Living in No. 1 Bleach House, Winthorpe Park was the easiest route to school, my two sisters, my brother and I used to walk backwards and forwards four times a day. It was a long journey for a three year old.
Every season brought its pleasures, when the first fall of snow came we loved it. My mother forbade us to go through the park on these occasions but how could we resist the carpet of snow so pure and white. Our footsteps were the first ones of the day to churn it up. We all wore boots, my youngest sister, who always seemed to have the nicest things had lovely soft leather boots, which were fastened with a button hook. My eldest sister and I wore boy's boots, they were very heavy and ugly and I hated them.
I can still relive the excitement of stepping on to the snow to see how deep it was, it often came over our boot tops and we had to endure cold wet feet all day. I suppose that was why we all suffered with chilblains. There was a magical feeling about the park in wintertime. All the trees so stark and bare looked beautiful when decorated with the frost and snow.
Once the spring came along everything changed. The trees came into leaf and everywhere had a pristine look. Our thoughts turned to looking for bird's nests. The fun of finding a nest and watching the eggs until the day the babies appeared was so exciting.
To hear the cuckoo was a great event. Our schoolteacher had to be told as soon as we reached school.
Aconites were almost over, celandines and cowslips were in full bloom and by the beginning of May the horse chestnut trees were in full flower. We also kept a keen watch on the Oak and the Ash, knowing the old saying, ‘Ash before the Oak we shall have a soak, Oak before the Ash we shall have a splash.'
The stream that passed our house also meandered through the Park and this was the time for looking for frog spawn and sticklebacks. We loved this stream and spent most of our free time with a net made from old lace curtains fixed to a willow branch.
Spring was the time for whips and tops, skipping ropes, shuttlecocks and battledores and iron hoops, which we helped along with a stick. A skipping rope was an ideal way to keep warm on the way to school. A ball was another help, one of us would throw it as far as we could and the others would chase after it.
The only vehicle we saw was the beer lorry, which filled up with water outside our house. Our greatest joy was to hang on to the back of it until we reached the park gate. All this unknown to my mother of course.
The first week of summer brought the swifts and swallows, the skylarks sang their hearts out, blackbirds and thrushes called to each other, and the rooks quarrelled all day long. The cows were now put out to grass. I never liked them; a wet cowpat ruined many times our canvas shoes.
By the end of June the sheep dipping started, the water was damned up at the village end where the bridge crossed over. A man used to stand in a box and as each sheep was thrown into the water he would catch it and dowse it up and down until it was clean. The poor sheep would clamber up a sloping path to be re-united with her lamb, which had never stopped bleating.
Once the summer holidays were over autumn seemed to arrive in no time. Now was the time to pick the cob-nuts and to look out for a lovely big conker. I would carry one about for most of the autumn and then plant it. By the next spring it had grown into a lovely little plant and I would transfer it to the garden and forget all about it.
This time of the year was the ideal time for finding mushrooms. We knew where to look and many times had a lovely tea of fried mushrooms. Such a change from bread and jam.
Another thing we looked for at this time were pig-nuts, these we had to dig out of the ground, and we never bothered about washing them. I cannot describe the taste but I do know that we loved them.
The Park has changed now, all the magic has gone, and the kissing gate. No sheep are washed there anymore. Most of the trees are still there, the stream still gurgles along. I wonder if the sticklebacks still swim down to the river Fleet, if they do a part of me goes with them.
Mrs. Mabel Barber (nee Osborne )
Extract from Focal Point. February 2002.
This stream, which drains the airfield joins up with a stream that runs from the south side of Newark. These join up behind the Community Centre to form The Fleet.
The Sheep Dip is behind the Lord Nelson Public House, at the small bridge over the Fleet. This bridge is known as Sheep Dip Bridge.
The Park is the area from Sheep Dip Bridge to the A46 road.
Further reading can be found in
Memories of Mrs. Mabel Barber in Volume 4.