Reliving a special day from my childhood

Today is going to be a real blast from the past!  It isn’t going to be the usual day you would expect someone to want to do to celebrate their 50th, but for me it is very special.

As I have said before, having a birthday which always fell during our families 2-week summer holiday, meant that most birthdays just blended into the holiday.  Don’t get me wrong, my parents made a fuss of me, but you know what it is like as a kid, once you hit the beach the day itself isn’t important.  That was until one very special birthday.

We had driven to Ilfracombe and my parents suggested we walk along the harbour. There moored up was a big boat!  Well as a kid anything larger than a dinghy is a big boat.  Dad thought we should go on board and have a look around!   Little did I know was that they had booked it as a surprise trip for me to visit Lundy Island.

Now, this is where the story of that day is told over and over and over again!  I have always been a bit of an independent madam!  It is no surprise then when offered help to board the ship I declined it, and the inevitable happened.  I fell in.  To make it worse, I refused help on the way back too and the same thing happened.  On the plus side, it has entertained my parents for many years.

When I was thinking about how I wanted to spend my birthday, that birthday surprise always came to the forefront of my memories.   I researched it and the boat still went, but not from Ilfracombe on my actual birthday. 

I really wanted to spend my birthday with my friends but wasn’t sure either if they would be interested in going to Lundy.  If you don’t know about it, it is a little island off the shores of Devon.  It is a nature reserve run by the National Trust.  Puffins use it for their breeding grounds and seals and dolphins can also be seen there. 

There are only 28 people living on the Island, with just a pub, church and shop in the way of facilities.  That said, there is something calming and magical about the place.  Well for me anyway.

I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t go to the Island on my birthday.  I did see though that a boat left from Bideford the next day.  Unfortunately, it was due to leave at 8 am due to the tide.  Now, not being funny, but having to get up and be on a boat ready to leave by 8 am the morning after your 50th was not a realistic option!

After further explorations, I found a lovely man – Colin – from Lundy Charters who was based in Clovelly who could take us over to the Island on the Saturday at a more leisurely time of 9.30 am!   My amazing friends all agreed to come with me.

So, the morning came, and we all headed off to Clovelly.  We were told to park in the Anglers car park.  As we get there, we soon realise it is also the same day as a festival so there is absolutely no parking.  If you haven’t been to Clovelly, it is built on a very steep hill.  The road down to the harbour is a 25% hill!  The road is single track so there are wardens at the top, middle and bottom with radios ensuring that traffic is only flowing one way at any given time.

After a lot of worry about where to park, we were advised to park up in the main car park and get the land rover back down which was shuttling people that day.  Hubby suggested rather than all 8 of use going back up to come down again, why don’t the drivers just go up and us ladies stay at the bottom.  A very good idea. 

As I jump out of the car, I ask hubby if he would like me to take his rucksack with me, which he did.  I head off to take in the activity of the harbour while hubby takes the car back up the steep road to the main car park.

I’m stood chatting when it hits me!  I have the car keys!  My car is one that doesn’t need a key to start it, but it does need to be in the car when it is being driven.  In a blind panic I find the warden at the bottom.  I explain the situation to him.  I now have visions of my car broken down halfway up the hill, no-one being able to go up or down!  He kindly radios to his colleagues to see if there is a problem.  The land rover that went up after him has arrived at the top. Thankfully the car somehow made it without the keys! 

I’m now panicking as to how is the car going to be locked?  The warden kindly tells me to take the land rover back up, lock the car then come back with the land rover.  Roger the driver was so lovely.

The journey back down was with a group of pirates that were performing that day in Clovelly.  I hadn’t even boarded the boat and the day had already been memorable!

Finally, I can relax, and I meet up with Colin to board his boat.  As I get on, I can’t help but say the most ridiculous thing!  ‘Ooh it smells of fish’.   This brings roars of laughter from my friends.  Why?  Well it’s a fishing boat we are on!

The boat sets sail and we are taking longer than I remember the journey to the Island to be.  As we sail, I take in the views.  I do love the sea so much.  So many seabirds hunting for their dinner.  A seal passes us just long enough to see him, but not enough for a photo.  I am desperate to see dolphins but sadly that isn’t to be.

Gradually the island comes into view just as a puffin flies past.

We land on the island and I already feel nostalgic.  It is a long steep walk up to the main part of the island where the only public toilets are.  We have a stop to look at the shop.  We only have a few hours so prioritise what we want to do.  One of my friends hasn’t seen puffins up close before so we decided to head off to their nesting site.

After a short while, we find out that they have already left.  Gutted and being short of time we head back to the pub for a spot of lunch.

After lunch 6 of us head to the disused lighthouse to explore.  147 steps up give you a 360-degree views of the island.  It is very beautiful.

After heading back to meet the rest of the group it is almost time to head back to the boat.  We decide to pop onto the beach first and dip our toes in the sea.  Well it has been a long time since I got wet here so it would be rude not to.   At least this time it is just my feet!

As I look amongst the rocks, I find some amazing sea creatures. A poor crab is rescued by a friend. It really has been another great day.

We walk back up to the jetty where the boat will come and get us.  As I look down it dawns on me!  When we arrived, the boat was level with the jetty.  Now the tide was out it was about 10 feet lower!  How on earth were we going to get onto the boat!

