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All manner of childhood activities

Whitehawk estate
From the private collection of Richard Shaw

I miss the downland

I miss a lot of things about living in Whitehawk, but I think the worst of all is that the beautiful downland slopes that used to sweep up from our back gardens, are now an impenetrable mass of scrub and trees. This downland was an integral part of our childhood and was the scene of all manner of childhood activities where we would hunt for lizards, catch butterflies, fly model aeroplanes and kites, slide down the slopes on pieces of cardboard, have mock battles with wooden swords.

Grandmother’s near miss

We used to enjoy lots of things that kids just don’t seem to do now; I guess that nowadays they are all indoors playing computer games. Some youngsters used to think it was a wizard prank to get anything that was round and roll it off the top of the hill. Of course it would gather momentum and finish up in someone’s back garden. Many is the time that an old bicycle wheel came bounding through our cabbage patch. A car tyre once rolled down the hill and landed in a deck chair that my grandmother had just vacated!

Did you live in Whitehawk? What games did you play? Remember Mr Newman?

“Here comes old Newman!”

Another play area that was popular with the kids, was the school grounds after the school was shut for the day. But we had to keep a keen eye out for the caretaker Mr Newman. In those days we were given little bottles of milk at school and the empties were put outside in crates. There was always a little bit of milk left in the bottom of each bottle. and by tipping one into another you could get a full bottle of milk which was taken home for the cat to drink. Balls from playground activities would get stuck in the guttering, and we used to shin up the drainpipes to get at them. When I think of this now I shudder to think how dangerous this was; it was a two storey building. And every now and then would come the cry “Look out, here comes old Newman!”.

Comments about this page

  • We had a flat-roof building at our infant school in London back in the ’50s, and the tennis balls would get stuck up there as you describe, Richard. Only one boy called Bobby had the nerve to climb the drainpipes to retrieve them and chuck them down into the play ground. I often wondered if he became a cat-burglar! It was surely a very dangerous trip up two floors, and although the pipes were metal in those days, anything could have happened. It wasn’t a risk I was prepared to make at the age of 5-7 in any event!

    By Stefan Bremner-Morris (10/12/2015)

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