Monday, 10 March 2008

#009 Devon and an introduction to Cider

Clinic was still being attended, a great day being when the plaster casts were cut off, but as before the only trouble was having to learn to walk again, I was terribly upset by the thinness of my calves, so I was pleased when I was fitted with long trousers. At fourteen my schooling came to an end, I had still kept up with my cycling and had made a friend of a Stan Tysoe. He was a year older than me, as my school finished at the end of July 1936 and August Bank holiday was just after, he suggested we go on a cycle tour to Devon Somerset, (he was unfortunately killed at Heliopolis in 1941 serving in the RAF). Dad and Mum were going on holiday that same week to Cornwall, so they offered to give us a lift to Bridgwater. This was a big help. We left Long Eaton at 6am, no M5 in those days, but A38 all the way. Embracing Birmingham, Worcester Gloucester and Bristol and so on to Bridgwater. I can't remember what time we left but we arrived in Minehead around evening time, we had budgeted for Bed and Breakfast at 4/6d (22p) we found a place which also provided evening meal for 3/6 so we had that too.

We were up and away early next morning the weather being perfect, bound for Porlock and Lynemouth, on the way we were “caught” by two Manchester lads who were on a similar tour to so we joined forces. Our first obstacle was Porlock Hill, as some may know the road leaves Porlock on a gradual gradient for about a mile then turns sharp right. The gradient is about 1 in 3 immediately, as we were only on 69-inch fixed gear with one brake, we dismounted on the apex of the bend. Cars were coming up to the bend in the wrong gear and stalling, the first one after our stop asked for a push, which we gladly gave the people in the car, they then threw us their loose change out of the car windows. Naturally we stopped there most of the day earning quite a large sum each albeit a bit heavy in our saddlebags. For this reason we only made it to Lynemouth, which is only 21 miles from Minehead; we were able to join the Y.H.A it was only a shilling per night (5p) and the same for dinner and breakfast and 4p for a sheet sleeping bag. The minimum age for joining at that time was 16 but we wangled this (I was 14).

After the evening meal the Manchester lads decided to explore the town and we went along, we tried the lift from Lynemouth to Lynton the Manchurians (who were older than us at least 17) and had been at work for 3 years, asked to go in a Pub. I said I didn't drink, after all we had only just left the Band of Hope (i.e. an anti‑drink concern very prevalent pre‑war). Anyway we entered and I said I would have lemonade, no said the Manchurians “try the sweet cider its great”, thereupon I was given a pint of cider and sure enough I liked it and had two more. The time was now 9‑30 p.m. and curfew time was 10 p.m. at the hostel. Any later and you were locked out and they were very strict on this. Anyway I stood up to go and fell flat on my face, my knees buckled and I had to be carried back, a good start to my introduction to Pubs. On returning to the hostel we entered the common room where a riotous singsong was in progress till 11 p.m. ‑ then cocoa and so to bed.

The next morning after breakfast we had our duties which for us was washing up for about 90 people or it seemed like that, we left about 10 a.m. on the way to Bampton youth hostel which is in North Devon ‑ and the problem of the Quantock Hills, the problem being to us at any rate was that these hills seemed to be 4 miles up but only 1 mile down!! On arrival at the hostel the warden told us that the main hostel was full and we would have to stay in the barn. The only spaces left were top bunks - three tier models ‑ quite a job to climb up and especially difficult to negotiate if one had to go to the toilet trying not to stand on the other two occupants heads.

All went well at Bampton, we did our morning duties then packed our bags and off towards a place we had been told not to miss - Clovelly. We arrived there OK but couldn't get accommodation, someone recommended us to try Higher Clovelly (now a large Car Park). Sure enough an old couple in a terraced cottage put us up, the price being 5/6 B & B and evening meal. What a lovely place Clovelly was in those days, we spent our time rowing (we were taught sea rowing by the local fishermen who we had played dominoes with in the Pub and yes, I had grown very accustomed to the sweet cider by then). We swam and really had a good time. On the second day we were there we were negotiating the steep steps down to the beach when just in front of us a lady fell, she was obviously in pain having injured her right leg, so we bound both her legs together (a la Boy Scouts). We borrowed a stretcher from the Lifeboat station and via the donkey path we carried her up to Higher Clovelly where we rang for an ambulance. The lady was overjoyed and cordially invited us for lunch at her house in Taunton on our way home the next day. You may be wondering why we had to negotiate the donkey path in Clovelly, the reason being that since 1926 no motor vehicles were allowed down the steps.

We left Clovelly on the Friday morning arriving at Taunton at the appointed hour of l p.m., actually we had a job to find the house going by it a few times because we were not expecting a mansion with a long wooded drive up to it. However we rang the bell and a uniformed butler opened the door and asked our business. We informed him whereupon he said we were expected, but would we change our clothes, he was really put out when we informed him that what we had on was all we had. The lady was really a Lady and made us feel at home, we had never seen so many knives and forks but we got through OK

After leaving Taunton we had a long wet ride to Batheaston youth hostel. One of the Manchurians fell in the then tramlines in Bath. The next day Saturday, we were on the road to Worcester we stayed at Holt Mill youth hostel, here we parted our ways with the Manchester lads ‑ we going on the A38 – and we were all miserable to part , but strangely enough we never corresponded with them. Stan and I had a terrible ride home in rain and wind, but the sense of achievement was really good, we had done it under our own power.

No comments: