Walter – Jenny Bridge

Parsley Hay. Parsley ………Hay.

Yes, I suppose it is a rather unusual name now you come to mention it. I’ve never really thought about it before. I grew up with it of course. Lived just down the road when I was a child. Not far from the old station. Well, it’s a cycle hire place now but I remember when it was a station.

Parsley Hay. Even for me it has a tasty sort of ring to its name. For a rabbit it must sound like pure comfort food. But never mind about rabbits – although they do come into the story later.

Yes, there has to be a story. You asked how did Parsley Hay get its name so there has to be a story.

Let’s see – maybe it starts with the opening of the new passenger station way back in the late nineteenth century. Let’s imagine the new station being proudly cared for by its station master. We’ll call him Walter, as good a name as any.

Picture Walter at the end of his career. He’d been a station master before in busier places, like Derby, but now he was nearing retirement and had been given the job of running this new tiny station in the middle of nowhere, on the line between Ashbourne and Buxton.

Walter was a tall man, upright and straight for his years with a rather military bearing. He rarely smiled and had an air of authority that caused passengers and staff to respect him.

He had been married to Edna until her death five years ago. It had been a comfortable marriage. Comfortable but not exciting. There had been no children but the two of them had rubbed along well enough together and Walter missed her quiet company now.

He ran the station, as he did everything, with precision. Trains were expected to arrive and depart on time and passengers to behave with decorum. Even the flowers and vegetables in the station garden were expected to grow in orderly fashion and to stand straight in rigid formation.

For, of course, there was a station garden. The few trains that ran this way couldn’t take up all Walter’s time and, even with his strict regime of cleaning, tidying and organising, he could not fill in all the hours of the day. So, like many other station masters, Walter created his garden. He was immensely proud of the bright flowers and glowed inwardly at the admiration frequently shown by passengers, although it would be unseemly for him to give any indication that such things mattered to him.

His main joy, however, if we can believe Walter capable of joy, were his vegetables.

Healthy and strong, free from insects and weeds, Walter’s vegetables were a delight to see and kept him well fed throughout the year.

Unfortunately the many neighbourhood rabbits ( I did say there would be rabbits) shared Walter’s delight in the vegetables. Night after night they arrived, with an ever growing number of relatives, to devour Walter’s succulent treats. He tried everything to frighten them away but all in vain. They were clearly addicted to their nightly fix.

Walter noticed that the leader was always the same rabbit. Bigger than the others, he had a slightly damaged left ear, maybe the result of an encounter with a trap. Every night he was the first to arrive and always he made straight for the lush dark green leaves of Walter’s parsley. Uncharacteristically, Walter found himself talking to the creature and even giving him a name.

“Ho Parsley, so it’s you again. Get off my veg you thieving pest or I’ll fetch my shot gun to you!”

But Walter felt a growing admiration for the bold creature and secretly looked forward to his visits.

“Parsley, hey! ” he would cry half heartedly, ” get off my garden. Parsley, hey!”

And that was the call that passengers arriving at the little station would hear night after night on their homeward journey.

“Parsley Hay!”

And thus, it became the name of the station and, in time, the hamlet that grew up around it.

So that’s the story. As simple as that. No dramas, no deeds of daring. Just a story of a rabbit, a man and his garden.

Is it true, you ask? Ah well. If you believe it, maybe it is. If you don’t, you can always make up your own story. If it is told often enough perhaps it will become true.

For what, after all, is truth?

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