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Banburyshire Family History

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Dawn Griffis (née Alsford)

We did not go anywhere during the war years. It was after we had moved to Oxford in December 1948 and Dad & Mum had bought an old Austin convertible. I say that with a tongue in cheek! The top came down leaving plastic straight up windows that could be removed but then the wind was awful. Leaving them up looked strange and they were very noisy flapping in the wind. The car was not very wide, so it was almost impossible for the 3 of us, my younger siblings June and Norman and myself to sit alongside each other without touching. At that time it seemed to take up most of any trip we took, with each of us complaining louder about it with each mile we travelled. Until in the end Dad had had enough & would threaten us with 'we would all have something to complain about', when he stopped the car & he soundly touched each of our bottoms. The first holiday we went on was 1949/50 to Hayling Island where Dad had lived for a few years during his childhood. We also went to Portsmouth to see where he had been born and to see HMS Victory, Nelson's Flag Ship. There were of course still a lot of bombed out sights in the town. Mum & Dad didn't want to spoil the holiday looking at those so we stayed on Hayling Island the rest of the time.

Photo of Dawn at Hayling Island

Dawn with her younger sister and brother and their border collie 'Shadow', still a pup at Hayling Island.

We had rented a small caravan near the beach but not close enough to walk to it even in those days. We had to put our swimsuits on before going to the beach each time, because Mum didn't want to waste money renting one of the beach huts that lined the beach. The beach huts were brightly painted and an item of curiosity to the 3 of us and our dog. Shadow, our border collie was still just a pup at the time. The boardwalk and the ice-cream stand was a fascination though rarely open while we were there. Whether it was because it was so cold during our entire stay or still the effects of rationing or maybe a bit of both, I don't know.

Besides the cold and wind that blew a lot what I remember most is the sand. Hayling Islands sand is very light and very white. Walking along the beach our legs would sink into the sand to our mid calves - it was slow going. Walking or rather running on the wet sand where the tide was either going out or coming in was fun seeing all the impressions our steps made. Squishing our toe in the wet sand and finding pools that had been trapped looking for sea creatures in them was fun plus gathering the seaweed.

The next time I went to Hayling Island & to HMS Victory was after our second daughter was born in 1964. It was still cold and windy, otherwise much the same as I remembered. Portsmouth was a lot different, much more groomed with gardens plus a garden clock.

Photo of Dawn and her mother at Wast Water, 1953

Dawn and her mother at Wast Water, 1953

Our next holiday was in 1953, we had a larger car but we 3 had also grown and still did not like being touched by each other. The trip was longer. We went to the Lake District to stay at a farm/hotel by the lake called Wast Water. It is very isolated having to generate its own electricity and most of the food served there came out of their gardens and off the farm. To get there we had to go over a very narrow pass with many narrow and sharp bends to traverse. There were no other buildings in the valley that was totally surrounded by mountains. Becks (streams) ran everywhere, some had fair sized pools formed at the base of waterfalls. Very cold water but still fun to swim in. The trout fishing was excellent. My brother Norman, 8 at the time - proudly caught an 8lb trout in one of the becks. The people at the hotel cooked it for us but first showed it off to all of the other guests. Norman enjoyed the praise, we enjoyed the trout. The food there was incredible especially their brandy butter spread onto large slices of crusty homemade bread. One day we went over the mountains to the beach on the west coast to gather winkles. We arrived back at the hotel with a large bucket full. They told Mum how to cook them & left us to it. The winkles were shared with all who wanted to eat them - that did not include me. The hiking throughout the valley, climbing the mountains, though taking the easiest way was so exhilarating - needless to say appetites were raging, just as well they produced plenty of food there.

About ten years ago I met someone who was very familiar with Wast Water who unlike us has continued to go there over the years - she says it is still much like it was in the 50's - so maybe one day I will go back, if for nothing else but for the brandy butter and homemade crusty bread!

Written by Dawn Griffis (née Alsford)