How Lucky We Were

We thought we had landed in heaven ...

By Ted Blowers

Fishing at Hatfeilds

Brian Doubtfire remembers

Photo:Brothers and sisters played together - Linda and Peter Prior

Brothers and sisters played together - Linda and Peter Prior

Donated by Linda Hackett

When we first moved to the estate, like all the other kids, we thought we had landed in heaven. Trees and green spaces, mostly young families - so bags of kids to play with - and even though there were age differences, everyone seemed tolerant of those differences and though you tended to stick to your own age group there were many times when games were played or sorties to other parts were undertaken, when the ages could range from 5 to 13. In retrospect, the reason was that many had younger siblings that they had to look after. That was an added bonus because it meant that, though your elder brother or sister didn’t want you there, they would protect you should the need arise from anyone else that may not want you there either. As just about every family had two or more children of various ages, we tended to form quite large, harmonious groups of kids and dogs, which came with us most of the time.

I remember we all trotted off down to the River Wandle, where Mullards used to have their factory, or The Grove to fish for tiddlers and newts. I remember the great Cedar of Lebanon that stood at the entrance of the Grove with the branches so huge, they had to be propped up by other huge branches that were cut and stood on end held in place by iron hoops. Across the road from The Grove entrance there was a tall brick wall where there was a bus stop. The brick wall was made of very soft, red brick, and it looked like generations of people had carved their names into the bricks, which was very easy to do with just the edge of a penny. Some had just twisted a penny back and forth making quite deep holes. We also used the Wandle route to get to The Grange and Beddington Park where there was a pond where posh kids would sail their toy yachts, plus a lake where you could get boats out. Also at The Grange there was a natural spring with ice cold water just bubbling out of the ground that was safe to drink from. It was a rite of passage to drink from it at that time - we thought it was truly magic.

Another long trip we took was to what we called Cannon Hill  - a park on the way to Wallington which contained a large number of horse chestnut trees. We went there only to gather conkers, and we would spend ages throwing sticks up trying to knock the seed pods containing the conkers down. We never grasped the concept that when they were ready, they would fall down.  We always seemed to know when the season for these and other games was meant to start. I don’t think that anyone ever said "It's time to do this or that", it just happened. Cannon Hill was also a place where we would scare ourselves rigid because there were huge hollows in the ground with big tunnels and what looked to us like dungeons, with iron railings across the entrance and padlocked, I would imagine that it was some flood or drainage project. We however would convince ourselves that if we waited long enough something terrible was going to come out of there - the end result was usually a headlong flight not stopping until we reached the safety of the street.

 When I look back and think of the distances we travelled with no adult supervision, I wonder what has happened to the world. I am not naïve enough to think that there were no bad people about, yet a parent of young children today cannot let them out of their sight. We truly lived in a different, safer and magical world.



This page was added by Ted Blowers on 23/08/2010.
Comments about this page

Some of my memories too, especially fishing for sticklebacks in the river Wandle. and oh those distances we travelled, especially on our bikes.

By Peter Bird
On 14/12/2017

Cannon hill was off of Martin Way Peter, Den O'Brien. It was a magical place..

By Den O'Brien
On 04/06/2019

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