Posts Tagged ‘Beddingham’

Camp

April 27, 2013

A child’s holiday – written by me in February 1997

I find it hard to believe that I’ve never written specifically about camp. For nearly 15 years, camp was a major factor in my life. Perhaps, it was the major factor, which has helped to mould my present way of life.

Camp was at Furlongs Farm, roughly equidistant between the villages of Firle, Glynde and the hamlet of Beddingham. It was actually in the parish of Beddingham, with the main pasture rising up and over the top of Beddingham Hill. It was about four miles from Lewes and seven from Newhaven. For three weeks each summer, a little ridge, perched up on the downs was our family home. It was ten minutes walk to the farm itself although the Freeman family who ran the farm lived in Glynde. Dick had one room at the farm. The rest of the isolated house was let to people who we called artists but more of them anon.

Perhaps the story should start in 1952 near Lancing cement works. We went camping with the scouts there. I don’t remember any scouts. Indeed, my main memories concern falling into a ditch and the yellow diesel shunter that was used at the cement works. This was the first family camp and presumably, soon after, my father acquired a motley collection of tents and camping gear. I am told he then went cycling to find a suitable pitch for us. Water was the main concern and this was found, along with friendly farmers at Furlongs. An added advantage was that Great Aunt Nellie lived at Firle, barely more than a mile away, and she could get milk for us and provide an emergency base. The site, of course, was in no way official. It was just a ledge on a hill. 200 yards away, down the hill, there was a tap on some kind of reservoir. I learned to know those 200 yards well. Carrying water was a major occupation. There were no lavatory facilities and even at the farmhouse there was no electricity.

I remember a visit to the area in 1953. It was coronation time and there was a beacon being built on Mount Caburn above Glynde. I was still young (about 4) and was unimpressed by Mount Caburn. It was too big for me to take in. The prehistoric hill fort on top of the hill had left all sorts of mounds and one of these became my hill. I proudly climbed to the top of it. It was on this visit that we visited Nellie at her old house where she had once run a sweet shop. It was the only time I remembered going there. The other rather strange thing I remember from the visit was the walk from Glynde to Firle. It was the pay gate that impressed me. I had no concept of paying to use roads. This was the first time I released that things had once been very different.

Camping must have started at Furlongs in 1954. Ownership of a car was a distant prospect. We hired a lorry and driver to take the collection of tents, chairs, beds and, vitally, bikes to the camp site. The journey was a part of the holiday. There we were, in the back of a lorry for what seemed an endless journey. Other people went to Torquay, but our journey of just over 20 miles had a real romance to it.

On arrival at the site there were two options. The lorry could park on the tarmacced track above our ledge, or it could get as close as possible in the field. In either case, it was a heavy haul to get all of the gear into place. The driver had the idea of rolling tents down from the track. They, of course, went all the way to the bottom and had to be man hauled back up. One way or another, though, the incredibly heavy, elderly collection of tents were got into place, and erected. This had to happen no matter what the weather. On one early camp the wind, it was estimated, was a steady hurricane. It was nearly impossible to move against it and perfectly easy to face away from the wind and just lean back onto it. But in these conditions, 100 square feet of roof had to be lifted onto the walls and anchored down.

The main tent was ten feet square and operated a bit like a modern frame tent. Indeed, it was a frame tent, with an enormous wooden structure that concertinered out to give the tent shape. The enormous roof was hoisted onto this and then the heavy walls were hooked onto it. It had the virtue of all being useably high with no poles within it. In this tent we had our food – already prepared in the tent on the single Primus stove and the pressure cooker. This tent, too, was the grown ups bedroom. Each morning, they carefully tied their beds up to the frame to make sufficient space inside for a family. In later years this tent grew an extension – a kind of lean-to which could be attached to the back. It was a useful store, and could even be used as a lavatory (complete with Elsan chemical toilet).

The other main tent was a square bell tent. This had a larger floor area, but the walls were only about 3 feet high and, of course, it had a centre pole. This was the sleeping area for children. Beds could be left up all of the time. It was a dark and dismal place. Not much light could penetrate the thick, heavy canvas.

