itself, but still remains one of the only representatives of pure communism worldwide. After the USSR folded, their main support was pulled away and they had, for the first time since 1959, to stand on their own feet. With a superb climate and blue waters, the obvious choice to make a few bob was tourism. They picked a far away coastal bit of the island to set up a holiday resort from scratch; they called it 'Varadero' after a Honda motorbike, or was it the other way round?
         It must be admitted however that they had some hurdles to cross to get there. Money was not one of them. Eventually they will be allowed back into western society, and so investing good western money is not a bad risk. Unless you live in the USA, they are still banned from investing. The investors had to work around an infrastructure so run down and neglected as to resemble England in 1945. So far, it has gone well but there is further to go yet. 
         Let us look at a Cuban holiday through the eyes of a typical British couple, us.
        Wishing for something different, we booked a week in Cuba at the Gran Hotel in Varadero. The tickets arrived, we were to fly with 'Cubana' the national airline of Cuba, and it was a scheduled flight into Havana after which we would board a bus for the remainder of the journey to our hotel. From Manchester we would fly to Gatwick to collect the rest of the passengers, and then on to Havana, it sounded all right.
         The plane was a Russian Antonov or some such name, either way; the interior was lined in pink melamine. Barry Bucknell would have been proud to have it on his DIY programme in the 1950s. It was packed, every seat was taken. The plane may have been old with second hand interior fittings taken from a 1954 English kitchen, but the staff was excellent. A theme that we were to experience intermittently throughout the holiday, the cabin staff was easily as good as those on the best Eastern Airlines.
         Twelve and half-hours out of Manchester we were told that due to the weather in Havana, we were to land at Varadero Airport. Great, we thought, that cuts out the two and a half hour bus ride.
 Wrong, we were to wait in Varadero airport for at least an hour, then get back on and fly the last forty five minutes to Havana. We were driven back up the steps to the aircraft; the only things missing were the cattle prods!
          Late at night we arrive at Havana, a load of tired people who had been traveling for between twelve and fourteen hours. The immigration control boxes looked like welcoming beacons in a bleak night, once through those, we will be on the way.
        We all got in the queues to each of the empty desks. It can’t take long, we thought, ours is the only plane in! The staff in their olive green Fidel Castro look-alike uniforms chatted and smoked cigarettes and cigars in the foyer beyond and we waited.  One hour, Two hours, this cannot be happening; they must have run out of cigarettes and cigars by now. Every time someone went to a booth, there was a sigh from the crowd until they saw that they were only after a clean ashtray.
          Two and a half hours and there was a casual opening of the desks and we started to move. It was slower than ordinary airports, but then ordinary airports didn’t have so many international spies and subversives passing through with suspicious names such as 'Airtours and Co-op Travel' on their bags. Once through though and we would find all of the baggage waiting for us with dust covering it. Wouldn’t we?
          Wrong. It took another one and a half hours to come along the conveyor belt. By now the most meek and mild amongst us was definitely getting slightly annoyed. The rest were livid. Then we had to face a bus journey of two hours to go back to where we were some four hours earlier. When we finally arrived some sixteen hours after leaving Manchester, we booked in and went to bed.
          The following morning a quick exploration revealed that it had all been worthwhile. The hotel was beautiful, right on the beach with pools, bars and palm trees. It had the making of a peaceful and relaxing holiday; there was even a piano bar. It was also all inclusive, we had been on an all inclusive holiday in Mexico and it would be difficult to compare it to that. To be fair, Mexico was far more slick and professional, we later went all-inclusive in Sri Lanka and that came between the two.
          The rooms were perfect and the restaurant was self-service, the food was plain and good. It was like a mother would have prepared in the 1940s, everything resembled home made food with lots of rich and stodgy cake. There was however a total inability to control the flies, they were everywhere. If someone went and sold those neon insect killers they would make a fortune! Even the beer tasted as if it had been made with a Boot's home brew kit and that’s not a complaint! But once again, the staff did their best and nothing was too much trouble. You could even buy unopened bottles from the all-inclusive bar, for some reason though; you had to pay a small fee for these and the barman sort of passed them to you in a brown bag!
          At the start of our bus trip from the airport, we had noticed how nice the roads were, and then we had fallen asleep. On a day trip back to Havana, we saw them in the daylight. The roads around the airport were nicely laid out with a tarmac surface. After a few miles, you fell off the end and the rest of them were crumbling. In fact that would be a good word to describe the rest of Cuba, 'crumbling'. The roads were doing it, the buildings were doing it and the cars were doing it. The whole country is just one large crumble! The vehicles on the roads were large vulgar and very old pre 1959 American ones. There were also Russian and Czechoslovakian cars, (Including Lada stretched limousines!) and a few newish Japanese cars.
          What the country lacked in amenities and infrastructure it made up for in atmosphere and friendly people. It was easy to see why Ernest Hemmingway had made it his own. Eventually, Fidel Castro will go to the great proletariat in the sky, the Americans will move back and the country will become a big holiday camp. Until then, it is there to be enjoyed.
          The flight back was on the same Russian Jet, this time, there were only 27 of us and we flew straight back to Manchester. Why go to the European resorts every year when for a similar price you can be exotic and go to Cuba. Get through the officialdom and an excellent holiday awaits you.

