Stanford Court

A Memory of Shelsley Walsh

When I used to come down to Shelsley I used to stay with my Nan at New Mill Bridge until she sold the shop and moved to Birmingham where she stayed with her eldest daughter May Bennet and her family. Later, she came to stay with my mom and dad,
After she left Shelsley I used to cycle down and stay with my cousin Marjorie Anderson [She was Auntie May Bennet's eldest child}. Whilst the City school holidays never matched up with those of the country schools, as the harvest season was more important to the country, they had their school holidays at that time of year. Nevertheless, somehow Des Wall and I always found ourselves together. We would cycle around the valley or throw a line in off the bridge near Nan's old house and try to catch a few fish. For some reason we never did manage to do so. There were a couple of places that were our favourite spots. One was Southstons Rock. There was a house on top of it in those days. It had been empty for a long time and was in a very unsafe condition with the main upright beams rotted out at their base. It was later demolished. Another favourite place was the wooded area round Stanford Court. This had been the country seat of the Winnington family who were related to the Churchills and a number of the latter family are buried in the churchyard at Stanford Church. One of the main attractions at Stanford for Des and myself was the lake that spread out from the front of the house. It teemed with life in the shape of very noisy frogs and had a considerable number of water birds such as Coot and Moorhen nesting around the perimeter and using the lake as a source of food. The house was empty but I had been inside some years earlier when we lived at Nan's. My Dad had a contract with Sir Francis Winnington to remove all the fallen timber in the wooded parkland around the house. He and a partner, whose name I will not give here, employed a couple of men to help them. One, I feel certain, was Stan Abberley and the other was just referred to as 'Tedney'. In addition I think about four German prisoners of war were engaged too. My sister and I became very friendly with the prisoners. Part of the equipment used to drag out the fallen timber was a Fordson tractor. This was also used to drive a saw bench which had a circular saw. On one occasion Dad's partner had somehow managed to get his one hand too close to the blade and managed to saw his thumb off at the top joint. The end of the thumb was wrapped in a handkerchief and there was a mad dash into Worcester to the Infirmary there. The end of the thumb was not sewn back on if I remember correctly. Micro surgery was fifty years or so away. Later, Dad trusted his partner to go into Worcester and bring back the wages owed to the workers. He was never seen again. He had cleaned out the Bank account and just disappeared.
Back to Des Wall and myself. As I said, we roamed around the countryside and when Des was given a two man ex US army tent, we were in clover. We camped in numerous places but the one I recall most clearly was in an area close to Red Hill and near the stream that ran nearby. It was dark when we pitched the tent, settled down for the night and slept. When we woke up in the morning our mouths were very dry and we felt quite ill. The air was heavy with a horrid smell. When we looked around we had pitched the tent in the middle of a bed of wild garlic. Ever since then the smell of Garlic has made me feel quite ill - less so now but it still has an adverse effect on me. I have been known to walk into a restaurant and just one whiff of garlic sends me back out again. Many hours Des and I spent in Burch Coppice, slinging hammocks made from pig meal sacks and hop string, Making bows and arrows from the young Hazel trees in there and imagining we were being attacked by unknown and unseen enemies. What a carefree life we led. We were never bored even though we had no television. The Radio was the conveyor of entertainment, as were books and comics for the younger children. The one shining example of a GOOD comic was "The Eagle". It was entertaining and at the same time instructive. I understand its chief editor was the Canon Brian [or Bryan] Green rector of St Martins in the Bull Ring in Birmingham.

A memory shared by Antony Cook , on Mar 29th, 2012.

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