Tent number three was the toilet tent. In early days this was a white ridge tent – about 6 ft long and high. At first, the toilet was a seat over a hole in the ground with a shovel so that soil could be put in the hole after use. Later, the Elsan arrived. The contents of this, when full, were tipped down a convenient rabbit hole. It must have been an unpleasant shock for the poor little bunnies. This tent, always a rather thin and flimsy affair, suffered badly at the horns of a cow. I was in it at the time when a horn appeared, ripping large holes in the canvas. It was replaced by the wigwam. This had been a polar tent. It had no guys, being held in place by its poles and mounds of snow. My father must have carried out some conversions to make it suitable for the temperate chalk downland.

The bell tent also suffered a cow attack – at least we assume it did. We came home to find the top of the tent nearly torn right off, and a bad state of collapse. I remember being distressed by this but my father got out his repair kit and sewed it up again. The next year we had our own electric fence which surrounded our encampment. We suffered no more attacks by cows.camp2

The fourth tent had no real function. It was a little US Navy Biv tent – date stamped 1942. It could store sacks and things.

Within the tents, we all had beds – heavy wooden folding types and on these we had sheets and blankets fastened with blanket pins. I never remember any real discomfort. We also had a table and a collection of chairs plus various boxes in which food and essentials were stored. I am sure most people would have felt it was primitive, but we never seemed to want for anything. Lighting was provided by a tilley lamp, candles and torches. I had a torch like a front bicycle lamp. it had a hood which could be placed over the beam – a blackout measure. It was summer, of course, so we didn’t need all that much light and no heat.

The essential bicycles were stored about 100 yards away, on the way to the water. They were covered with a tarpaulin. This tarpaulin was always called ‘The Garage’. If it still exists it will still carry the same name!

One other ‘item’ accompanied us in later years. Our cat, Blackie, became a camper, spending his days in the badger spinney by the bicycles. Soon after, we got a car and that spelt something of a change in camp. Travelling was now easy and we got further afield.

So the classic set up for me (reading from North to South) consisted of the sombre brown bell tent, facing South. About 20 feet away the main tent (was it a dismal green colour) faced North, with its lean-to on the back. Behind that, at a suitable distance, was the wigwam, loo tent. The biv tent was probably quite near to the wigwam. the whole lot was surrounded by a single strand electric fence, with a ticker unit of my father’s construction and rubber covered skewers acting as ‘gate’ hitches so that we could get through.

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I never knew how he made the fence unit, but it seems the main coil came from a Model T Ford car. Between the two large tents we would sit out on director style folding chairs and just behind us we’d have a telescope mounted on a flimsy tripod. Possibly, a long wire would thread its way up the hill from my crystal radio set. All of this was set on a narrow, flat ledge about 50 feet above the valley floor. The photo, taken in 1958 shows the set up with the view across the Glynde Reach valley to Mount Caburn beyond

The bank down from the ledge was quite steep and provided us with much entertainment. If you sat at the top and pushed with your hands you soon gathered speed and arrived, exhilarated, at the bottom. You were then faced with the scramble back up. For a shorter slide, you could travel down to ‘Manchester’.

Manchester? The bank up to our ledge had four little ‘chalk pits’ about 8 feet long and a couple of feet deep. These, amazingly, are still there. What caused them I don’t know but they provided a little flat haven, about a couple of feet wide on the steep slope. These were claimed by us children as bases and given names. Robin, ever greedy and bullying, claimed two which he called London and Brighton. Paula, older than us and with a better knowledge of geography called hers Manchester. I was left with a rather scrubby affair, smaller than the others and well away from the centre. I called it Southend because, for some reason I’d been there. London and Brighton were too near the top for sliding into. Southend was too far away, so Manchester it was.

Soil creep on the bank provided narrow paths between the bases. We played trains a lot. Manchester was a bit out of the way for this game, but Paula probably felt far too old for it anyway. Robin and I ran a regular service on the rather unlikely London, Brighton and Southend route. In fact, looking back, I wonder how much Paula would have enjoyed camp. My memories are of Robin and I doing things together.