Copyright Paul Hurley
January 2007
Words 1,228

Delamere Camp. Mid Cheshire does its bit for the war effort.
At the start of the war throughout Cheshire military establishments were being re-activated or set up to join the war effort. Air bases at Byley and Tatton Park were in action and airfields at Little Sutton and Calveley were under construction. Montgomery was not yet a Field Marshall but a few years later he would join US General's Patton and Eisenhower at Peover Hall near Knutsford to work on plans for the invasion of Europe. Whilst there he would dine and take refreshment in the Bells of Peover pictured here.









But what of the people in Mid Cheshire, what was life like on a day-to-day basis? Not much had changed really; at the end of 1940 no one bothered to carry a gas mask any more; the need for that fashion accessory had lapsed. Dogfights occurred in the air over the county, but in the main, unlike the South Coast, they were exercises and the pilots were under training at the fighter pilot training base at Hawarden. 

Since 1784 when it was built in the lush Cheshire countryside Delamere House> <<<<<  had sat in 100 acres of parkland just outside Cuddington. It was owned by the Wilbraham family who employed many staff and provided homes for them in the area. In 1939 this beautiful house was demolished and a new one called Delamere Manor built nearby for the family. Delamere Manor became the home of musician Gary Barlow.

After its demolition the Delamere House parkland became an army transit camp with wooden huts built to house the many soldiers who would take up temporary residence there. First it was British troops and then just prior to D Day it was the home of the US Army including the 475th Military Police Escort Company who served as post MPs and patrolled the streets of Chester.

Just prior to the ‘Battle of the bulge’ the camp emptied overnight providing soldiers to repel Hitler’s last stand, or one of the many!

In February 1946 it became the Royal Pioneer Corps Depot under the command of WW1 hero Lt Col H Greenwood VC DSO OBE MC. The Depot had moved here for just a few months from its wartime home in Prestatyn.

It was known during the war as Delamere Camp and retained this name after 1947 when it became home to families of Polish servicemen, some locals and homeless Polish people who had been invited to Britain. But what about these locals? Where did they come from? At the time, the ICI was providing houses for the families of men who came to work at Winnington or Wallerscote works. They had to agree to work for the ICI for a set period to remain in their houses. Those who left early became homeless and moved to the camp. 

I had Polish school friends living there and well remember entering the wooden huts that had been converted from bleak barrack blocks to cosy family homes with vibrant rugs on the walls and exquisite Polish decorations. Later the huts were swept away and it went through another transformation to become Delamere Park, an exclusive housing development. All that is left of the old hall and camp is the once busy gateway that has been preserved on Norley Road. 

