Thursday, 28 June 2018

CUBS & THE MEADOWS ...... a story from Trevor James

The first in a new series of growing up in Chorlton by Trevor James

The Old Road, 2016
The picture of the 1st Chorltonville cub and scout group shown on your blog for Wednesday, 15 November 2017 from Frank Tomlin was of particular interest to me, as I might be included in it. Unfortunately, I cannot tell for sure, given the picture quality. Together with my best friend, Leonard Smith, I was a Wolf Cub in the 1st Chorltonville (52nd Manchester) pack from 1952-1955.

We both lived in the same street on the Barlow Moor estate.

Every Friday (I think) throughout the year, we would set off at 5.30pm and walk along Floyd, Hardcastle and Burrows Avenues, down Hardy Lane, along Hurstville Road and through the passage at the end into the ‘Ville’.

The hut where we met was at the end of Brookburn Road, as it becomes a path across The Meadows. At the end of the meeting, we walked back home, in the dark much of the year, between the ages of 8 to 11 years old and neither we nor our parents thought anything of it.

The Cub Pack, circa 1950s
The one person in the photograph I can identify has a moustache and wears a Scout hat. When I knew him, he was the local Scout District Commissioner – don’t think I ever knew his name.

He always reminded me of Jimmy Edwards; just as funny and loud, too. Our first Akela was --- Blair; my mother was quite taken with him, saying he had ‘matinee idol’ looks. Our later cubmaster was Tom Alcorn, who was much younger (probably early twenties); both lived in Chorltonville.

In the summer, if it was fine, much of the meeting was held outdoors, on the Meadows, playing games. That’s where we spent much of our time, especially at weekends.

Hardy Farm, 1965
We usually approached via Hardy Lane; beyond Hurstville Road it was just a farm track. I’m not sure if I remember Hardy Lane Cottages or merely think I recall them, but I certainly remember Hardy Farm.

As you walked through it, there was an orchard on the right (Leonard & I went scrumping apples there, once, and we were discovered by the farmer), then an open, Dutch barn with corrugated iron roof , and lastly an open-fronted brick barn. This last had an orange box nailed to the gable end, with the middle stave knocked out. This was occupied, as intended, by a barn owl.

On the opposite side of the track was the farmhouse and ancillary buildings. The track at this point sloped down quite sharply. The last building was the cowshed or shippon, where the farmer (Mr. Mellor?) hand-milked his three or four cows. He had a retail milk round; the milk was unpasteurised, but TB-tested, of course. We didn’t use his milk, ours was delivered by the Co-op. The rumour was that Mr. Mellor watered the milk.

Beyond the farm the track flattened out and, about the point at which it bent to the left, there was a pond on the righthand side. For some reason, a fairly large-diameter cast-iron pipe crossed the pond, 1-2 feet above the surface. It pointed in the direction of the sewage farm, but where it came from I don’t know – maybe Barlow Hall, as it looked as though it predated the Barlow Hall estate. The pond had all that small boys could wish for – minnows, tadpoles (in season), newts, water beetles.

The Meadows, 2002
If we had gone down on our bikes, we ventured slightly further afield. Our boundaries were never discussed but were tacitly agreed.

On the Chorlton bank of the Mersey, the towpath downstream from Jackson’s Boat bridge as far as ‘Thunder Bridge’, which carried the railway line (now Metrolink) over the river; upstream, on the towpath, not far at all, as there was nothing of interest except for Barlow Wood (which we knew as Bluebell Wood).

However, we did cross the river, which was grossly polluted, smelt vile and whose flow was punctuated by small rafts of foam – still in the period 1952-55. We didn’t stray far along the towpath in either direction; instead, we would cycle up Rifle Road about as far as the first corner. At that point, we turned left off the road and into a ‘field’, which at that time was a dump for all sorts of rubbish, some six feet high.

We rode over this, back to the river. What we rode over in many places was white and fluffy. In hindsight, it must have been white asbestos. I’ve still no (severe) breathing difficulties, fingers crossed.

© Trevor James, 2018

Location; the 1950s

Pictures; the Old Road, 2012 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, First  Chorltonville Cub and Scout troop, 1950s, courtesy of Frank Tomlin, Hardy Farm, 1965, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the Meadows, 2002, from the collection of David Bishop

1 comment:

  1. A decade or so later I used to cycle from Chorlton up Rifle Road. At that time there was an active refuse dump on the right as you approached Sale, covered in a whitish coating of what I was told was lime to help break down the refuse. Hope it was, for Trevor's sake, as this would be a bit more benign than asbestos.