We were regular players of stage coaches. Just by where we kept the bikes, by the badger spinney there was an old, wooden, farm wagon. This provided hours of entertainment as we cajoled our imaginary horses to greater feats of speed. But better, just beyond the farm on the old Roman underhill road, there was the rotting remains of a real stage coach. It was possible to sit up there on the drivers seat, or be a guard with a wild gun firing at highwaymen. I don’t think we were too bothered about being passengers. I can regret now that we didn’t treat this piece of history well. Perhaps it should and could have been conserved.

The farm itself was always an attraction. Chickens scurried about and it was always a pleasure to feed these greedy creatures. We could also ride the very stationary old tractors and binders that were littering the yard areas. And if any harvesting happened we would be there, helping. For these were still labour intensive days. Dick would start by opening up the field (cutting a width wide enough for tractor and binder) with a rip hook. He tied these into sheaves, using straw. Then the binder could get in and the followers were always hard pressed to gather the sheaves into stocks, stooks, shocks or shooks. Stocking up was a regular activity, as was loading sheaves onto trailers and helping to build stacks.

In fact, Dick must have been the last of his type for I never saw another person who harvested anything with a sickle. He was the only person who I ever saw hand broadcasting seed. Robin and I were far more interested at the time with the goings on at neighbouring Blackcap Farm. They were modern and we just loved the combine harvester. This, tractor hauled item was the piece of machinery that we ran to see. This was what was special to us. Even Dick used one from time to time, hired from a contractor and I really admired Dick’s skill as the sacker. For these combines did not have tanks. The grain was delivered to sacks and Dick had to fill them, use string to fasten them and then tip them onto the ground to be collected.

Sheep were also an attraction. Dick ran a flock of what I would now guess were a bit Hampshire Down. These were out in the pasture all day but were folded on turnips every night. This was labour intensive again since each day the sheep had to be fetched and then driven out again the next morning. In Wiltshire, sheep are referred to as ‘The Golden Hoof’. Dick also, obviously felt that sheep transferred fertility from the pasture to the arable lands.

Much of life at Beddingham was about survival. Trips to Glynde or Firle, where there were village shops, were fairly frequent. Lewes was within range and Robin and I sometimes went there by bus to use the swimming pool. I learned to swim there. The town we visited most often was Newhaven. We went there for the seaside. It was a seven mile cycle ride, mostly fairly level, but with awful hills as we skirted the downs in the Ouse Valley. Newhaven seemed to provide all our needs. there was the beach and with a short walk there were rock pools. Being remote, there were nudists near the rock pools. There was a harbour and a huge harbour wall. there was a Woolworth’s shop which sold 7 Up. Cross channel ferries sailed to Dieppe and they had romantic sounding names like Lisieux. We learned to love swimming in the sea as the bow waves from the ferries crashed onto the shore. In fact, no kind of rough sea ever seemed to stop us swimming.

Ferries and the docks were a major attraction. It was always a pleasure to be in Newhaven to see Lisieux, Londres or Brighton arrive or depart. Arrivals were better since it was no easy matter to bring these boats in to the dock side. Much use was made of ropes to haul them into place and fasten them. From time to time there would be a cargo boat and these sometimes went up stream of the bridge. Road traffic was stopped to allow these boats through so that the cranes could unload the cargo. A regular boat was the bucket dredger. This had the task of transferring mud from the bottom of the river and taking it out to sea and dumping it. Even as a child I felt sure that this silt would be carried back in on the next tide.

Newhaven seemed to offer all that one could wish for. The main beach was shingle but the harbour was sandy and perfectly safe for swimming. There was always a fair on the West harbour wall. It can hardly have done a roaring trade for tourists were pretty thin on the ground. Occasionally, we had a go on the swing boats. These were great fun, and by picking a quiet time we could always get a really long ride for our money. I don’t remember that we were ever told to stop by the show man. It was a message from our arm muscles that persuaded us to give up.