Delamere Camp was not the only base for US and British troops in Mid Cheshire; there was also a large camp at Oulton Park and of course Marbury. These establishments provided an invaluable service to the successful outcome of the war.

Some may remember Marton Camp near Whitegate, a name synonymous with military activity, but not in this case. It was built using the ubiquitous wooden army huts at the start of the war to house children evacuated from, mainly, Liverpool. Towards the end of the war it spent time as a convalescent home and was then purchased by Northumbria County Council who used it for many years as a residential school, later it became a nightclub and is now another exclusive housing development

Tarporley Racecourse was another wartime army camp which also became a large prisoner of war camp and provided workers for the farms of Cheshire. German prisoners of war were also held at Blakemere Hall as were Polish refugees. The hall was demolished in 1950 leaving only the stables block that now houses the famous craft centre. 

Copyright Paul Hurley




The villages of Coole Pilate and Hack Green in South Cheshire are situated in the most beautiful flat Countryside near to ancient town of Nantwich. The Shropshire Union Canal and the narrow river Weaver meander gently through their lush green pastures. They don’t boast public houses or shops to tempt the weary traveller, as villages they boast only of a few farms and cottages. At one time the Great Western Railway ran through the area with a small railway halt at Coole Pilate between Audlem and Nantwich. This railway line has long since disappeared leaving only signs of the track bed and bridge workings around the canal to show that it was ever there at all.

Until the 1700’s the area came under the jurisdiction of two main landowners. Coole Pilate Hall on the banks of the river Weaver was a large black and white mansion house and home of the Whitney family for several generations. It eventually became derelict and was demolished many years ago by the council. A house has since been built on the site and no sign of the hall remains.

The second estate was the home of the St.Pier family. This family came to England from France at the time of William the Conqueror and quickly settled in, marrying into other well-established Cheshire families. Coole Hall Farm built in 1798 is on the site of the original old hall and is the home of Carolyn and Franklin Goodwin. This working farm also offers bed and breakfast facilities with home cooked food and a chance to experience farm life on a large farm set in an idyllic setting.

So apart from the beautiful countryside, meandering canals and the river Weaver gently lapping against its banks, what is of general interest in this quietly unassuming area of natural beauty?

Well if, during the cold war in the 1980’s, the soviets had hurled a nuclear bomb at these pleasant shores 135 civil servants and military personnel would have moved into the area and taken over all the duties of a regional Government covering from the Midlands to Cumbria.

The fact that it was a Regional Government Headquarters was known to a select few. To the locals it was that old concrete bunker that used to be RAF Hack Green, the radar base. Now, it is open to the public as one of Cheshire’s most popular visitor attractions.

At the start of the last war radar was in its infancy and had difficulty in detecting hostile aircraft. In late 1940 a system of radar installations known as ‘Ground Controlled Intercept Stations’ were developed and in 1941 Hack Green, a site previously used as a bombing decoy site for the main railway centre at Crewe was chosen to become RAF Hack Green, to give early warning of airborne attack between Birmingham and Liverpool. Thus began the service of Hack Green and its airmen and women in the defence of the nation.

Following World War II, a major examination of radar capability showed that our existing radar defence would be unable to cope with the threat posed by fast jet aircraft, let alone nuclear missiles. Any operational station needed to be protected against the new threat posed by nuclear weapons.

RAF Hack Green joined 12 Group protecting Britain against the perceived Soviet threat of both conventional and nuclear war. With new long-range radar, Hack Green could give vital warning of the approach of hostile Russian bombers and enable the RAF to intercept with fighter aircraft or Bloodhound ground to air missiles. In accordance with the then held tripwire theory, that a number of nuclear bombers would always get through to some targets, early warning of impending attack enabled our Victor ‘V-Force’ nuclear bombers to become airborne and launch a retaliatory attack.

