THERE are many people in Bolton with a voracious appetite for the past.

According to writer and local historian Alan Simpson though he has it on good authority that interest really only kicks in around the age of 50.

But once it kicks in there is no limit to the amount of time and effort that can be employed in chasing that valuable information.

Alan though has made the job of finding out more about Bolton’s fascinating past that little bit easier with the publication of his latest book, entitled “A Matchstick’s Journey”.

The title of the book is derived from a walk Alan enjoyed with his grandfather in September 1946.

They had walked to what remained of Burnt Edge Colliery on Smithills Moor a colliery that closed in the early 1930s.

As the pair sat eating their cheese sandwiches Alan’s grandpa struck a match, dropped it into the stream and explained how it would end up in the sea — a fact that fascinated the young Alan who was then aged eight. He recreated this 70 years later and his book follows the imagined route of the matchstick.

Alan Simpson loves writing about his home town and his readers thoroughly enjoy reading what he has penned.

His latest book is no exception taking us on a fascinating journey through Bolton “following” a matchstick and its route to the sea.

Along the way Alan stops to talk about the areas he discovers including Winter Hill, where the stream begins. “Winter Hill is a relatively modern name,” explains Alan who goes on to add that maps of the 17th and 18th centuries refer to it as “Egberden Hill” and earlier documents from the 13th century call it “Wintryhold” and “Wintyrheld”.

“The early kings of Northumbria and Lancashire hunted these hills which at that time were heavily forested and it is very likely that thousands of years ago people lived in these forests hunting wild boar and foraging to survive. This could be Lancashire’s earliest civilisation going back to the bronze age,” he explains.

Leaving Winter Hill Alan takes the reader towards the signpost for Walker Fold Woods where, in the foreground, he could see Barrow Bridge chimney. “I thought about how many miners, in the 19th century, had walked down this path after a long shift underground on their way to their cottages in Colliers Row and Barrow Bridge.”

One such miner was Harry Gregory a coal face worker at Burnt Edge, originally from Westhoughton who in the late 1800s lived at 42 Colliers Row, explains Alan. It is likely that the children attended Colliers Row School, just along the road from their cottage.”

nSee next week’s Looking Back for more from Alan’s book.