And at last, on to Woodford
and our second home
Apologies for the delay on this next part of a Boomer’s story. This, that and the other have got in the way, much of that sunshine and obligatory gardening. It’s raining at the moment so I’m grabbing the chance to continue.
In 1957, we moved to a larger house and garden, in Woodford, the village next to Bramhall. First a glance back at Bramhall, and Bramhall Park - my mother was brought up close by and played in the woods there, and, as we boys were to do later with father, built dams in the streams running through the nearby woods. In the winters, colder back then, we often sledged in Bramhall Park; but its crowning glory is this wonderful Elizabethan half-timbered manor house, Bramall Hall.
Not bad eh? Quite a pad.
You can see from the OS map of the area that Bramhall was the edge of the Greater Manchester green belt, and that Woodford was in prime countryside.
We boys loved the new house, as we each had a bedroom, there was an acre and a quarter of garden, and laid out in such a manner that all sorts of games were possible there. Two lovely tall Silver Birches, which could be climbed to get a good view of the nearby Pennines.
When much older, I realised this was not a move that worked too well for my mother; moving as we did from a bustling new post-war estate, with neighbours popping in and out all the time, we were on a busier road, the house were all large, detached and set back from the road, with well grown hedges between the gardens. I missed ready access to my best mate Lawrence, who live next door to us in Bramhall, but soon made new friends and once able to ride a bicycle competently, the plains of Cheshire to bike around and when bigger, up the hills to Lyme Park set in the Pennines.
You may remember Lyme Hall from the TV wet short adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Another regular was Alderley Edge, then just a nearby village and not despoiled by footballers. Bobby Charlton from Man City’s out-of-town neighbours lived another nearby village, Prestbury, but that was already becoming a rich man’s village, with stockbrokers and such living there.
The Edge itself is a magnificent butte of sandstone, mined significantly in Roman times, and with a spectacular view of the Cheshire Plain from the top. And part of the setting, as is the whole local area, of many of Alan Garner’s weird and wonderful children’s books. Indeed, the old man used to bike there with mates, from Crumpsall in Manchester where he was brought up after moving from Dublin in 1929.
Come a hot summer’s day, Mum would often drive us all into the Pennines, to a wonderful now abandoned Lido, Hayfield Lido.
The Lido was fed direct from (freezing) Pennine streams, through two beds of gravel acting as a filter. It was always cold but who cared in the summer; and when we were older, we’d take bottle of beer, bundle them in a bag tied to a rope, and chill them in the bottom of the pool. With a packed lunch, it was a day in heaven, as there were rarely many people there.
Back home, the garden was perfect for impromptu games of cricket, football, and the old man’s game, rugby. We tied a rope between the two Silver Birches. which were perfectly spaced to act as rugby posts, and this enabled all three of us to get very good a kicking. A huge lawn was the centre piece, we mowed it by tacking a small cart onto the back of the mower and tootling up and down that way. Being a military man, we had to mow straight lines or we were in trouble.
A plus for Mum and Dad was that their local from before the war, the Davenport Arms, just up the road, and better know as the Thief’s Neck (for obvious reasons)
was more easily. Now run by the fifth generation of the same family, and selling truly wonderful local ales, from Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport (more on Robbie’s in a later episode). Back in those days, of course, kids were not allowed in pubs, so it was either the garden with a coke and crisps, or if rainy, in the car.
Nearby was what was then a large aerodrome run by AVRO
where Lancaster bombers (perhaps the hardest Airfix model airplane kit to make) were assembled during the war, and later the famous V-Wing Vulcans, which last saw action in the Falklands War forty years back. Our back garden backed on to the edge of the aerodrome, perhaps 50 yards away from the runway, so we had a grandstand view of takeoffs and landings. So slack was the security (we’re talking late 50s, early 60s) that the fence around the aerodrome was easily entered so we often got good close up views of the Vulcans before being chased off.
Beasts of machine, the noise when they took off was apocalyptic
Above link to a video of some last flights in 2015 before the whole aerodrome was demolished to be replaced by a huge housing estate. One thing I do recall is that the workers at the site (which was bought from Avro by BAE way back) had their own Manchester City supporters club, which used to meet at the Thief’s Neck less than five minutes away. That the landlord’s family were City supporters as well an added incentive. We always ragged United fans mercilessly when there :-)
I soon hitched up with the twin sons of friends of Mother and Father’s. The Chettle family. 2 boys, my age, 2 girls older, who then sported beehive hairdos. Don’t see them any more - hardly surprising as they must have taken some maintenance
The twins really were the archetype of terrible twins. Did we have fun together? Yes! Their father was an engineer, old school, who built and ran a model railway round their back garden; everything made by their old man, with I recall a 4” gauge, so the trains were quite large. The whole thing an utter fascination for train mad boys.
Over the road from where we lived, and just off their garden were fields owned by a local farmer, Farmer Wood. In the fields were two craters, discarded bombs by German bombers returning from hammering Manchester
We built dens in the sides, and occasionally, as they were full of water and whatever (old bikes, metal bedsteads, etc.) would fall in and just avoid drowning. I was one of those kids who if near water always ended up in it, usually accidentally. Mum got used to having me come home soaked from head to toe. Indeed, so often did we attend the A&E department at Stockport Infirmary with broken thises and cut thats that they said they would buy us our own bench. It was clay there, so in the summer, all of us having catapults (and usually the stronger metal ones), we’d roll clay balls, leave them to dry, and then send them flying over neighbours gardens. Once to a resulting spectacular sound of breaking glass, as a green house got blitzed.
Part of the field was a strawberry patch. Huge fun to crawl on our bellies like snake to get in there and plunder them, occasionally being chased off by Farmer Wood. Worse, one day, when the field was all hay we lit a small fire, which then became a larger fire, with us fleeing as the Fire Brigade arrived to deal with field of hay fully alight. Somehow, we got away with it.
Another prank was making weedkiller and sugar bombs; only once did any of us injure ourselves with them. Now we’d be decorated all over with ASBOs I think, but then it was a typical boy’s pursuit. Another jape was to get a soda syphon cylinder, a metal pipe, say 3 feet long; seal one end, build a fire, plunge cylinder into pipe, plunge pipe into fire, and shortly afterwards a jet propelled soda syphon cylinder rocketed out of the barrel who knows where. As far as I know we never damaged anything. Or more to the point, anyone.
Nor did we get on with the neighbours kids, so November would see firework fights between us and the Chettles and them. Bangers in sealed pipes were fun, and worked well. Eventually we’d all be in hot water with a parent dressing us down.
All in all a childhood in which we were allowed to wander pretty much where we wanted and get up to whatever we wanted; those days, it would seem, are sadly long gone. Add to that our own full size snooker table; taken from my old man’s TA Sargeant’s mess, no longer used as nobody played snooker or billiards at that time, and set up in a room above our detached garage. Whilst we had to cur a couple of cues short for shots on the side, a misspent youth was ours, and the envy of our mates. For a while I was really quite good at both billiards and snooker.
I’ll leave it at that; next item, moving onto another smaller house in Woodford, teenage years, and holidays in Cornwall; my first aged 2 weeks in 1951.