Growing up in Neston


Neston - A memory of growing up - Pitts Farm. The closest farm to our house was Pitts Farm at the top of School Hill (Church Rise now). My mother used to send me down to the farm with a jug to get the milk. I always loved the smell and look of farms, I recall Pat Frieth dipping his half pint measure into the milk churn twice to fill my pint jug. The milk was never quite the full measure by the time I got home as I loved the taste of the fresh creamy milk. Of course the cream left around my mouth was always a giveaway. The farm was a quite small farm, run by a Mr Orrum, a somewhat scary man to me at the time, he never seem to smile and always had a stern manner. In contrast his farm worker Pat Freith was always friendly, jovial and always willing to answer my many questions. I remember walking home up School Hill and hearing the farm tractor in the distance cutting the hay with the glorious smell of freshly cut grass filling the air. A quick hello to mum and a piece of cake and I was off to find which field was being cut. I would wait near the gate of the field until I got the wave from Pat to come over. He would then allow me to ride on the tractor as he went around and around the field cutting the long grass that would make hay for the cows winter feed. Memories are not only sights and sounds but also smells. The combined smell of freshly cut grass and the oily TVO from the tractor remains with me to this day.

The tractor I thought was a glorious machine, it was a Fordson Standard and would be started with a vigorous turn of the starting handle. Once started on petrol it could then be switched over to the cheaper TVO (Tractor Vaporising Oil, made from paraffin). Aged about twelve on one warm summer evening I was allowed to drive the tractor as it pulled a cart full of hay. The grass would be cut and left to dry. It was then turned a couple of times with a machine hooked up to the tracker that had three or more rotating spiked wheels on the back which picked up the hay and tossed it into neat rows. It was then gathered into many piles. Extra men, probably promised a couple of pints of cider each, would load the piles of loose hay onto the cart. My 'job' was to move the tractor forward to the next pile so that it could be added to the cart. As the sun went down the final few piles of hay would be loaded onto the cart. Pat would take over the driving and take the tractor and cart back to the farm. I would return home, clothes covered in clinging bits of hay, arms and legs scratched by the sometimes sharp stubs, but also with a happy glow inside after being trusted to drive Fordson Standard tractor the tractor. In those days hay was stored in a hay rick. A rectangular shaped pile of hay with a thatched roof about the size of a small house.

Not at Neston but the same type of hay ricks

Being a farm worker in those days meant being a bit of an all rounder, from fixing tractors, milking cows to thatching hay ricks. In the winter the stored hay, by now quite compressed would be cut into blocks from the rick with a giant two handle blade. The hay was used to feed the cattle through the winter. The winter of course brought different activity to the farm. I was often up on the tractor with Pat as he ploughed a field in preparation for planting wheat. Ploughing was hard work for the tractor and it would strain to pull the plough shears through the cold soil. It seemed quite magical watching the plough cut under the soil, the soil then sweep up the polished curve blades to be turned over. Steam sometimes billowing from the radiator has the tractor go close to overheating. Over the coming weeks different attachments would be connected to the tractor to rake and turn the soil until it was fine enough for planting. Neston Stores The little shop in Neston was very much the centre of the village, about half way between the Plough Inn and the church. To us kids back then Neston meant the area from Bakers Corner along to The Glove Factory and of course taking in the school. Everything else was ‘Corsham Side’. My early memory of Neston Stores was going in there to buy sweets, carrying of course the little ticket that you had to tear out of the Ration Book. Sugar was the last thing to come off rationing after the war, so to buy sweets or chocolate required a coupon from the ration book. A threepenny bit could get you Trebor Chews or maybe a small chocolate bar. One day in the shop something caught my attention, it was a ‘Drinking Duck' a model ‘duck’ that constantly bowed its head to take a drink from a glass of water.

Always interested in how things worked I got into a chat with Mr. Watson, the store owner at the time, about what made the duck move. Mr Watson was an intelligent man who seemed to know a little about everything. That conversation was the start of many as he seem to enjoy talking to me about science, electricity, space, photography - everything. On one occasion we were talking about this new thing of television. He then said something that seventy years later would prove quite prophetic. He told me, “One day you’ll be able to hang your television on the wall just like a picture.” Such a thing seemed impossible to comprehend at the time because TV’s were big and very heavy but with a tiny screen. Well, it’s taken seventy years but he was right, you can now hang your television on the wall and amazingly you can still buy a Drinking Duck - on Ebay!