Monday, 7 February 2011

The Field

Photos Copyright: Maggie May.

In my last post when I wrote about 7 things, I found myself remembering the time when we went to the Lake District every Summer Holiday and I felt I wanted to expand on that.
I was six years old and my brother, Eddie Bluelights, was 4 when I remember our first camping trip, but we may have gone before that, I don't know.
We had a grandfather, his two sisters and a brother, as well as my Dad's disabled cousin who rented a farm house in the Lake District. The farm was called Bark House because it used to be a tannery and they used bark in the process of smoking the leather. However, that was long before my assorted relatives moved in.

As we lived in what is now Cheshire, but used to be Lancashire, we went to visit the relatives every year, as it was considered fairly close.
However, getting there was no easy feat, though by todays travelling it would be fairly simple. Of course that was in the days before Motorways were even thought of and the journey took hours and we had to go through major towns like Preston and Lancaster on twisty roads with masses of traffic lights, where we got held up for ages.

I think my brother and I were privileged children in so far as we had a few more material possessions than most. (In the area where we lived, that is), but my father spent much of his money on his hobbies, such as photography, his huge record collection, and of course his car and any technical piece of apparatus that caught his fancy. My mother had to make do and mend when it came to clothes and other luxuries and we didn't ever seem to have enough things to wear. Anyway, it was post war days and lots of things were rationed. There were not so many people who had cars in those days either.

We looked forward to the Summer Holidays for weeks beforehand but from my point of view, these holidays never seemed to come up to my expectations even by the time we got home. I was always glad to get back to our little house that I loved.

Typically, at the beginning of our holiday, we ended up after a tremendously tiring journey, in a stark field with very few other campers. There was very little there except a stream that branched off a fast flowing river on the other side of some land that separated the two. The field was a reasonable walk away from Newby Bridge and we were about twelve miles away from the nearest town of Ulverston.
In other words it was in the back of beyond.

We had a tiny tent, which wasn't wholly waterproof.
Our drinking water had to be collected from a tap at the end of a field.
The toilets would send todays Health and Safety into a frenzy because they consisted of two boxed in seats, side by side in a kind of shed and whatever was dispelled from our bodies, ended up in a pit underneath. The smell was horrendous as lots of families used it and everything was swarming with flies.
My mother was constantly worrying about us getting polio because there seemed to be an outbreak of it in other parts of England and there were no vaccinations against it. I think it was a real worry, but thankfully we managed to stay well.
There were no washing facilities.
We used to go to Bark House once a week and have a bath.
That seemed the norm in those days, a weekly bath and hair wash.
My mum cooked bacon and eggs on a small paraffin stove when it wasn't raining, as the stove could only be lit outside our flimsy tent.
We bought our supplies daily from a nearby farm. The man there (who knew my grandfather), gave us honey on the comb, from the bees that he kept.
We ate copious amounts of this, on bread.

Eventually, we upgraded to a caravan that was called *The Cub.* It was rather an ugly thing, I thought, but at least we were fairly dry when the rains set in. My dad's little Morris Eight, seemed to find pulling that van up hills, a major struggle and my mother used to carry an old fashioned flat iron on her lap for the duration of the journey, just in case she needed to quickly pop it under a wheel to stop us being dragged down a hill backwards.

I seem to remember it raining continually for the duration of our three week stay.
We regularly went into Ulverston to collect exercise books and crayons and things that might keep us amused, but the rain went on and on.
We were kitted out with souwester hats and wellingtons. We must have had raincoats too but strangely, I don't remember them. I think we had gabardine school macs which were only shower proof.
My mother constantly worried that the stream would flood with all this rain and sweep us away in the night. Looking back, I think she was justified.
However, in those days a woman didn't have much say in the running of things, so she just had to put up with whatever came her way and my dad didn't move the van.
She used to call the Lake District the *Leak District*. Those lakes had to be kept filled.

By now we used to bring a cousin with us, who was my brother's age and together with our spaniel, we were extremely cramped when we battened down for the night, though there were no black beetles in the van, like there had been in the tent.

I remember a little girl whom we had befriended, called Sheila and one day, we were all crossing the stream on a little wooden plank, which was slippery after rain, so that we could get to the land between the stream and the river, in order to play there.
Sheila was only about four years old and I remember very clearly that she slipped off the plank and was swept slowly down the stream under the water, and her little white wellingtons were the last things I saw of her. I ran as fast as I could and told a man who was coming out of the toilet shed, that Sheila had fallen in.
I remember he was doing up his flies, but he quicky ran to the stream and hauled her out. She was being dragged slowly towards a Mill Race (whatever that was) but the grown ups kept saying how dangerous it was. There was an eel trap in that area and we had stood and watched them squirming while they were being skinned. Apparently there had been a few cases of children drowning during past years at this place, so the man who owned the place said.

