Smelling of camp fire and farmyard
Dear Sir, — There was so many things to look forward to in the fifties and sixties.
Camping at Timbersbrook pool: I am sure that we were not allowed to go into the pool. It was called Black Rock Pool and was located just behind the well-known café, close to Silversprings dye works. The pool was surrounded with rocks and overhanging trees and there was also a wooden diving board that didn’t bounce. The water was very cool, but very refreshing, just enough to make you shiver and turn your lips blue.
When we all had had enough and dried ourselves off, it was time to set off on our local exploits.
We rode our bikes on the steep roads up and down to just past the Wood Treatment factory, pitching a tent in a farmer’s field, with his permission and then lighting a fire to cook bacon and eggs in a blackened burnt frying pan full of dried lard.
A couple of two-man tents were pitched. Each one of them was held up with two separate poles and lots of strings that, when pulled tight, would stretch the tent into some sort of shape.
It was impossible not to trip over the guide strings every time you walked past the (bloody) tent and then collapse the little khaki sheet, which was supposed to be a waterproof shelter for the night.
A ground sheet, a tartan blanket and a torch was all that was needed, maybe a Park Drive or a Woodbine was a welcome share.
Breakfast was bacon and egg again, a cup of tea with water from the River Dane, which was boiled to almost extinction; who cared if there was a few blades of grass in there as well as the Brooke Bond Tea leaves.
Smelling of camp fire and farmyard, the long bicycle ride home was the most tiring part, as it seemed that we were carrying more going home than what we started with.
The exciting news was that there was a massive construction being built in Cheshire not far from Congleton: Jodrell Bank.
There weren’t many cars in those days so places such as Marton or Eaton seemed miles away, unless you had a bike.
The structure that was being built was a little bit hush-hush and there wasn’t much reported in the local news about what was going on.
Construction workers and builders must have been drafted in from all over the UK.
News soon began to leak out as some of the workers would spill the beans after a couple of pints in the Red Dragon.
Space programmes on the black and white telly were very popular and got everyone’s interest: Flash Gordon and the Clay Men, little green men from space sighted at Mow Cop and a tramp abducted from Buxton.
Large structures and devices were being built in many areas of the UK to track radio communications from certain countries throughout the world and even from the edge of space.
Wow! How exciting is that? Let’s get the tent out and go for a trip out and explore.
Ex-army gas mask bags, bought from the Army and Navy Store on Lawton Street were packed with a Cheshire cheese butty, a bottle of water and a packet of Rowntree fruit pastels.
We set off on our bikes, only stopping to buy a map (6d) from Banks’s Garage (Now Enterprise car hire) at the junction of Market Street and Stonehouse Green. We planned the route on a very crinkled and well-folded map.
That bloody Rood Hill was a challenge, a push bike walk, no traffic lights at the top, a quick dash and a run, not much traffic or any impatient drivers in those days.
The bike ride through the country side was fantastic, twisty roads lined with overhanging trees and leafy lanes, black and white timbered Cheshire houses and black and white cows in the fields and of course the smell of manure.
When we got to the Red Lion at Lower Withington, Paul and I stopped and bought a bag of Smith’s Crisps. My bag didn’t have a blue bag of salt in it but fortunately his had two, thank goodness for that. They taste so much better with a sprinkle of salt from a little blue bag.
When we passed a line of houses near to where we were heading, some of the occupants were out in their gardens attending to whatever needed to be done. They were pleased to see us and asked where we had come from.
Offers of an orange juice or a biscuit were never refused and were gratefully accepted with a big thank you.
We asked: “How far is it to the new big development for outer Space exploration?”
“Just keep going down this road for a couple of miles” was the reply. Crikey, I didn’t think it was that much further.
Having come this far it was not an option to give up, our only way to see this wonderful super structure that was within in our grasp. Our legs had been stretched with pedalling through the leafy tree-lined Cheshire lanes and we weren’t about to give up now. This scientific observation structure had the mystery of the Pyramids of Giza to the local folk in Congleton.
There it was. It looked like a giant cement mixer built from a Meccano set. Just look at the size of that thing.The only structure bigger than that, we had ever seen was The Blackpool Tower.
Bernard met us at the gate and praised us for our tenacity and kindly explained that we were on restricted property and that it was in our best interest to leave.
Both of us sucked on a fruit pastel and then we left. We never did find out who Bernard was, but he was a very nice man and deserved to do well.
All we had to do now was pitch that bloody tent for the night and don’t trip on the strings that hold it up, and then hope we could meet the kind people who gave us an orange juice and a biscuit to help us for the long the journey home. — Yours faithfully,