Saturday, May 18, 2024

Never Look Back

April 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Memoirs

Living in retirement has its compensations.We now have time to do what we want,when we like, without complications.

Whilst on our way back from a visit, I thought it would be nice to have a look at my old home,”Waterloo Cottage”. Had it altered or changed in any way?

The picture started to form in my mind.The old wooden bridge arched over the railway line, the smell of smoke as the trains thundered underneath. The trains i knew were now extinct – Dr Beeching had closed the line down.Still it would be pleasant to see the old bridge.

Then in my mind pictures simply tumbled out. The stream criss crossing the old lane, two footbridges, perfect for Pooh Sticks.The trickling brook, which we frequently dammed to make a paddling pool. The old orchard with apples ,plums, damsons and pears. We frequently went scrumping, no one seemed to worry.

In the adjoining field in the corner by the orchard, a large mound, which looked rather like a hill fort had a large tree on the top, a perfect place to sit and survey the landscape, whilst enjoying a pocket full of purloined plums. The two shire horses which did the work on the farm often shared the shade of the tree.

One day the old farmer came by as I was sitting under the tree.To my surprise he sat down beside me. He had arthritic hips and was always in pain. We talked about his horses, and he explained why only one horse was allowed a foal each spring,taking it in turns each year, that way he always had one horse to do the heavy work and one to carry a foal.In my early teens i worked all one summer for this kindly old farmer, and learned a lot about nature from him.

Memories! Mind pictures! – The old water meadow stretching out from the foot of the mound, ablaze with colour – cowslips, hair bells,wild white daisies, buttercups, and others all competing to brighten each day. The path that meandered through all this beauty, crossing the ditches on old wooden bridges, just trunks of trees with the topside roughly hewn flat. The meadow had never been cultivated, or enriched with anything other than the natural fertilising of the animals.

Always the flock of geese grazing, the old Gander on guard. Boys in short trousers had to be quick, the old Gander’s serrated teeth scarred bare legs.

The scene was always the same,and probably had been for a century or more, a truly breathtaking beautiful spot.

In the old gravelled lane leading up to the farm, the banks often covered in primroses and violets, and hedges in dog roses. Gipsy caravans often occupied the open spaces on the sides of the lane, the men making pegs for their ladies to sell, often with the old black pot hanging over the fire on it’s iron tripod.

My mind was filled with anticipation as I drove up the lane. Then the truth was revealed. The wooden bridge was gone, the railway cutting underneath filled in and levelled off, with the earth form the mound in the corner of the field.

The two footbridges and the stream no longer visible,the water was now piped underground, the orchard too had vanished.

A tarred road replaced the gravelled lane, and continued across the field, replacing the old path. The meadow was now a landscaped caravan park, neatly arranged, in line abreast around a small lake, obviously done with a lot of care, but the timeless beauty of the old water meadow was now lost forever.

As I drove across the field on this hard road toward the farm, I wondered “What next”. Nothing could have been more of a shock. Well it was ! the old farm had been built in the shape of the letter U, The midden always steaming was in the middle,the pigs, cattle, and horses each occupied a side.The small stream flowed past on the open side. These buildings had vanished, and in their place were newly build smart executive suites, lavishly appointed.

I have every sympathy with farmers who are forced to diversify or die, but this was complete annihilation.

Never look back memories can be shattered, Always look ahead and plan for new memories to replace the old.

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