Looking back, I cannot for the life of me think why we were allowed to run wild like that but all the children of that time were allowed freedom to explore and do quite dangerous things by todays standards. It was the norm then.
Sheila was confined to bed for the rest of the holiday as she had swallowed a lot of water. However, I think her aunty, who was bringing her up, thought we were a bad influence. Maybe that was why she was kept inside. We all thought that it wasn't fair because after all, I had got help for her. No one said thank you.
I now feel very sorry for my mother who had to go on these holidays that were obviously very stressful, year after year. I think her endurance was remarkable.

I am sorry that the photos had to be put on the blog via my camera as I don't have a scanner available.
What dangerous things did you do as a child?


Hilary said...

Those are the kind of memories that stay so clear through the years. It must have been so frightening when you watched that child disappear under water. Yes, it sure was a different time. Great story and actually quite interesting to see a photo of the pictures.

Expat mum said...

Ugh, there's nothing worse than a wet holiday is there? You did a great job of taking us all there with you.
People today think that we wrap our kids up in cotton wool (and we do sometimes) but the real dangers were much greater "in them days". That owner would have been closed down today if he'd acknowledged how many kids drowned on his property and never did anything about it.
I remember cycling round our streets on a huge girls' racer bike, my sister hanging on the back - with no breaks. When we wanted to stop we had to ride close to a wall and catch something. Not surprisingly one day it all went wrong and somehow the left side of the handlebars ended up being yanked right round, and the pointy break embedded itself into my left thigh. Still got the scar.

Eddie Bluelights said...

That brought back some memories and it was terrifying about Sheila. And yes, it was a dangerous place because as well as the stream with the millrace there was a big fast running river not far away and we could have fallen into that. We used to make bows and arrows, remember!
And Mum used to say to dad, "Fancy coming 300 miles to sit in a wet field!".
And remember the car getting stuck pulling the caravan on Lindell Hill and we had to get a tow by a lorry! . . . . and dad swore and said, "Hell's Teeth!" LOL
And we always had to be towed out of the field by a tractor! That car was so under powered!
We must have all been stark raving bonkers! LOL
Great to see us as kids again. Luv ~ Eddie
Clouds and Silvery Linings
and Platos’s Procrastinations

Happy Frog and I said...

I loved this post and the photos. What memories eh? I was always getting into scrapes when I was younger. Falling of bikes into rosebushes, walking straight into lamp posts etc. My cousin fell into a river when he was younger so I know how scary it is when that happens. He was fine to though. x

mrsnesbitt said...

We aren't far from the Lake District - an ideal desination when we are out on the motorbike so I know these places well. The most dangerous thing I remember? Probably sticking the hose from the washing machine into my mouth and sucking hard! YUCK!

rosaria said...

This is so precious! Interesting photos too. Yes, these were different times

Thumbelina said...

Those photos and your post bring back memories! I too used to spend childhood hols in the Lakes (or "Leaks" - your mother is right!) A bit later than you probably - late 60's thro 70's for me. My dad preferred non commercial campsites so we didn't even have a toilet! Camped in a field with the sheep and washed by the river. Went to the toilet behind a boulder and buried it. It was much more hygenic than what you seem to have described!

Loads of near misses, as we went up on the hills every day. That's what the whole holiday was for. By the time I was 12 I had climbed major mountains there - Scafell Pike 3 times, Helvellyn, Causey Pike, Dalehead, the Gables, loads of them. I was sooooo fit then!

Wonderful memories.
Thank you. :)

Pauline said...

Lovely reading about your childhood holidays. Your tale of the little girl nearly drowning gave me chills as I remembered my younger brother coming close to drowning when I, as the oldest child present (probably around 12) had been in charge. He grew up to be a very strong swimmer and one of his children has been a member of the Australian swim team. His youngest is now on his way to achieving the same. My brother gives me credit for their swimming achievements saying "If you hadn't let me nearly drown I wouldn't have insisted on the swimming lessons!"
Sorry, that is off the topic a bit but it's the memory your post sparked.

Mary G said...

I loved the lake district, the two times we were there, in spite of the Wynotte (sp?) Pass and roads that, to a Canadian, were objects of terror. I had my first ever sticky toffee pudding there, in a pub.
Wonderful memories ... and, yes, your mother probably had the whim whams, daily.
Mine did. We had a cottage on Lake Erie from the time I was eight. I was a water baby and swam a lot. My non-swimming and water-shy mother used to sit on the beach, clutching an inner tube, poor thing.
I love the way you display the photos.

Retired English Teacher said...

This really was an interesting post about your holidays in the Lake District as a child. I too admire your mother. It must have been very difficult for her to endure. I know we were also allowed to wonder freely in the mountains of Colorado when we camped. It is a wonder we didn't get lost or fall in some raging stream.

I thought the way you displayed your photos added interest.

Ayak said...

Oh what memories. As children we always spent 2 weeks every year in a tiny caravan at Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate. I also recall that it seemed to take forever to get there and that after being excited for days beforehand, it was always an anticlimax.
We did lots of dangerous things as kids...people would be horrified was just normal then.

Great post Maggie xx

Bernie said...

