Saturday, December 13, 2008

Merry Christmas to all our followers

We are away for Christmas and New Year. But keep looking as we will have more history for you in the New Year.
So a Merry Christmas to one and all, and mine is a pint of bitter with a handle.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Flood Control History.

Flood Control History.

Back in the prewar days of the Thames Conservancy the management of the Thames Streams and Tributaries were an ongoing part of water management and flood control.

There were several teams of men who every couple of years would come along with very long handled rakes and clear Widbrook Stream of weed and rush growth. Then every five years or so, an excavator or a dragline would be used to remove the build up of silt in the streambed. A dragline would always be used on Strand Water and The Fleet, due to the long reach and great depth that was required.

The Thames Conservancy knew that it was impossible to stop severe floods, but to aid the flow of water was one way by keeping all streams clear.
The picture above is an old “Priestman Excavator” which was one of the tools the Thames Conservancy used.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Miles Master Air Crash

The Miles Master Advanced Trainer.

In the photo map below you will see the fields and hedgerows as they were in the days back when this story happened. The second photo is of the fields as they are now.

It was during the early to mid part of August in 1941 when a pilot flying a Miles Master Advance Trainer out of RAF Woodley, encountered engine failure over Cookham and crash landed or rather “Pan-caked” in a remote and secluded field at White Place Farm.

Fortunately, for the pilot he was able to walk away unscathed from the plane which had landed in a field of ripening wheat. He was glad of a cup of tea that my Aunt Amy Field gave him while he waited for my cousin John to cycle to the Police Station to inform them, and for the RAF to come and pick him up.

The army moved in and set up a Bell Tent on the edge of the field to guard the aircraft for about ten days. As the wheat was close to harvest, the RAF waited until the binder had been in and cut the crop. Then the fun began!

Airframe mechanics to disassemble the plane by first removing the wings and then the engine, which was hoisted on to a small dolly, due to the fact that the farm gates and turning points were very narrow. After several days the several parts made it to the farmyard where the RAF managed to bring in an arctic trailer to load all the parts on and cover with a large tarpaulin.

As it was school holiday time we were told to keep what we had seen to ourselves. So now it is more than sixty years ago, I guess this story can now be told.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Sam Gammon Watercress Beds

A Health food extrordinaire

Sam Gammon was a well-known man in the village, although he did not reside or make his living here. Everyone in this part of the Thames Valley knew of and had tasted the watercress from the famous beds on the Hedsor Road.

Today there is a Garden Centre where the watercress beds use to be, but through the magic of the computer one can turn back the clock and give the young an idea of what the beds looked like 70 years ago.

Sam was a rotund figure of a man and yet he was a very hard working gentleman, who was use to working in his beds on cold and frosty mornings cutting his watercress crop by hand, bunching and packing in osier wicker crates with lids ready for shipment. First he would load his pony and four-wheeled cart with about 100 crates and drive over the toll bridge to Maidenhead Railway Station to catch a fast train to Paddington. There the crates would transported to Covent Garden for sale. Of course he would pick the empty return crates at the station to take back home.

His season would start sometime in December and would carry through until Spring when he would start to refurbish his beds. Only a flood would spoil his operation for the length of time that it lasted. Locals from both sides of the river take weekend walks to see Sam and to buy a three-penny or six-penny bunch of watercress for a Sunday afternoon tea. Today watercress that you find in your Supermarket most likely comes from the famous watercress beds of Hampshire near Alton.

There were also watercress beds towards Well End on the banks of the Bourne, but even those have now been built over. Just Sam’s old beds as seen above.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Wartime Visitors to White Place Farm in 1942.

Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon visit White Place Farm.
It was summer Sunday afternoon I was visiting with my school chum Geoff Emmett and were around the miking parlour when the Hon. Bill Astor walked in with a lady and gentleman, who we did not know who they were, all we knew that they were not dressed for walking around a farmyard. The lady asked us both if were evacuees from London and we said no. They then continued on with their conducted tour.
It was not until sometime later that we found out who they were, and that they were spending the weekend as guests of the Astor Family. This was while they were making the film which is now a classic "Mrs. Miniver".
Where on the Thames did the filming take place I never found out as in those days locations were kept very quiet indeed and nobody ever knew. Even when the film was first released it was nigh impossible to tell as they were using quite a lot of stage sets. Even the armada of small boats were scale filming.
In the picture above is Teresa Wright who also played a lead roll in the film. But the thing is that three film stars from Holywood did visit Cookham during the war.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Alfred Major Allotment History

The protected Slow Worm.

The Alfred Major Allotment Story.

The Alfred Major Allotments were first started during the early 1940’s as part of the National “Dig for Victory” Campaign. The Cookham Rise Secondary Modern School as it was named then under the Headmaster Mr. G.H. Wood, took on six 10-pole plots of bare ground that had been pegged out by a surveyor and started to double dig with the aid of all the boys in the school. Forks and Spades came from Mr. W.G. Church on Station Approach.

Farm Manure from Bob Caught, and a fine large handcart was built by Harding’s Builders. Money to pay for all this was paid for in part by money the school made from the on-going Waste Paper Drives.

It was not the best location for starting an allotment garden due to the stony condition of the soil. Stone picking was a constant chore for us boys to start with. You were picking more stones than pulling weeds sometimes. Our work in the allotments replaced our Natural Studies, PT and one or two other classes as well.

The produce that we grew all went to help to provide School Dinners that the girls learned to make under the watchful eye of Mrs. Isherwood and Mrs. Deacon.

Now trees were planted sometime later, but I often wonder if there is still a good stonecrop to be had there still.