Cooksbridge, Offham & Hamsey

Cooksbridge, Offham & Hamsey news
Cooksbridge, Offham & Hamsey news

CHURCH SERVICES: Sunday, St Peter’s Church, 8am Holy Communion, 10.15am Sunday School in the church hall, 10.30am Parish Communion followed by coffee in the hall.

AFTERNOON CLUB: The Monday Afternoon Club meet on Monday at 2pm. Ring Judith for further details.

PARISH COUNCIL: Hamsey PC meet on Thursday in the village hall, Beechwood Lane at 7.15pm.

CONCERT: Rachel Brown in concert in Offham Church on Sunday July 17 at 3pm. Details later.

DRUSILLAS TRIP: Sunday School and Toddlers Tunes is on Monday July 25 leaving the church hall at 9.30am. Details later.

PARISH PUMP: When I was asked to write the Parish Pump column for Offham, Hamsey, Cooksbridge and East Chiltington nearly 27 years ago, little did I know how interesting those years were going to be and I still enjoy doing it. Over the years I have had so many letters form far and wide and this week as I have been having trouble with my computer, I sorted through some of the ones I have kept. Although the one I have picked was written in 2000 I have never mentioned it. It all started with a call from the late Badger Balcombe, who lived in Chailey and unknown to me had been sending copies of my column to the letter writer. He had a piece I had written about the picture in the Times newspaper of 1938 which my father-in-law had saved because it had a picture of the Downs behind Courthouse with Blackcap and three people walking on the scarp. Derek recognised the gentleman who was accompanied by two boys. Sadly the writer of the letter to me is no longer with us but for some time kept in touch with me by phone. Not only did Badger and myself rekindle precious memories of Alan Strickland, but the Sussex Express played a very big part too. I think the letter sums up what a very special are this is.

Dear Mavis Clark, I have been trying to write a letter to you for the last two years, indeed every time I go on holiday I take your cutting down to our country cottage with the idea of putting pen to paper. However, as my laptop ‘Black Beauty’ always travels with me and as Black Beauty is a bit of a slave driver, I am afraid fingers were always put to keys instead. However, this afternoon I rang Badger Balcombe of Chailey who always sends me your cuttings when he thinks they might interest me, and he inspired me to write at last.

First of all, when we lived at Warningore House in 1938 I often used to bicycle past Courthouse Farm, with its white posts and sweep of gravel up to the front door, and admire the Arabian horses in the field opposite, and would sometimes see a pretty girl in posh riding kit exercising the horses. Was that girl by any chance your mother, or your mother-in-law, or perhaps even you?

Which brings me to the reason for this letter. For the last 10 years, as I have gradually become more nostalgic about the past, I have thought about the day when my father, an uncle, my brother and myself went for a walk up to Blackcap, along to Mount harry and down through fields behind your house. I remember seeing a man with something on a tripod and even today I can still see him in my mind’s eye. That Sunday, after church, we went for a drink with Betty and ‘Tiddy’ Tidmarsh at Upper Burrells. Betty flourished a newspaper in front of us and there we were caught in aspic, or rather gelatine, strung out across the slope, and, for heaven’s sake, holding hands. I suspect my father must have considered it conduct unbecoming of one of his majesty’s officers to be snapped holding hands with other men, even if they were his own children, and the incident was never mentioned again. However, in recent years that forgotten photograph has become a symbol of those idyllic moments of childhood, the walks up to Blackcap, the view over the blue Weald before the red rust of London had crept too far south and when all seemed well with the world. And thus started the quest for a copy, if possible of the original photograph. But where to begin? From my memory, it was certainly a broadsheet, but it could have been the times, Sunday Times, or perhaps even the Telegraph and my father had suppressed it. And anyway in what year had the photograph been taken? I was very young at the time and years meant little to me, it could have been any date between 1937 and 1939. The problem seemed insuperable, I could not approach a paper and ask them to search their archives over three years just in case. So, reluctantly, I gave up. And now, by a fantastic chain of coincidences, and thanks to Badger and you, I know not only the name of the paper, but also the exact date. It is almost like winning the lottery. And now Black Beauty has let me have time off to write to you there is even hope that I might manage to scrounge permission to write a letter to the times. But did their archives go up in smoke during the blitz, do they keep original photographs dating back to that period, but at any rate I should at least be able to get a copy, or a photocopy, of the paper.

To return to Warningore, I have always been puzzled why our families, both keen on horses, did not know each other, even though my father and mother used to gaze in admiration at your horses every time we drove past. I suspect the answer may have been that your family was against hunting long before it was fashionable to be so. If that is the case, rest assured, even at the age of seven I was totally anti-hunting and though Mr Gunning took me out on a leading rein to one or two meets, poor Ranger was abandoned in his stable while I pursued less vigorous pursuits such as stamp collecting. At that time the Gunning’s lived in Tar Cottages (now disappeared) and recently dear Mrs Gunning just failed to enter the twenty-first century by one day and died aged ninety-three.

Another interesting cutting Badger sent me was the ’50 years’ column with its pocked history of the Clark family (though you failed to mention whether they had painted the titanic) and of Derek who by some extraordinary feat of memory managed to recognise my father in the Times photograph. Since he saw service with the First Royal Dragoons (and must have ha d very dangerous war all the way from Bardia to berlin) whereas I passed out of Sandhurst only in 1949, he must be at least nine years older than I am. I do not remember a young man riding those horses so I suppose he must have been away at university or Sandhurst during those two years we were at Warningore (or, like me, had not inherited horsy genes). Anyway, one thing we seem to have in common is that we are both keeping our noses to the grindstone well past retirement age.

Now you probably understand why it has taken me such a long time to write this letter, because I knew it would be along one, and I hope it has not bored you, but your column clicked my nostalgia button. I enclose a photocopy of a rather delightful little map sent to me by Betty Tidmarsh’s daughter, Belinda, Not so long ago, and which features bot Courthouse Farm (where I have just noticed your horses even get a mention) and Warningore. I think it is an absolute delight with its tramp on the way to the workhouse and the little train chuffing away up to London. Those names, Cannister Cottages, the half Moon, East Chiltington, Triangle Farm (where the Leonard’s used to live in the 40s), Allington Lane, are like poetry to the ear. Writing a column like yoursi is a little bit like throwing a bottle into the sea, you never know where the message inside will end up. And this recipient is very grateful indeed to you and Derek for your precious message, and I will certainly let you know further developments as soon as Black Beauty lets me have the screen again for non-professional purposes.

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