Boys Camp - a Memory of Ranmore Common.

By kind permission of the Lord Ashcombe, the Holy Trinity Junior Boys Club, Wimbledon, camped for four weeks every year on Ranmore Common. Most of us were choirboys, so we augmented St Barnabas's choir for their services twice each Sunday. Lord Ashcombe read the lessons. At that time there was a dairy next to his house, Denbies, and he gave us our milk. (The estate has since been turned over to a vineyard.) The two orderlies for each day would take a gallon can to be filled; it was heavy, so it was carried on a stout stick between them. His other kindnesses included providing straw from a farm for our palliasses, preparing the campsite, adding wood for our campfire, and inviting us to Denbies for tea with him and Lady Ashcombe. His vacationing grandsons and the local boys made up a cricket team to play against us, and we gave them a return invitation. The Ranmore people used to look forward to our annual visits just as much as we enjoyed getting away from town life and running wild in the beautiful, wooded countryside. One lady, Mrs Dobson, always had a bread pudding prepared for the advance party that went to set up the tents. A road undulates across the common, and each side was a grass verge, about twenty yards wide, separating us from the dense woods opposite, where we played endless tracking games. Each morning his Lordship would exercise his hounds, and as he rode past our site he would salute our Union Jack. In those days there was a Post Office shop, right at the top of the steep hill from Dorking, where we could spend our pocket money and change the occasional Post Order that a kind parent would send. To add a couple of historic notes, from a particular viewpoint we could see the light on Box Hill of the house where the scientist, Baird, was inventing a means of sending pictures through the air, and one year the Graf Zeppelin flew over very low. (Bairds method for television was not adopted.) 1939, the beginning of the Second World War, in which I served as an R.A.F. Pilot, saw the last (the 21st) of those Camps, but at 88 I have recently made a nostalgic return to the area, which has not changed one bit except for the campsite being totally overgrown.

A memory shared by L. Malcolm Cloutt on Nov 4th, 2009.
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