I loved reading about your summer holiday, I too have many holiday memories I had with my 5 siblings as a child. Not dangerous only fun or that is the way I remember it anyway. Hope you and Harry are well Maggie, I've missed you but am on the mend now.....:-)Hugs

Moannie said...

Lovely story, Maggie, and what a delight to see Eddie in his short trousers.

I played on bomb sites looking for UXB's, thank fully we never found any.

Clare Dunn said...

Liked this very much. As everyone seems to agree, it brought back memories in waves.
Our vacations weren't so structured...usually just day trips to the beach or picnics at the local park... but there were so many of us kids that we made them adventures, sometimes deliberately, more often accidentally!
Great photos, BTW.
xoxoxo, clare

Rose said...

This brought back memories, Maggie May. We had a pop-up camper when I was a girl, and we went camping every year for our vacation. Much more comfortable than a tent, and yet I can remember lots of disadvantages, too. To this day, I prefer to stay in hotels!

It's a wonder we all survived childhood without carseats or proper cribs and all the things children have today.

Suburbia said...

Fantastic photos, and memories Maggie. Your poor mum! I have had some wet weeks camping with my two in a tent on Exmore, so I can sympathise with her!!

I don't think I was ever allowed to do anything dangerous, therefore am still quite unadventurous.

The Girl from Cherry Blossom Street said...

I love reading and listening to those "back in the days" stories! Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong era. There's something so magical about those pictures!

Celia said...

What a great story Maggie. It is amazing any of us grew up in one piece and by my Dad's stories child raising was even more casual in his family. Yet here we are, and we had some great adventures.

slommler said...

It is amazing how we survived our childhood. We ran all over the place too!!!! No adult supervision...just us kids! And we all got along and played and played. We had a great time!!
I don't remember being in any danger...but as a never do. We used to spend summers at the pool without our parents!! We were there from morning until dinner time. My self and my brother..who was 2 years younger than myself. Amazing!!

Akelamalu said...

I grew up in Manchester until ours and the surrounding houses were included in a compulsory purchase order and we were rehoused in a modern semi. The River Irk flowed about a 10 minute walk away from our house and I was constantly reminded I MUST NOT go near the river. Of course I didn't take any notice and clambered down it's steep banks, through nettles etc., to throw stones into the fast flowing water trying to hit the rubbish that had been dumped in it. My mother would have strangled me had she known. Luckily I never fell in so she never found out. ;)

Teacher's Pet said...

Hi Maggie...I was here yesterday reading, and had to leave, but couldn't wait to get back to finish reading about your holidays when you were a child.
It is amazing that we 'survived' all the things that we enjoyed doing as a child. I drank out of the water hose, and didn't die of any kind of bacteria or poisoning... :))) sister and I played in the sprinkler during the summer...and thought it was enormously expensive pool to swim in....but such fun. My Mama and Daddy and my sister and I went camping, much like you did...every summer. We slept in a tent....and listened to the frogs at night near the lake....fought off the mosquitoes, and didn't catch some dreadful disease from those pesky critters.
I do wish that the family had thanked you for what you did for Shiela. I thank you...and I do hope that you continue to enjoy each and every memory that you had as a child. I loved reading "The Field"....
Much love to you,

Gail said...

A lovely story Maggie. I love the image of your mum holding a flat iron on her lap! We are hoping to go to the Lake District for a holiday this year, for the first time!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Fantastic post and photos Maggie! I climbed from hotel room to hotel room via a balcony to balcony seven floors up. My mother nearly died when she saw my face pressed against the window....

cheshire wife said...

I am not sure if you are a good or a bad advertisement for the Lake District. You can not have gone for the weather but something must have tempted your parents back.

I don't remember anything specifically dangerous from my childhood, but we used to roam around and play outside a lot more than the young do today and we never came to any harm.

Anonymous said...

Those are wonderful pictures, Maggie. And the caravan is simply fabulous. Not like our modern ones today that you could almost call a house! To be honest, where I live, the traditions of women's roles are still evident today. Many country-folk round here are very old-fashioned and even though it often frustrates me, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Have a good weekend, CJ xx

Anonymous said...

Wonderful memories! I ran wild all day long without any adult supervision... and still managed to survive!

RNSANE said...

What an interesting tale, Maggie! I'm not sure I would have especially enjoyed that camping! I've actually not ever been much of a camper.

The most dangerous thing I ever did, I guess, was walk to school, over a train trestle that stretched over the Chattahoochee River from Columbus, Georgia to Phenix City, Alabama. We were very poor and I did it so I could save my twenty cent a day bus money. It was really foolish since the trestle was just wide enough, really, to accomodate a train. There were only three spots on the entire span that you could run to if a train came - small outcroppins with a rail that held a barrell. When walking, we'd keep our eyes on the light up ahead which would turn green if a train was coming. You'd have to run like crazy to get to one of the barrels. It was so scary because you could see the river swirling between the railroad ties way down below! Only twice, did I ever get caught and have to wait on the ledge while the train roared past!