Hack Green had a compliment of 18 officers, 26 NCOs and 224 other ranks, so quite a substantial installation hidden away in pastoral Cheshire. 1958 brought yet another change in Hack Green’s role when it became part of The United Kingdom Air Traffic Control System, one of 4 joint civil/military Air Traffic Control Units. Civil flying had by then totalled more than 133,000 hours per year and military flying 70,000 hours.

The increasing use of airways and the advent of the Boeing 707 entering UK airspace at 35,000 ft. started to create a problem for the RAF The solution was to establish joint air corridor radar control centres. It was in this role providing safe radar assisted crossing service for both military and civil aircraft that Hack Green was to see its final service as an RAF station. The station was closed in 1966, it’s role having been transferred to RAF Lindholme in south Yorkshire. The bunker was then abandoned

In the 1970’s, in order to present a credible civil defence structure, secret plans were drawn up to ensure that should war have broken out the government would survive to lead and reconstruct post war Britain. From the ashes of a thermo-nuclear conflict the UK was split into 11 defence regions, each with a Regional Government Headquarters (RGHQ) protected to a high standard against the effects of nuclear weapons.
In 1976 the abandoned site at Hack Green was purchased from the MOD by the Home Office Emergency Planning Division to be transformed into a protected seat of government. The original radar bunker was converted into a vast underground complex containing its own generating plant, air conditioning and life support, nuclear fallout filter rooms, communications, emergency water supply and all the support services that would be required to enable the 135 personnel to survive a sustained nuclear attack.

The HQ became operational in 1984. It was responsible for a huge area from Cheshire in the south to Cumbria in the north. A Regional Commissioner who would have been an appointed civil servant or minister would have headed the HQ. Under the Emergency Powers Act he or she would govern this defence region, and neighbouring regions if other RGHQs had been destroyed. They would attempt to marshal the remaining resources to put the region back on its feet and prepare for the re-establishment of national government.

History has shown us how difficult it would be to conceive and implement a successful invasion of the British Isles. The last ‘invasion’ was by the French under Napoleon Bonaparte. They actually set foot in Fishguard, Pembrokeshire with the intention of marching on Chester and conquering the country with the support of British workers. During their two days on British soil the French soldiers had not allowed for the 47-year-old Jemima Nicholas, wife of a Fishguard cobbler. When she heard of the invasion, she marched out with her pitchfork and rounded up 12 Frenchmen. She brought them back to town, handed them over, and went back to look for some more. Despite the German’s later attempts, this short lived and farcical invasion was the last one and this is thanks to the watchfulness provided by units like the one at Hack Green.

Hack Green Nuclear Bunker near Nantwich http://www.hackgreen.co.uk/

This one was 'not required' by Cheshire Life! It looks at a once important facility set in the beautiful countryside of Cheshire. 

Copyright  2005 Paul Hurley

If you wish to use this article for your magazine etc, please contact me.

Words 1.166
Copyright Paul Hurley

This has been published in the Police Catalyst Magazine and the Chronicles. I will however reproduce it here.

A Local Hero
From the mud of Passchendael to the beauty of Great Budworth in Cheshire.

Private 21006 Wilfrid Blythe MM.
Later to become Police Constable 446 Wilfrid Blythe MM.

By Paul Hurley

Wilfred Blythe was born at Manley on the 13th of November 1897 into a farming family who farmed at Moss Farm in the village. As a boy he would search through the hay in the barn collecting stray hens eggs, carry the tea jug and home made bread and cakes down to the fields for the workers and muck out the cow shed with the big wooden barrow.

As he got older he took on the more arduous tasks. Walking behind the plodding plough horses as they curved a furrow through the rich Cheshire soil, his young muscles struggling to keep the heavy plough going in a straight line. Milking was done by hand and in the light of an oil lamp he would sit at the side of the cow, his flat cap firmly pressed against it’s flanks as he expressed the warm milk. Then to Mouldsworth railway station in the pony and trap with the milk for the early train to Manchester.

