I have many fond memories of Bodiam and the Castle, from when I was 1 year old in 1943, until I was 15. Along with dear Mum and my two sisters, our whole extended family on my mum's side consisting of several families would move to Bodiam, to our tin huts to go hop picking.
We used to pile into a number of open backed lorries for the journey which used to go through the Blackwall tunnel and along the A21 to East Sussex and Bodiam singing all the way. Great excitement for all us kids. On arrival each family was allocated their own tin hut which were painted green outside and whitewashed inside. Many families would bring wallpaper to cover over the whitewash.
Any one who has been hop picking as a child will tell you it was probably the best adventure they ever had. In the six or seven weeks we spent there the weather was usually hot, sunny and carefree. The only exception being when my dear old Dad used to visit (he couldn't go because of work) and it invariably poured with rain when everything turned to mud.
For kids it was pure heaven because, although we had to do our share of picking, most of the time was spent exploring the local area. Especially the Castle, the entrance fee being about threepence. I remember falling or being pushed into the moat a few times. Also there was an old single track steam line running through the village which followed the river Rother. On a number of occasions we 'borrowed' a rail cart from the station sidings. A contraption with two handles which you pushed up and down to propel yourself at great speed along the railway, I shudder to think what would have happened if a train had come the other way, but they only ran about one each way daily with the occasional freight train.
Night times were great, each family would all sleep in the same bed top and tail fashion in a bed that consisted of a large wooden slatted platform with a mattress case stuffed with straw and pillows full of hops and finished of with a curtain along its length to separate it from the sitting area - a good nights sleep guaranteed.
All cooking was done in tin pots hung over a wood fire, even Sunday roasts. We used to bake spuds and apples in the fire which was made up with faggots, bundles of twigs collected daily from the end of the field. Toilets were very basic and consisted of a hole in the ground over which a tin hut with a plank was placed and when full another hole was dug and the hut moved.
To add to the enjoyment all us schoolkids used to get 2 extra weeks away from school as the picking season ended 2 weeks after the summer holidays much to the annoyance of our teachers.
A memory shared byon Apr 15th, 2009.
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