Near the swing bridge – a nightmare to cycle over because of the tram lines, there was always a flock of swans. These, like the Furlongs hens, were a joy to feed. This was near the railway – always of interest to me. North of the bridge, on the east side, there were sidings where interesting locomotives did strange manoeuvres with trucks. This area was by the docks so cargoes could be taken straight from ship to train. Just by the bridge on the south side was Newhaven Town station. This, normally had a service of the green southern electric trains, but there was always a chance of seeing a boat train hauled by one of the splendid electric locos.

Towards Seaford, near Bishopstone there was a favourite beach of mine at the Tide Mills. I was fascinated to think that the tides could be used to turn useful machinery. It seemed such a good idea to get that free energy. We often referred to that area as Bongville because someone had written that name on a sign board at the old, closed, Bishopstone Station.

It became the proud boast of Robin and I that we swam the equivalent of once a day. This meant we had the cycle ride to Newhaven or the bus journey to Lewes to contend with.

Walking was another favourite occupation. I’m told, that on our first morning at camp, Robin and I set off for the top of Beddingham Hill. It was there and it had to be climbed. My mother was evidently fraught with panic as her two little boys – specks in the distance – trudged straight up to the top via the motor bike route. This was another learning experience. It was the short route, but it was not quick or easy, being very steep. We learned to cross the valley floor and go up the gentle coach road from the chalk pit. We once lost all of our wellies – stolen from where we hid them in a corn field – when we were out on a walk. These were the only items we ever lost whilst camping. On that same day I found a small scale map of the area. The loss must have been retribution for my pleasure at finding this map. I’ve still got the map!

Our pasture field was enormous. We were fairly near one corner of it, where there was access for vehicles. Close to the gate was the badger spinney – a steeply sloping rather sinister wood and just inside the gate was the water trough. there was also a rather strange circular crater which we attributed to a bomb. Across the valley floor there was another line of scrubby trees forming a little spinney. These, too, were on quite a steep slope and above them was arable land. However, the pasture went right up to the top of the hill where there were views of Newhaven. We were regularly at the top, hopefully to see a ferry arrive. We looked for the puff of smoke to indicate it had blown its warning hooter whilst still out at sea. We then waited and waited for the sound of the hooter to reach us. I wonder if it still would through the noise of all of the traffic on the roads. At the top of the hill there was (and is) a dewpond. It never held much water in my memory. Just above the scrubby spinney, a track came up from the farm. This had once been a coach road, presumably heading for the coast. It took an easy route up, past a chalk pit. The function of this conical hole is not clear to me. But it was of manageable size to a small boy and Robin and I spent a lot of time in it. We found fossils, but we also did more adventurous things in it. Hillary and Tensing may have conquered Everest. We conquered the East cliff of the chalk pit with every bit as much pleasure. West from the chalk pit the pasture went down into another valley – hidden entirely from our camp and farm. Then there was another ridge before a final valley and another dewpond. This was indeed a hidden spot, as remote as you could get from any trace of civilisation. In this third valley there was only nature (albeit in the form of Dick’s sheep to commune with. It is nearly 30 years since I was there, but I love that spot as, indeed I love the entire pasture which has altered very little over the years.

Robin and I became regular shepherds for Dick during our camps. With his old time methods, he had to find the sheep in this huge field each day and drive them down to their fold. This was always a pleasurable job since they didn’t need a lot of driving. The greedy beasts looked forward to their feed of turnips and often needed no actual fetching. In the morning, we could set them loose again whilst Dick set up a new pen – made of wattle hurdles – for the next night.

Sometimes we helped move the bullocks as well. The Freeman dairy farm was by the station in Glynde, just over a mile away. Bullocks spent summer months in our field and occasionally they were moved. This involved the fairly easy journey along the near deserted road from Furlongs to Glynde Cross. Here, the main A27 road had to be crossed before the cows could continue on the very minor road into Glynde. I feel sure that such a trip would be nigh impossible now, with ceaseless traffic speeding on the A road.

