I've been reading another book lately. In fact I can't seem to get enough of it, and I'm finding it to be one of the the most fascinating books I've ever read. It is a humble locally bound book about the history of our little village and the surrounding area. I've always been enthusiastic about history, it being one of the few subjects I actually enjoyed at school. But how very interesting to find a book full of eyewitness reports about the places I pass every day and the very human stories behind them.
Our valley and the surrounding farms have a rich and colourful history. At one stage filled with little mud huts and a few grander homesteads, inns and sawmills to name a few. Some of which are still lived in today, and some with nothing but a chimney being the only reminder that people lived out their lives here.
It has always been a harsh climate, and the first settlers struggled with storms, flood, fire and drought. Who would have known that there was a foot of snow at christmas many years ago? That one storm the water rushed down the very hill that we live on? There were many drownings and horse accidents. There was the scary influenza epidemic and diptheria. Ghost stories and bushrangers. Life could be very hard. But they must have been a resilient lot, and despite tragedy being far more common, many people said they were also very good years. Entertainment in the form of picnics, local balls, music and horse racing. There was a true community spirit.
In a practical sense there is a lot of useful information on what was grown to sustain this little community. There were several dairies (all of which are long gone), there was a lot of potato growing and during the war there was much growing of these potatoes, as well as carrots and peas to sell to the army. (I'd always thought potatoes grew particularly well in the soil here).
I learned about the local wells. How the one behind us sometimes ran dry. (Which makes me wonder how a bore here would perform?) How our neighbour's well was the coldest in the village and how they used to store the butter from the dairy down there.
Walking past the old inn the other day, which has been a house for many years, the lady that owns it stopped her gardening for a chat. Owned outside the original family for some time, it has been bought back by a direct descendent and being lovingly restored. Before I knew it I was being shown around this fascinating old building, shown old fireplaces and black and white photos. There was a patch of plaster worn away revealing the original mud bones underneath.
I feel learning all this has led me to a greater appreciation of the land we live on. When you have a sense of who came before you there is new respect and gratitude. An awareness that our lives are fleeting in the scheme of things, but our legacy may remain around for future generations.
Do you enjoy reading about history? Have you read about your local history before? What have you discovered about your local past?