Willesley Close was the centre of the universe for the first twelve years of my life from 1959. The garden enclosed twenty yards of the old railway embankment and featured a natural spring, the source of much entertainment in summer, as well as fresh watercress. The house we lived in was on the edge of development so the afternoon ritual of milking the cows was part of my everyday. The farmer from Valley Farm would walk slowly up the lane to calls of ‘hurrp, hurrp’ and his Gernsey herd would gratefully assemble at the gate with udders replete. And woe betide anyone caught in the lane as the bovine beauties jostled their way to the milking parlour. For pedestrians this meant an intimate encounter with the hawthorn hedges, for motorists a slow journey from behind, and cows licking the car as they walked past an oncoming Viva or Cortina, and for everyone the dubious pleasure of maneuvering through cowpats.
At the top of Willesley Close lay the golf course which was a perennial attraction no matter what the season. In summer it helped to generate a small income selling lost golf balls to the professional. In the autumn there was the pleasure of an unlimited supply of conkers, provided the groundsmen turned a blind eye to our stick-throwing antics. In Winter and Spring, however, our focus was the tenth tee. In the snowy winters of the early 70s regular trips to the tenth tee were Christmas treats. It was the sledging mecca for the neighbourhood, and parents and children alike trespassed, gleeful and ruddy cheeked, dressed in sensible “Swallows and Amazons” woolly clothes with snow cemented into the weave, and not a ski jacket in sight! Winter and Spring were also the season for den building, when the acres of dead rosebay willow herb could be harvested and bundled into thatch to create shelters which, when bedecked with snow, created secret shelters for conspiratorial whisperings of girls and other mysteries. At the foot of the tenth tee was Willesley lake which was always good for a postprandial Sunday walk with my Dad and some ornithology, and piscatorial exchanges with the hardy fishermen about the efficacy different hues of maggot. A nostalgic reminiscence I know, but not maudlin; the lake is now secured by galvanized gates, the golf course enclosed by barbed wire, Valley Farm is no longer a working farm, and there is no longer a yellow Lotus Europa parked tantalizingly outside The White Lodge. Nothing against progress, but is change necessarily progress; and, reflecting on the differences between ‘then’ and ‘now’ does sharpen our focus on the present.
A memory shared byon Dec 13th, 2012.
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