There were other helpers too. Barry was a Glynde lad who often helped on the farm. Paula used to fancy him. Jamie was the son of an artist who was sometimes at the farm. Angus, another artist son (Mrs Richards) did not help much. I rather feared him because he was an epileptic. I never saw him have a turn, and once, all three of us went out rowing with him on the River Ouse. This was the first time I remember my Dad driving. He drove Mrs Richard’s brown, upright Ford van to get us all there.

On the eastern side of our field, the metalled track made its way to the wireless station at the top of the hill. These masts displayed a slight purple glow at the top of the hill. This track was the edge of Furlongs farm, so the steep, shell shaped chalk pit above it was really out of our territory. None the less, we played in it from time to time. It was a much more daunting climb than THE chalk pit.

In fact, the games which Robin and I could play seemed almost limitless. By modern standards it was all low key but perhaps it developed a closeness with nature. We knew our chalkland flora and fauna, both natural and agricultural. We knew our fossils and our local geography in considerable detail. Weather predicting, based on sunsets, became my forte but no skill was needed to predict wind. There must have been a breeze most of the time so we flew kites. On one occasion, Robin’s white box kite got away. It shot up the hill towards Firle. Somewhere on the way the string tangled in a fence and we recovered it, none the worse for its adventure. I still have a fascination for kites.

But, despite the fun, I also remember days when the rain beat down and a physical gloom filled our valley. On these occasions we played cards or other games in the dark interior of the bell tent. If the rain got worse, one of us would announce that it was the ‘clearing up shower’. On these days of rain, the normal processes of living must have been moderately miserable. The wet walk to the loo tent would have seemed a long way. Rain may have poured down but we still needed water. That 100 yards, down from our ledge to the valley floor and then back up with the full cans would have been slippery and miserable. Our tents, with no groundsheets, kept the rain out but things got damp inside on such days. It was probably something of a nightmare keeping matches in a fit state to use and these were essential for lighting the Primus stove and the tilley lamp.

Such days existed and it was Paula who ended one such day, when we were all in bed, by inviting us to say the funniest thing we could. My response was ‘Mrs Selway’ (a neighbour where our house was) Robin and Paula evidently agreed with my assessment because uncontrollable, hysterical laughter broke out and went on and on. Our parents came over from the main tent to see what it was all about, but we weren’t much use to them. If one of us controlled ourself enough to start saying ‘Mrs Se’ it was enough to bring the hysterics back on. Eventually peace resumed. We were able to explain to baffled parents what the joke was and we went to sleep. I have awful feelings of guilt over this episode for the lady in question was a sweet, good natured soul and she surely didn’t deserve such rude treatment.

We didn’t use them much but the trains were important to us. We could see a long sweep of railway from the edge of Lewes to nearly Glynde. We knew the times of trains and could regulate our lives by them. My favourites were the London to Hastings expresses. These were green electric trains, but the second or third coach from the London end was a Pullman car in cream and brown livery. This service ran hourly and the trains in opposite directions were due to pass at Beddingham Crossing, where the railway crossed the A27 road. This meant that we could see the two trains at once as they dashed along the level ground with Mount Caburn as the backdrop. A wonderful sight. There were steam trains too. Any freight, and there were several trains each day, was steam hauled by elderly wheezing, clanking locos. Each day there was a very special train which my father called ‘The Birkenhead Express’. This little train was steam hauled, but I knew that it joined up with similar trains from Kent, when it reached Redhill, to become a large and truly important train (in my mind). Birkenhead, as a distant destination, was another place which I thought must be a wonderfully romantic and major town.

As a teenage lad, I would go to Lewes to train spot. The line through Uckfield to Tunbridge Wells was still open and provided a regular steam service. The Bluebell line trains had gone by then but I remember a chance occasion in 1955 when my father pointed over the bridge in Lewes to the last train to run on that line. He was right at the time, but politics and then preservation proved him wrong.

Journeys by bike were frequent. Without a car, they had to be. Often these were to the shops at Glynde or Firle. Often, too, they were to Newhaven. Sometimes, we went to other places. We always visited churches – strange for a family who had little Christian background – and we always signed visitors books. Two of my favourite churches were on opposite sides of the Ouse. Tarring Neville was memorable for having a barrel organ. Piddinghoe had the most absurd name, a delightful site right on the river and a round tower. After a trip to Newhaven, we sometimes bought fish and chips. We all still say that Newhaven Fisheries sell the best F & C in the world. By tradition, we ate these at Southease Bridge. It seems shameful to admit it now, but the greasy newspapers were disposed of in a game of Pooh sticks from the bridge. The river was tidal here, so the direction of play depended on the state of the tide.

Another ride we made from time to time was to Isfield. My father announced he had a cousin called Nellie here (not to be confused with Aunt Nellie at Firle). She was married to Reuben who was an avid gardener. Isfield is renowned in family folk law for its cheese. Probably like Newhaven fish its succulence was based on our tiredness after the ride. This ride was also notable for the strange sheep near Isfield. I now know that these were Jacobs.

It might be seen as strange, but visitors always played a part at camp. Aunt Nellie came for a meal occasionally, perhaps with her son, Frank or one of her grandchildren. The youngest of these, Dougie, must have come over quite often since I felt I knew him quite well. Friends from Crawley stayed for some or all of the time. I remember Paula’s friend, Di Lamble staying and Robin’s friend Colin Wadley. He spilt some sugary lemonade by the main tent entrance. The wasps loved it. The rest of us hated it. I gather my father used some kind of bleach to discourage the wasps.

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We had day visitors too. It was possible for my grandparents to get a train from Bexhill straight to Glynde. It must have been quite a long walk for my granddad, with his gammy leg, but a visit by them was part of camp. I have a feeling that my other grandparents, from Tonbridge might have visited us at least once. Certainly there was a train service from Tonbridge to Lewes. Dick Wood, my parents’ friend from Leigh, next to Tonbridge certainly visited. He was the person who suffered a bottom injury whilst sliding down the bank. He carried on doing it, but used a piece of tin to protect him after that. There were colleagues of my father as well, although I have little memory of these.

People from Crawley – WEA contacts with cars came down. The Davises, with their Walnut lined Riley car must have been well out of place, but they seemed to recognise the happiness of the gentle life style. The Pitts were much more intellectual – a match for my father in the pun stakes. They came, with or without children and we enjoyed their company.

Perhaps the most bizarre of these visitors was Oscar Thompsett, known as Fred. He was not a driver so he came by train. On one occasion – it must have been when we had a car – he came down and joined an evening trip to Newhaven. We walked him out on the harbour wall, despite the pounding from the sea. The heavy spray from the waves was unavoidable. It was a soaking experience. Then we inducted him into the delights of Newhaven Fisheries, the dash to Southease Bridge, the grease spilling food and the game of Pooh Sticks. We then dropped him in Lewes for a train home. He enjoyed the rest of his journey but he was not sure his companions did. The train was a Glyndebourne Special and the toffs, in opera gowns etc. had to share a compartment with Fred – wet and salt stained, grease spattered, dirty and smelly. We certainly heard about the journey when we next saw him. On another occasion, Fred was with us when a young cow gave birth to a calf in our field. It was the first time I’d seen a birth. My father recognised the symptoms and had arranged our chairs so that we could all watch from a safe distance. I think Fred was utterly embarrassed by this earthy display of life in the real, even bovine life. He covered his unease by keeping up a running commentary on the situation. Of course, I can’t remember what he said now, but it was very funny. I can report that mother and calf did very well. There was an ulterior motive in getting Fred to visit, apart from the fact that I enjoyed the company and wit of this rather unconventional man. Fred was an artist – a painter of views – and he was commissioned to paint the scene from our camp and across the Glynde Reach valley to Mount Caburn. The picture is not perfect but it gives me pleasure when I visit My father. It brings back very happy memories.

We had surprise visitors too. Sticks and Norbert turned up one day on their teeny little motorbikes.

