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1930’s getting to school and learning about farming

The old Earith Suspension BridgeThe children living over the High Bridge at the Hermitage and from the farms in the fen had to walk to school and bring their lunch with them.
In the winter months they would be allowed out half an hour early so they could get home before dark.

When the causeway was flooded, as it usually was every winter then, the children would be ferried across by Harry Harper in his boat.

A ferry boat to go across the flooded Earith Causeway

Some children, mainly of the business families and some farmers and fruit growers would go to private schools in St Ives: Slepe Hall and Miss Patricks for the girls and St Ives Grammer School for the boys.
Some went by train, walking to Earith Bridge station in the morning, to St Ives Station at the opposite end of the town from the Grammer School.
Others piled onto an open topped sports car driven by an elder brother, and yet others cycled.

From a very early age I was taught all the basic farming skills of the day by my father – how to:

  • milk a cow by hand,
  • plough with a horse,
  • cut and lay a hedge,
  • mow with a scythe,
  • load a cart,
  • stack loose hay and corn.

A Shire horse dragging tines across a fieldEverything, hay, straw and sheaves was loose so it was most important to learn how to handle a fork until it was an extension of your hand, also how to thatch both hay and corn stacks.

Unfortunately when I came out of the army after the war and started farming on my own practically all these skills were obsolete because of mechanisation.

Nine of my school friends were killed in the war and when as Chairman of our Royal British Legion I read out their names on Remembrance Sunday, I have a memory of each one of them.

Jack Wales April 2008

See all of John Wales‘ blog posts.

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