Childhood Days - a Memory of Wrottesley Park.
92 Wrottesley Park, it was a nice address, a suggestion of elegance perhaps, a hint of grandeur even. However there was nothing grand about the place we lived in even though it was part of the Wrottesley Estate. Home for me as a child in the fifties was part of a Nissen hut in a converted army camp but despite its lowly status I consider myself most fortunate to have spent most of my childhood there.
We were the Baby Boomer generation although we didn’t know that at the time. They were lean times, rationing was still in place and household items along with food and much else were in short supply but we younger children were blissfully unaware of it all. Everyone was hard up, some more so than others; poverty was measured in varying degrees.
Like all children everywhere we took our way of life for granted, we never realised how priceless it was. Surrounded as we were by fields and woods we had no boundaries or limits, we could go anywhere, do anything, life was one big adventure. Our parents had gone through the horrors of war but we arrived in the world after peace had been restored to the nation. We were not oblivious to the war though; the reminders were all around us but we saw these relics as our own unusual playthings. We stood to attention in empty sentry boxes; made dens in concrete bunkers; played with the deserted petrol pumps; scrambled up to the top of the desolate firing range and ran all the way down to the bottom. We only went home when we got hungry.
I was about four years old when we moved into our new home complete with all mod cons, or should I say electric lights, running water and a black grate with an oven at one side which sat in a corner of the room. It provided our only source of heat and it was also our only means of cooking. Each hut had been divided into three homes and as ours was in the middle we used the paths which cut across our neighbours gardens each side of us.
The road which cut through the centre of the camp, leading to Perton, was normally silent apart from tradesmen delivering coal, bread or milk, unlike the war years when traffic from the Army and Air Force used the road regularly. Any vehicle passing through was watched with interest by the children. On each side of the road rows of huts formed meandering loops away from the road creeping around a wheat field or snaking around a small copse before joining up with the road again. At the top of one of the loops stood Mrs Gray’s shop, she sold everything from paraffin to potatoes. Armed with a list I would trundle up the road warily approaching several chained up dogs who lurched themselves into mid air as I nervously ran the gauntlet.
I was five years old, a little shy and timid so I was overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the party to celebrate the Queen’s Coronation. The party was held outdoors and I can only remember several long tables filled with food, and lots of people. It seemed noisy and I felt lost so I was very glad to go home clutching my coronation mug in my hand. My confidence soon grew and I became an intrepid explorer roaming the woods and open spaces. I had a vivid imagination, every day felt like a new adventure. We fished for minnows in our favourite stream at the edge of the airfield, patiently standing bent over in the cold water I found I could scoop them up into my hands and pour them into a waiting jam jar.
I could find Marsh Marigolds, Lady Smocks and Foxgloves amongst many other flowers. We gathered armfuls of bluebells and small bunches of tiny Wood Anemones, carefully picked Dog Roses and Honeysuckle. We took these sometimes slightly drooping posies home to delight our mothers who put them on display in a jam jar. There were hazel nuts and blackberries to be picked, conkers to be cherished and chestnuts placed in front of the grating on the fire to roast. The countryside was always bountiful.
Our playmates were from all nationalities, my best friend was a Polish boy the same age as myself. Where is he now I wonder. Early one morning in late summer we would awake to the sound of the combine harvester cutting a swathe through the wheat field near our home. Our excitement was barely contained as we waited for the huge machine to disappear into the distance. Then and only then were we brave enough to move the bales which had been left behind. Very soon we split up into two rival gangs, both were determined to build the biggest den and competition was fierce. Before long raiding parties were stealing bales from each other, it was all great fun.
By the time I was eleven many people had been re-housed and we started to lose our playmates one by one. I got used to doing things by myself and strangely enough I never felt lonely. One day I lay on a bank watching the stream flow out from a culvert beneath me, the water splashed out into the daylight, sunlight glinting on the surface. Skylarks broke the silence above me, suddenly some type of otter like creature swam out with the flow of water and was gone in a flash. Often I would see the ghostly shape of a barn owl swooping low over the undergrowth as I walked along one of my trails, his whiteness gleaming in the dimming light and I was reminded of how lucky I was to see such sights.
If it seems that my memories sound amazingly idyllic then it’s true to remember that it was not always so. I remember long harsh winters, toes burning from chilblains, windows freezing up inside as well as outside and no adequate heating. My parents were always hard up and we frequently went without basic essentials, but I choose not to dwell upon those things and remember instead how lucky I was to have such happy memories.
A memory shared by on Jun 15th, 2008.
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