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LOCAL LIVES: Memories and Rambles – Growing up in The Downs – Part 2 Continued from Autumn edition.

Bill is in centre with cap between leaders, looking to his left. Do you know anyone?

As I sit pondering living and growing up in the The Downs in the 1950s and 60s I recall a great time of fun. We made our own fun, there were no computers, mobile phones, Xboxes and the like. We played outside with our mates till dark when Mum or Dad came looking for you: run outs over the woods, bows and arrows, go- carts, skates and bikes. Yep, run-outs over the woods where Greenhills is now, or where Passmores School was - for south of Second Avenue was all fields & woods then. Few people had cars and playing football or cricket in the street was easy. Sometimes we went to the Dashes

or Long Ley playing fields. To get to Tye Green Village Stores (was opposite the Poplar Kitten at Bush Fair) you went along a

country road from Second Avenue to St. Stephen’s Church. This is now a cycle track. We used to conker along a driveway off this road leading to a farm where the Study Centre now is, throwing up sticks to knock the conkers down. There was a big fire at the farm and the stables and buildings were burnt down. The banks of the Duck Pond, better known now as Netteswell Pond, by St. Andrew’s Church used

to be just grass and mud. When the pond was thoroughly frozen we ran down the slope and slid from one side to the other, with many a bruising - then did the same back again. We used to paddle in the stream flowing from the pond to St. Mark’s School, and in the waterfall bit of the pond by what is now the cycle track. Pond dipping was also great fun, getting tadpoles and things. We were liable to have to pull leeches from our legs when we got out. We would also look for suitable wood to make a bow and arrows - peel off the bark, attach the

string and then making the arrows. Lo and behold if you lost your Mum’s sharp knife - result, clip on the ear. We scoured the neighbourhood for discarded prams or push chairs so we could take the wheels and axles off to make a cart. We sawed up the wood and found a wooden crate to make the seat. All this self- learning, through trial and error, with your mates gave the pleasure of accomplishing something and taught you for later life - how to hold and use tools, and how to improvise. We also went to Quarry Springs and put a piece of board on a skate and whizzed down the hill. 1st Netteswell cubs met in the old school buildings next to what is now Nexus House opposite

Freshwaters houses. Afterwards we ran home to watch ‘Quatermass and the Pit’ - much better than today’s sci-fi stuff. Later, I went to the 15th Harlow Scouts who met at the scout hut on First Avenue where today’s scouts still meet. We used to camp overnight in the Town Park in shelters we made of branches and stuff. Cooked on a camp fire, no fences, perfectly safe, never a problem. Some of the other scouts I remember were Gus Higgens (Dashes). Gillespie brothers (Whitewaits), Vic Lewis (Downs – no relation) and Roy Harrington. Roy later became one of the first Queen Scouts in the country and went on to give many years to scouting. Train spotting was another great time at the old Burnt Mill Station. Nothing like today’s concrete

station. There was an up and down platform with sidings. Separating the platforms was the level crossing, opened and shut manually, but later automated. We used to sit in the waiting room in winter where there was a fire burning in the grate while waiting for the next train. Would it be a ‘goods’ or an ‘express?’ A ‘Brittania’ or a ‘Shunter’ ? We would roll up small strips of paper very tightly and light the end and pretend we were smoking and coughing our lungs out. Even at the age of 11 or 12 years old we would catch the train to Stratford, Nine Elms or Old Oak Common etc., and get into the engine sheds to collect train numbers. Diesels started to be introduced so my interest dropped off. On a quiet morning lying in bed at home you could hear the steam train’s whistle as they approached the station and I would wonder what type they were. Then there was ‘Bonnies’ sweetshop at Burnt Mill where we would go into to spend any pennies

we had. I wasn’t into fishing but others would fish in the Stort, or we would watch the lockkeeper opening the locks for the barges going through with whatever loads they were carrying. Harold McMillan visited Harlow. As he walked across the Dashes playing field I asked him ‘What

do you think of ‘arlow’? – I can’t remember his reply. The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh also visited in 1957 and I was in the Cub’s guard of honour at St. Paul’s Church. The Queen planted a tree at the church but which has long gone and the area is now paved over.

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