Walking to Low Tatham School in the 1940s


Colin Miller recalls his daily walk from Millhouses to the school

Originally published in the Lancaster Guardian, Thursday 11 October 2018,
and reproduced here with the kind permission of the author

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Mill Farm aerial photo c.1960
Mill Farm in the 1960s

Home was Mill Farm, Millhouses, near Wray in Lancashire; school was Low Tatham Church of England School, near Wennington. The distance from home to school was about 1½ miles and there were so many distractions along the way that I am amazed that we arrived at school on time. The period was 1940-1946.

Immediately outside the farm gate there was a bridge over the mill stream formed from three large stones. The stream powered the bobbin mill next door. When the mill pond was full, small brown trout could be seen darting about. Also seen occasionally was a water hen paddling about on the banks of the stream.

Millhouses bobbin mill c.1950 drawing by author
Millhouses bobbin mill, c.1950
Drawing from memory by Colin Miller

Walking along the track, avoiding cow pats left by cows going out after milking, were myself, my sister Kathleen and later my younger sister Lucy. The track passed through the 'woodyard'; this was where logs were piled up waiting to be sawn into shorter lengths for the sawmill, part of the bobbin mill, run by Mr. Dixon and Mr. Walmsley. One hundred yards along the track was Millhouse Farm owned by Mr. Ireton. We would often catch up with him carrying a pole on his shoulders with a pail of milk on each end. He would be taking these further along the lane to Lanehead Farm. Along the lane we passed Sam Winn's cottage.

Sam Gibson Winn
Sam Winn in the 1930s.
Photo courtesy the late Arthur Hodgson

His dog, a Jack Russell terrier, called Spot because of his black and white markings, would be setting off to find Sam. Sam Winn was a 'roadman' and he could be anywhere along one of the four roads which formed the junction at the end of the lane. At the next cottage we might be joined by Roy Huddleston and at the end of the lane by Norma Bateson. There were two evacuees staying in the village, one staying with the Iretons called Richard Tongue, one staying with the Huddlestons called John Williams, and they might join us.

Lanehead farmhouse
Lanehead farmhouse in the 1930s.
Photo courtesy the late Arthur Hodgson

View of Lanehead farm and Millhouses
Lanehead farm and Millhouses.
Photo courtesy the late Eddie Rawlinson

Across the road at the end of the lane was Lanehead Farm where Eddie and John Rawlinson lived. Eddie was responsible for carrying a half gallon of milk to the school. One morning a stallion was in the yard about to do what stallions do; we stopped to watch but were swiftly moved on by Mrs. Rawlinson.

We would set off in groups of two or three, taking the Wennington road. There was a hilly pasture on the left with sheep and lambs, also dozens of rabbits. We would clap our hands and they would scamper to their burrows. In the field on the right there were cattle. Amongst the hedgerows were a gooseberry bush, a redcurrant bush, hazelnut trees, hawthorn trees as well as blackberries.

Along the road a beck came to the side of it. There was no fence and the beck had a gravel bottom, so it was possible to paddle in it. Further along there was a bridge from which you could see small trout 'bullheads' darting about. Along the banks of the beck grew marsh marigolds.

After the bridge the road started to rise slowly with wide verges on either side, on which grew all manner of wild flowers. Hogweed grew here whose hollow stems can be made into peashooters. Past the lane end to Old Bottom Farm, the road climbed sharply through a wooded area. The wood seemed dark and mysterious to young eyes. There were crows in the pine tree, noisy and chattering, and a late brown owl might come flapping through the trees, a horse chestnut tree providing conkers.

Photo MW

After the wood the road levelled off with agricultural land on one side and pasture on the other. In the hedgerows there were rosehips. During the war we were paid to pick rosehips in order for them to be made into rosehip syrup. Around a bend past a lane end to Feathermire the road climbed again, with hay fields on the left and cattle pasture on the right. A grassy bank on the right had some wild strawberries; sloes grew in the hedges as did hazelnuts.

Photo MW

We turned left off the road onto a farm track which led to Parkside Farm, home of the Garlicks. On the right hand side of the track was a pond, which had frogs and tadpoles in it. During frosty weather the pond would freeze over and we would slide about on it. Next to the Garlicks' farm there was a small bungalow in which my grandparents lived. I had to deliver a pint of milk to them. If the weather was cold we just had time to warm our hands. Around the corner the way to school was through the farmyard where we might by joined by Marion Garlick. Young heifers might be in the yard let out for a drink of water, as turkeys and hens wandered about.

After the yard we took a path alongside a hedge through a cornfield to a gate at the end. Through the gate was a pasture with sheep and cows, which had a white flower growing which I call the 'pignut' plant. This is because the root forms a nut which is good to eat, and which pigs forage for.

Approaching the school from Parkside
Approaching the school from Parkside.
Photo MW

Lower Tatham school
Lower Tatham School
Photo MW

The field goes sharply downhill and the school comes into view. We hurry down because the bell would be ringing; there Mrs. Steel, the teacher, would be waiting for us and wearing a blue dress with a string of beads. Kids came from other directions and once we were all assembled a roll call would be held and then lessons would begin.

Although Mrs. Steel was a kindly soul she possessed a cane. Anyone caught misbehaving would be dealt a short sharp blow across the palm of their hand. I remember it well.

CM 2019
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