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More Memories Of Blissford

A Memory of Blissford

My previous memories caused quite a bit of interest and several people who either knew me, or the area got in touch. I thought I would add a bit more to those memories. I mentioned how close we were to the bombing range which the RAF had fenced in. Some ten thousand acres were involved and after the war the RAF kept a small bomb disposal section to deal with unexploded bombs. They were based at Godshill and one one occasion Peter Skinner and Billy Sheen found an unexploded 28lb bomb on the edge of the forest. They were given a ride in a half track to show the bomb disposal squad where the bomb was. It made me so jealous at the time not to have been one of the ones who found that bomb. Sandyballs was owned by the Westlake family who were Quakers and for many years it operated as a campsite with a few permanent residents and as a holiday centre during the summer. There were very few facilities, a small store run by Grandpa Harrod and a community hall which was used in the summer months to run social evenings for the campers. The Welch family lived there with two sons, Barry and Roger. I was great friends with Barry until they moved to Southampton. Sid Finch and his partner Mrs Fredricks then took over. I recall buying 'Wagon Wheels' for 3d there. As I grew older I bought an air rifle and made some pocket money shooting some of the many grey squirrels in Sandyballs. The Forestry Commission paid 1/- and then later 2/- for each tail sent to Winchester. When I visited Sandyballs a couple of years ago it had changed out of all recognition. The Westlake's no longer owned it and the compny which bought it had turned it into a very upmarket holiday centre complete with shops and restaurant. Michael Cutler who went to Godshill school at the same time as me still works there although I didn't see him to speak to. An organisation known as the Woodcrafters used Sandyballs for camping and on one occasion I joined them for a summer camp up on the Isle of Arrna. Konrad Fredricks came up with me on an overnight coach trip from London to Glasgow, and then a ferry trip over to Arran. It rained for much of the time and put me off camping for a long time. The well at Abbots Well has been there for several centuries apparently and was still used well into the 20th century by locals. BP did some experimental test drilling for oil near the well and Johnny Horsburgh was a night watchman for them while they were there. They never found any oil. One of our neighbours was Graham Bell and his wife Marilyn?. They had two kids and lived next door to Chamberlains in a converted ex army nissen hut. In 1956 they all emigrated to Tasmania and in 1959 on my first trip to sea we went to Tasmania and I ran up quite a phone bill trying to locate them. No luck but years later and thanks to the early internet I got an email from Marilyn's brother in Australia and he gave me their address. Graham had worked at a school on the east coast and they ended up with six kids. Next door to my home was a house named Mayfield. The Corke family owned it when I was a small child and when they sold it the house remained empty for several years before being bought. The first floor became a flat lived in by John and Ruth Gorge who had been Quaker missionaries in Madagascar for many years including the second world war. John was a radio ham (G3HRJ) who had run a clandestine radio network on Madagascar during the Vichy occupation. His interest in ham radio led directly to my interest and subsequent career in Marine radio in the Merchant Navy. The house then passed on to a London family the Birch's who were very kind to me in the '80's when I returned to the UK from PNG to take care of my father. Fordingbridge was our local town and in the 50's boasted a cinema called the Regal with seats at 1/3, /1/10 and 2/6. Back row of the 2/6's was the place to be with your girlfriend. Mr and Mrs Haggar owned the Regal and it had two shows on a Saturday and I think only one for the rest of the week. Films changed mid week. Living at Blissford meant we had to catch the twenty to ten bus or walk home. Films ended about ten o'clock so it was a hard choice to make when there was a good film on. I saw my first ever film there. One of the girls I went to Godshill school with was Jennifer Constantine who lived with her parents and two sisters on the edge of Sandyballs. Jennifer and I both had our birthdays on the 17th August although she was a year older. I never recall throwing a girl's hat around a bus but it's more than possible...so belated apologies! As a child very few people moved into or out of the area and you ended up knowing everyone. Now of course it's one of the places to live and house prices have pushed many people out as moneyed people from London buy up local property. Even the Pit in Crystal Hollow and for many years home to Freddy Peters and his family has changed beyond all recognition. Sometimes it is best not to go back to a place where you grew up and have many happy memories of.

A memory shared by Nevile Chalke , on Mar 9th, 2012.

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