Wootton Bridge and Whippingham on the Isle of Wight

The wind of change passing through as seen and commented on by VICTORIA M SNOW. (1911 - 1998)

Chapter 5

The 'wind of change' has well and truly blown over this place, I went there several years ago and stood in a new road and one couldn't realise where the gate or the drive had been. The house had even been burnt down. The new estate is all around and oh dear, all our 'yesterdays' are gone, the little lodge still stands that is about all.

There are houses from the corner and a shop opposite the Cedars. St Mark's Church is just beyond the Fernhill Estate on the right, that was where we went to church. One morning, I remember when the clocks were altered, we got there just as they were coming out.

Rows of houses went on further until we come to the Top Road or Gravel-Pit Road corner and then there's a large house in its own grounds on the right where the Sherdens lived (two maiden sisters). The road to the station was empty, and the banks with trees on, much the same as the High Street. So again, nice places for fun and games for us children.

I must go back to Fernhill again now and by the side of this there was a little lane. The lane was a clear road for -some one hundred yards and then there was a copse. All the way down this there was a pathway to the farm by the railway. I used to have to go to this farm to get some skimmed milk for rice puddings, sometimes on Friday nights after school, some of my friends lived that way and also over the railway lines. It was called 'Packs' Field.

Of course in the autumn the evenings got dark early and on the way there I had my friends company and you know what children are, sometimes we did take a long time and play around. So on the way back it was all uphill and very spooky. I don't think in these days it would be wise for parents to send their children on such an errand.

It was very interesting to me though as I loved all the wild flowers. There were lots of them on this winding path. The hedge with wild roses, white dog roses (pink ones) and honeysuckle. All the knapweeds, vetches, campions, ragged-robins and lots of others and the lovely silver/goldy glinting grasses all very intriguing to me as I was keen on nature-study at school. This path has now been widened by tractors to a wide track and the bungalows from Fernhill overlook it so all this refreshing countryside has been spoilt.

Now I must go back to Station Road. Down by the station there were two pairs of houses on the right and then the Bible Christian Chapel, granny went there and she took me sometimes. Also us girls would go on special occasions like service of song, or harvest. When all the lovely fruits and other goodies would be sold and a tea-party held.

The station of course was a venue for us youngsters. There was a road bridge and the station was underneath this. The boys would walk along on the wall of the bridge, a dangerous game, but I don't remember hearing of anyone falling off.

There was a winding path down to the station going one way so far and then back parallel but lower down of course, with an iron railing. Children slid down on this and played there.

You could walk along the line a long way and here too there were plenty of wild flowers.

There was a copse called Quarls', funny name for it! That was at the right side going up the hill from the station. The bridge has been taken down and the copse is cut down and filled with houses now, the road from Sheddens' corner too is all filled with houses and bungalows.

On the left side beyond the station is a big house and in its grounds a little lodge where the chauffeur lived with his family, his daughter was a school-friend of mine. The house was owned by Sir Edgar Chatfield Clark and his brother Edward. Sir Edgar was an MP and he wore a monocle and kept nodding his head as he talked. He was very kind to my parents while dad was ill.

Every Christmas he came to the school and gave all of us children a new sixpence which was a lot of money in those days. He allowed the chapel Sunday School parties to be held in his grounds and as I went to the chapel with granny, I could go to the party, which was lovely fun.

The trees by the road fence were arbutus' or the strawberry-trees and on our walks around we managed to get a few of these sometimes.

The little lane to the left side of the road, called Clock Lane had a cottage that had a clock on its wall by the Oakfield Estate, ran down a steep hill to the railway lines and one went over the line to the farm at Packsfield a lovely walk again.

There were four houses at the bottom by the railway lines, where my friends lived and we went there a lot to play. The wild flowers here were profuse with horse-daisies and grass. The trains were running then. But a few years ago when we walked there the trains were done away with and the lines were all rusty and the place looked overgrown and derelict. It made one feel quite sad.

Now however, there is a tourist exhibition of trams at Havenstreet a mile or two away, the station there is made into a museum and bookshop and some trains take people for a ride as far as Wootton. So perhaps it looks a little better.

