Childhood memories of Ashwell and Hinxworth c1950+

Whitby Farm yard and outbuildings during demolition of site
Jackie Embury
Quaker Burial Ground 2009
Jackie Embury
Style leading to Quaker Burial Ground and Angell's Meadow 2009 no longer in place due to health and safety rules
Jackie Embury
Whitby Farm grain barn
Jackie Embury
Whitby Farn grain barn on Silver Street
Jackie Embury
Whitby Farn grain barn being demolished
Jackie Embury

Angells own Burial Ground

One of our late Quaker friends, a keen goat keeper and cheese making specialist; who horrified her family when she married a (nice) soldier, found it interesting that we owned the Burial Ground;  she said it was unusual in Quaker circles.

My Uncle Gerald (Angell) never forgave the rest of my family for the sale of the “Meadow”;  the smell of lovely fresh earth, when it was ploughed up one year, still remains with me over half a century later.

During my childhood some of the land between the Burial Ground and the Kingsland Way Cottage gardens was left uncultivated and became a wonderful wildlife haven and playground for wild small boys. Who needs a municipal climbing frame, when you can risk life and limb swinging on the hoops of an old Army truck body or climb over the sharp edges of redundant horse drawn binders?

Hinxworth Rectory and Chip Van

My mother (Kathleen Angell Mack) bought the Old Rectory at Hinxworth,  it was before new residents insisted that they must have more intrusive street lights, hard pavements and street signs. On one night a week a fish and chip van (a British lorry carrying fish caught in British boats) would enter the village, an old brake drum hung from the cab which made a surprisingly effective arrival bell, in an otherwise tranquil village.

On cold crisp nights before the days of massive light pollution, an elderly and wise countryman, Walter Sale, would look up at the stars and explain the wonders of the solar system to us, while we waited for our supper.

When walking or cycling to Ashwell past the Hinxworth Church Glebe meadow and pond, Moorhens would fly and Cuckoos sing, however, when my mother sold the paddock opposite our house an ancient pond that was full of newts and frogs was filled in totally destroying their natural habitat.

Moths and Bats

Cycling home from Ashwell after a long day driving a (British built) combine harvester, very often squeaking Bats would swoop close to my head, when near the old Cuckoo Inn. If in a vehicle late at night in the same area, the feeble Lucas headlights would light up the moths flying in such a great profusion, that it was sometimes like passing through a snow storm but now halogen headlights light up only the odd surviving individual.

An elderly roadman spent his working life maintaining the verges between Ashwell and Hinxworth, his main equipment for trimming the grass consisted of nothing more technical than a sickle, a piece of stick and a bicycle. The noisy machines and chemicals that replaced his methods can never match his charm or local knowledge?

The farmyard at 35 High Street (Whitby Farm) may have been a disgrace in modern farming terms but the neglect certainly gave wildlife a chance to flourish. The butterflies, bumble bees and birds were a delight but of course the rats were not.

The Developer told me that some of the Ash trees would be saved but they were then “accidently” damaged and removed.

When the Singing Stopped

The now demolished grain barn could be very hard on the ears years ago, not only was the machinery sometimes very noisy (and extremely dangerous) but when working up in the roof, the huge number of house sparrows inside made the most amazing racket, but then the singing stopped and  they have all gone forever.

When ploughing, with old paraffin fuelled tractors and trailer ploughs on Whitby Farm, the lapwings (peewits to the locals) would follow the plough in great flocks but now they are seen no more in this area.

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