Playtimes long ago

Modern image of the Cranstones white painted iron bridge in Gadebridge Park

Modern image of the Cranstones white painted iron bridge in Gadebridge Park

The final part of two articles featuring the reminiscences of Harry Chandler.

Harry, who lived in Church Street, Hemel Hempstead during the First World War, continues to describe some of his childhood games:

“We used to dig out of the ground what we recognised as an earthnut, or pignut, which was very tasty.

“We would also cut a short length of elm from the hedge, and by making part of it slide inside its bark – which was of a slippery nature inside – we would make a ‘swanee’ whistle, which had quite a mellow tone and could play a pleasant tune.

“Hoops also had their day, iron ones for boys and wooden ones for the girls.

“There was a footpath that ran along the top of the railway bank towards Godwin’s Halt.

“Along the hedge side, in the grass at intervals, were some iron railway line beds that were for bolting onto sleepers to carry the rails.

“They had railway marks ‘M.R’ on them and it was a matter of grave importance that everyone had to spit on them for luck as we passed by.

“One of our activities, which was not to be commended, was collecting birds’ eggs.

“We did not realise what a bad thing it was at the time, but I have no recollection of the adults decrying the practice.

“Thinking back, I don’t think we had time to be bored, but then, perhaps we were the lucky ones. I think it was a nice atmosphere to grow up in, although I am sure life generally was much harder in those days.

“Another thing that comes to mind is how frequently we saw and heard skylarks. It was just one of the normal sights and sounds of a summer’s day. I cannot remember the last time I saw one.

“Quite frequently nowadays, I call in and park my car by the riverside at Gadebridge Park, near the white iron bridge, and often think how different things are now.

“When I was a lad, we were not allowed to set foot in the vicinity, but we did manage to get a paddle now and then.

“I am glad to see so many people enjoy this pleasant spot these days, and hope they will do so for a long time to come.”




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