CHISNELL MEADOW

Our Chisnell Meadow was such an exciting and interesting place to be explored. The canal came towards Chisnell then looped around, almost touching the river Cherwell, the canal and river stretching half a mile each from north to south-east. A stream at the north-east end was known by we small children as the Minnow Stream, and we spent hours there fishing. Our rod was a willow stick, a bit of string and a sort of hook, and a bit of bread mixed with a little custard powder was our bait. We caught dozens of minnows for fishermen passing through along the towpath; it was surprising the amount of traffic along there. The path was well maintained and in good order for barges, donkeys, ponies and horses. We had a good few cyclists too.

If you wanted to journey, say from Somerton to Aynho, the path was easy and so you could make your own pace. Soon we would get to know the regulars going to work, courting or just visiting relations. Always you would wave or shout if you were a field away; one always acknowledged a friend. In the country we can recognise a person by their walk, the way they ride or mannerisms, at great distances; of up to a mile away. We could shout that distance on a favourable day, if the wind was quiet.

The best times were morning and evening before and after the work of the day, or on a frosty morning. Along the river edge were the willow trees that were cut for making hurdles, fences and rick pegs. We could climb into these rails and have lots of fun. Some of the trees leant over the river. We would pretend it was a sailing ship; with the river running along underneath it was very real to us; if there was a wind, it all added to the excitement. We stood upright holding a bough for the rudder and had fun.

In the summer we lay in the shade of the willows and fished, etc.

Just over the drawbridge to the left was a big oak tree about eight hundred years old; it had thousands of acorns each year. We would get an acorn and twig and cut the top off to make a small pipe. In the frosty weather hundreds of pigeons came to feed and many of them were shot and had for dinners. Mother would roast six or seven at a time; they were great cooked in the big basting tin, with plenty of sliced onions and slices of home-cured bacon placed on them.

After a day on the farm, milking in the morning and three miles to school on foot or pony, cattle to feed and tend on our way to and from school, one always had a healthy appetite and we did full justice to a meal. I well remember the first time I could eat a whole bird – I had reached manhood!! I was about 12, as strong as a good many men – and a damn sight cheaper! – so I was pushed to do a man’s work. Morning, noon, nights, weekends and holidays we worked with never a rest – only the weather stopped us.