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They were Austrian, and having docked at Newhaven, they searched for a campsite. What they saw was our tents and they stayed. They got the bargain of a family holiday, company, my mother’s cooking (as ever on the single stove) and a lot of fun. Paula got another boy to drool over (Norbert). Robin found Sticks a much more adventurous friend than me. In fact, these two teenage lads were very adventurous. We took them down to Newhaven one evening for a swim. It was wild and rough. The waves were smashing into the main harbour wall and spraying over the top. These two lads set off to swim around the half mile long wall into the harbour. Nothing we could say or do could dissuade them from this venture. None of our family thought it was anything but folly. We felt sure that these lads from landlocked Austria had no concept of the dangers of the sea. Suffice to say they did it and remain the only people I know who have swum the mile right round the wall in any weather.

They stayed on our site for a while and then went off on their little motorbikes to explore more of England. But we saw them again when they stayed, for a few days at our home before returning to Austria. They must have been surprised at the hospitality that they received from at least one English family.

I suppose our cat, Blackett, should really be regarded as one of the family but I’ll include him here as a visitor. He didn’t come to early camps, but must have joined us in about 1958. Everyone thought we were mad to be taking our cat on holiday but my parents obviously decided that this was the best option. So Blackie was shut into an old wicker picnic hamper and loaded onto the lorry. He didn’t enjoy the journey, hissing and yowling the entire time. He, like me, must have thought the journey was very long. He coped at camp, spending most of his time in the badger spinney but visiting the tents each night for food and a little affection. If he wanted a bolt hole at camp, he used a box beyond my father’s bed. Getting into this involved jumping over Dad’s head. This caused an upset when, one night, Blackie went to his box whilst carrying a very dead, and bloody rabbit which he had caught. Father was not amused.

Blackie was always a bit of a problem for return journeys. Inevitably when we needed to leave he was somewhere in the impenetrable badger spinney. Usually he would come to calls of ‘Puss, Puss, Puss’, but on one occasion, the lorry driver had his dog. Blackett obviously did not approve and went to ground. Father braved the spinney and eventually coaxed him out. He was shut in his picnic hamper for the journey, hissing and yowling, home.

My father always seemed to be blessed with the gift of the gab. On one bike journey to Newhaven, we were making our weary way past the cement works. The next thing we knew was that we were inside. Our family was having its very own conducted tour of the works. I remember this as a very thorough tour and utterly enthralling. The huge furnace burned day and night – only let out for the annual shutdown – was the star of the show. But it sticks in my memory that virtually no-one worked in that factory.

On another occasion, well into the car era, we came across Cross in Hand mill. It was working and we were in. The miller seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would be interested in his old windmill. I can only be glad that my father was able to talk us in to it. Windmills do still work, for tourists, in this country. I have been involved with them but they do not have the drive of a mill working for profit. This must have been a very last chance to witness such a process.

The coming of the car changed camp. Obviously, the lorry journey went. Not that all of our gear and all of us could be fitted into our original Austin 10 or the smaller Flying Standard 8. With small distances gear could be taken down by two people on one day, and then the car could return to pick up the people. Robin and I sometimes rode our bikes, at any rate for part of the journey.

With a car, it became possible to travel further and more easily. We could also take people – Aunt Nellie for example – out as well. Thus it was, that Nellie came to Seaford – about 6 miles from where she lived. Apart from one foray to Switzerland in 1903 as a maid on the estate and an annual trip to see her son in Broadmoor mental hospital during the 1950s, she had virtually not left the Firle area. Our car gave her a chance to travel a bit.

But the car spelt the beginning of the end. By 1961 we had a new car – a Bedford Dormobile – and we took other holidays. We travelled west for a week in Devon. We reached Scotland (just) and in 1962 we did Europe. We still went to camp each year. It would have been unthinkable not to, but the length of stay shortened and the size of the enclave reduced. By 1967 Robin and Paula were married and my mother had died. But camp at Beddingham lingered on for a while. My dad had a new girlfriend (now his wife). I, too had a girlfriend (now my wife). We took them to camp for my final time in 1968. My father and Jenny probably went a few more times. As the older generation of Freemans died, the end came in the early 70s but more recent day visits to the area fill me with yearning for the chalkland life and for the tranquillity of our uncomplicated lifestyle.

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