Living on the farm in the early part of the century would have been hard, but this would be offset by the beautiful countryside and views that the area had to offer. In spring the sweet smell of the wild flowers and trees would mingle with the more earthy smell of the farm. Motor vehicles would rarely be seen and the lanes around the farm would have only the sound of horses hooves and children’s laughter to intrude upon the birdsong and the lowing of the animals.  
Dark times were on the horizon and this untroubled lifestyle was shortly to be devastatingly ended.

Archduke Ferdinand being shot, politicians doing what they do best and Germany’s expansionist desires. Whatever the reason for the first war, it was the people from places like Manley who would suffer when this maelstrom swept devastatingly across Europe.
Wilfred Blythe joined the thousands of young men who saw the new war as an adventure. It would be short, over by Christmas in fact, and there was much excitement to be had. If Wilf and his peers could only have seen what was to come in the killing fields of France and Belgium, the English countryside, towns and cities would not have lost their attractions. People yet to be born would feel a shiver down their spines at the names Ypres, The Somme and Passchendaele.

Too young at the start of the war in 1914, he had to wait until 1916 when at 18 years of age he joined the prestigious Coldstream Guards Regiment.

By the time he joined, the opposing armies had been bogged down in the Flanders mud for two years. The battle of the Somme had just ended with great loss of life. In July of 1917 the 3rd battle of Ypres, better known as the infamous Passchendaele would start.

Thrown, half trained, into this mincing machine was Private 21006 Wilfred Blythe from the small village of Manley in Cheshire.

Incompetent leadership, the worst rain for 60 years and superior German positions meant that this battle would become a benchmark for the horror of war. Wilf could do nothing about his generals and the shocking weather, but at least against the Germans he could fight back and this he did with distinction.

On one occasion he led a small group of men across no-mans-land and behind the German lines where, at great risk, they carried out a surprise attack. For this he was awarded the Military Medal.

This medal was awarded to ‘other ranks’ for bravery in the field. Had he been an officer, this award would have been the Military Cross. In these days of equality the Military Medal has been phased out and the Military Cross remains as the highest military bravery award below the DSO and Victoria Cross. 

Twice during the war he was wounded spending time at various military hospitals and he continued to serve his country with distinction until the armistice in 1918.

Wilf returned to the farm but by then it was difficult to settle back into the rural lifestyle after the hectic life of a soldier. In 1924 he joined the Cheshire Constabulary and became P.C 446.

He served around the county, or rather the county as it was then, spending time first in Dukinfield where his youngest daughter Betty was born. Postings to Northwich and Comberbach followed before moving finally to Great Budworth. As the local beat officer his was the first family to live at the newly built police house that sat in the shadow of the ancient church. His farming knowledge proved useful as he cycled around his large country patch, talking with farmers and supervising sheep dipping and the many other unique duties of a country policeman. His wife Winnie did the typing in the small police office attached to the house.

He was the Great Budworth ‘Bobby’ through most of the Second World War and on one occasion he was patrolling with his sergeant when they saw a shaft of light from an ill-fitting blackout curtain. Normally a word of advice would suffice but due to the sergeant’s presence he had to summon the miscreant. Later however knowing that the offender was poor, he paid the fine himself.

The earlier suffering in the trenches and the wounds that he had received still troubled him and at the age of 45 years, he was medically discharged from the force.

Not as now a generous sick pension and a lump sum from the police, the family were left almost destitute. They moved first to a rented room in St Georges Road, Winsford and here despite the caring ministrations of his family, his illness worsened.

After a spell in hospital in Liverpool, Wilf died in 1945 at the relatively young age of 47. He is buried in Thornton cemetery in Liverpool.

His widow Winnie was left with a ten shilling a week pension from the police and with her young daughters Flo and Betty she moved from rented room to rented room. Eventually Betty married and willingly accepted the task of caring for her mother aided by her older sister Flo. Winnie died peacefully in 1983.

Copyright Paul Hurley