A STORY in last week's Bolton News evoked happy memories for reader Bill Partington.

As reported, Lidl has been given the green light to build a new regional warehouse on more than 17 hectares of land in Over Hulton.

The site, known as Cutacre, is a former shallow tunnel and opencast coal mine.

Mr Bill Partington knows this all too well because he once narrowly avoided plummeting to his death down one of its mine shafts atop a tractor!

As a young man, 78-year-old Mr Partington worked for the Ministry of Agriculture as a tractor driver on what was then a rural site.

"For as long as I can remember, I've always been crazy about farming so it was the ideal job," he said.

"I worked on the tractor as part of a team of eight, and I was the youngest. The camaraderie was great and it I really enjoyed being outdoors. But, saying that, it could get very cold and wet in the winters."

When all the coal had been extracted from the site, it was the job of Mr Partington and his friends to spread the huge piles of soil, plough the land and re-seed it.

It was during one work day that he drove his tractor over a particular area of the land and was troubled by the vibrations and weird sounds.

"It turned out that I'd driven right across a hidden shaft that had been capped. With the weight of the tractor I'm surprised I didn't plummet down there."

In later life, Mr Partington became a builder but his yearning for a rural life did not disappear and in 1981 he bought Daisy Hill Farm.

"I'd seen it when I was working on the tractor. Bolton Council owned it so I made enquiries and they accepted my offer."

The farmhouse, which came with a cobbled yard, paddock and three acres of land, was virtually derelict.

"There was no gas, water or electric. It had been empty for six years. The ceilings were bulging with damp, in fact it was a right bloody state, but I could see its potential."

His wife, Marie, was equally excited, unlike their two daughters, Lisa and Sian, who burst into tears when they realised the wreck was going to be their new home."

Fortunately, Mr Partington put his building skills to good use and all these years later he is still living there - happy that his rural dream became a reality.