"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

Friday, 31 July 2009

Clayton Ponds

Back then, the place didn't smell very nice at all and we spoke of the Luftwaffe and the RAF and how the German PoWs must have peed their pants when incarcerated in Clayton Woods. Local folklore said it was a place to avoid.

The Woods had to be braved - there was nothing for it but to march straight through 'soldier-style'. If we saw stagnant pools, cow parsley or dandelions it was best to stay away because we'd either catch polio, our mums would die or we'd wet the bed that night. The only welcome sights were patches of dock leaves or a sky seen through a canopy of Elms and Oaks.

Seamlessly we moved further afield to Clayton Ponds & the Quarry, to check out the wildlife and see if all quarry men really did look like John Wayne and see if the bangs were as loud as they were on the television. There were a few warning notices about trespassers and snakes (but notices never apply to children so we just carried sticks, pulled up our socks as high as possible and tucked dresses into knickers).

We would find a place to sit quietly and look out for frogs; it was a place to catch tadpoles & baby frogs in a jamjar to take back home. It was a route children had trodden for donkey's years to check out Sticklebacks, Lady's Slipper, Bluebells & Buttercups for Nature Study projects. The last week of August was always the busiest: an entire class of twenty children would dip nets into the pond in the hope of finding a new species of minnow.

It's all gone now: the wood behind the house; the rope-swing on the oak tree; the fear & awe of the 'witch's house'; the little farm with the dogs and the small pond which rippled when we threw pebbles from a distance and counted how deep it might be. How many children had died in that pond? Every child who stepped too close was the answer: everyone knew someone who knew someone who said they had a cousin who had drowned in that very pond.

Now there are no more meadows, no purple vetch, no buttercups, no daisychains and no cowslips. There's no more sweet-sucking on clover and no love-lies-bleeding - and the deep bracken has gone as well. We never ran down the bracken, not even the bravest boy, for fear of ankle-biting goblins. We always walked atop the hill and obeyed orders: Indian File for fear of snakes to the right and goblins to the left.

It's all gone now. Now it's this. It's good to know that children today can connect with the past, pose the same questions and post the photos on the internet - but they can't run through the trees, check out the mistletoe, smell the bracken or roll down the fields & meadows any more.

And, of course, a witch really did live here.


  1. Most peaceful. Thanks.

  2. You're welcome VotR - you know how a train of thought leads from one thing to another, you can put this aberration down to MiaS's Silly Week. Politics as usual next week.


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