Reverting to the top of the lane by Oakfield in Station Road, on the left is the Woodman's Arms Inn. A little further along on the right is a house called The Brannons', where George Brannon of painting and engraving fame lived, a well-known family indeed. The house was left to Mrs Clark, when I was young she was Dr Coleman's daughter, a widow with two children. As her father also was a widower she took her part in the things of the parish and we knew her very well. She always helped with the Sunday School parties too.

Then one comes to the crossroads, one of which led to Newport, the other led to Arreton, one of the others went to Lushington Hill. At this corner there was what was called St Michael's — the Iron Church and the graveyard. We children often walked there on Sundays and played in the graveyard. Some of our friends brothers and sisters were buried there (young children). Lots of our relatives too were there. Now this has been pulled down so another landmark has gone.

Turning right to go to Lushington High Road the road is the Arreton Road and when I was young all that was there was Fatting Park Farm and two small cottages at the end near Lushington. By a peculiar coincidence the folk who farmed there at Fatting Park were my mother's uncle and my husband's mother's aunt from Warwickshire. So great uncle and aunt to both my husband and myself. They were there for many years. Their daughter was the organist at the Bible Christian Chapel.

Then they moved to a farm near Ryde. Uncle had passed on, and someone else moved into the farm, Mr Moody and his family. He was relieving officer for Cowes and Newport at that time. Well, in a few years ground was sold and houses began to appear on both sides so far along that this looks somewhat different and the farm is now a riding stables.

Halfway down the road there was a railway bridge and on our walks round this we had a look-out spot. My husband and I very often leant over this bridge in our courting days 53 years ago or so now, this too has gone.

Down at the Lushington end there is a stream on the left side where we used to play sometimes and on the corner of Palmers' Brook Farm, the house of the Cheek Family.

When I was young they had a long way to go to school. On the far side the gate and path to where Brocks' Copse was situated.

During the times when Queen Victoria was on the Island this was kept in perfect condition, but when as children we rambled through, it was all overgrown and we had a job to make our way.

The brook was beside it. When Queen Victoria went through she would cross over the road and there was a path opposite through the farm to take her to Whippingham Station. This has now gone of course.

Well Lushington, when I was young, only consisted of two pairs of cottages on the left going uphill and a lodge and gates of Westwood House where the J.S. Whites' manager lived. His name was Carnt, peculiar name! Then a large house at the top, two Miss Roses lived there. On the right was a field and there was the copse to the latter part which was another field.

As I have said before, we loved picking spring flowers and getting wood for our fires there. Also at the back of the copse there was a cart-track. It also ran by the copse and the field side to a gate on the High Road. So on our Sunday walks we went along this track to the one behind the copse. At the bottom of the hill it was wet and the water ran into the brook. A lot of plants which liked water grew there. Again this was a source of delight to me. There would be rushes and mauve iris's, lovely grasses and little sea-asters and wild mint. The little yellow silver weed with its little traily yellow flower. The enchanted nightshade (a little bunch of white flowers) a little pink four petalled flower aloft on a stem about a foot high, but I don't know its name. The blue bugle flower and the blue bugloss. A yellow agrimony, foxgloves, tall yellow daisies (Yarrow).

The carrot family, Queen Ann's lace, vetches, dog rose, honeysuckle, old man's beard (or clematis), buttercups, daisies and celandines and many other meadowsweet plants and of course, Sorrel's campions and ragged-robins.

It took one a long time to wander through this lovely place. We could pick wild strawberries there and would get a little basin full and have them for tea with a little sugar when we got home. Birds and bees and all that, I suppose these days there is not much left of it as the copse has been cut down and the houses and bungalows have gardens reaching to the track. So like other places, Lushington is now a built-up area.

The steam-rollers were kept in the top field and a pile of stones was by the hedge, for when they gravelled the roads. We went blackberrying at this hedge and the boys would throw stones over into the High Road. There weren't many cars about those days, mostly people on bicycles and a lorry or two.