Hubby points to a rusty ladder going down to the sea!  Is he serious?  Sadly, he is.  One of my friends is even more in a panic as she is wearing a dress!

As Colin arrives back with the boat, he confirms our fears.  We are going to have to climb down that ladder and land on a bobbing boat!  Then walk around the edge to get into the main part of the boat! Oh boy.

I am the last to go on.  My body is shaking.  I am willing myself to stay calm and not to let go of the ladder!  I slowly make my way down.  Colin is there to steady me.  I step off the ladder onto the boat.  It was scary but I made it, completely dry!  I was so happy!

All safely aboard we head back.  The sea is no longer calm.  As we hit the waves, we get soaked.  Thankfully it is a warm day.  I could move to somewhere less in the line of fire (or waves), but suddenly I am that child again.  I am having a great time. 

After 1.5 hours we arrive back in Clovelly.  My friends probably are not as enthusiastic about the day as me, but they don’t show it.  They really have proven they are great friends today.

We walk back through Clovelly itself to the car park just as the rain starts.

When back at our apartments it is a quick shower and change before heading down to the seafront for fish and chips. As we call for our friends in their apartment, I realise surprise number 2. Another fabulous birthday cake. This one has red shoes, a handbag and bottle of bubbly on it. So me! More bubbles flow. I really have been spoilt.

The sun is back out, so we sit on a bench eating our chips and taking in the surroundings before heading back to the apartment.

We return to our apartment for more drinks, some of that amazing birthday cake, and a game of Mr & Mrs.  If you have never played this, you should.  It is hilarious.  My hubby and I always lose, as hubby is useless at answering the questions, even after nearly 12 years together!

It is time to draw the day to a close!  It was everything I hoped for and more.

Tomorrow we head home.  I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday weekend.  I have my 6 friends and hubby to thank for that. 

See the day here on my Youtube Channel: –

If you ever get a chance to visit the island you should.

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Warwick & The Mop!

So, I actually think I’m one of the luckiest people, to have been born and bred in such a beautiful place as Warwick!

It’s true what they say, you can take the girl out of Warwick, but you can’t take Warwick out of the girl!

I know I am probably going to be accused of seeing my home town in rose coloured specs, but the thousands of tourists that visit it every year, must prove something !

Now when I say I’m a Warwick girl, I really am!

I was born in my parents bedroom, which looked out onto the Lord Leycester Hospital! My bedroom was on the back, facing the garden! Behind our garden wall was Warwick Castle! It doesn’t get more Warwick than that!

Growing up, I have so many fond memories! I’ve never taken any of it for granted. That’s probably why, I found it so hard to move 8 miles out of town 2.5 years ago!

Yes it has changed a lot over the years. There are a lot more houses for one, but the foundation of Warwick is still there!

So what makes it so so special ? Where do I start?

  • Warwick Castle
  • St Mary’s Church
  • Lord Leycester Hospital
  • Mill Street Garden
  • St Nicholas Park
  • Warwick Racecourse
  • River Avon
  • Great canal walks
  • The town centre
  • The Mop

I used to also love the dolls museum, which is now integrated into the Military museum in St Johns.

My grandfather was the Verger at St Paul’s Church, and my grandmother, and later my uncle the church wardens.  Myself and my 2 brothers were members of the church choir, with my brother making head boy and I head girl.

We attended choir practice twice a week, and 2 Sunday services, plus weddings etc.

7 of my mothers brothers, were also active members of the local St John’s Ambulance, as was I.  We would cover many local events such as the race meetings, fetes and charity events.

My grandfather and father were involved in building the bumper cars and ghost trains, that were used at the mop, as well as the helter skelter and some other ride at St Nicholas Park.

So as you can see, my family were all part of the foundation of Warwick in the past, which is probably why it runs through my veins.

As a child, the most visited places for us were the racecourse and the park!

The racecourse was just a few minutes walk away. As we had a dog, it was the perfect place to go for daily walks. I rode my bike around it, and even learnt to drive a car on some land next to it. Sadly that land is now flats!

On race days, we would go down for the last race, when it was free! We used to collect left over glasses. If you were lucky you might even find the odd £1 note on the grass! Accidentally thrown away by someone along with their betting slip!

We used to do our cross country running around the race track at school too!

St Nicholas park was where we spent most of our 6 weeks holiday during the summer when we weren’t away. I don’t know about you, but I only ever remember hot summers back then!

There was an open air paddling pool in the middle. Mum would pack a picnic and off we would go for the day!

I remember just playing and enjoying the outdoors in beautiful weather.

As we lived so close to the castle, we often would walk through the outside of the grounds ! I’d never actually been into it until I worked there!

I was so over the moon to land my first full time job there! It was in the offices and accounts department. We were based just next to the main ‘apartments’.

It was the foundation to who I am now! In those days, everyone who was senior were known as Mr, Miss or Mrs. There was no way I’d acknowledge them by their first names !

I was also made very aware of the importance of talking ‘properly ‘! Thankfully I think I pronounced most words correctly ! In particular ensuring you put an ‘r’ in words like castle, path, grass etc!

One of my fondest memories is Mop time ! Most people outside of the area have never heard of the Mop!

It’s basically a travelling fair, which comes to Warwick for 2 weekends around 12th October every year!

Where we lived at the top of a hill, I could sit in the bay window, and watch all the lorries moving from their temporary home on the racecourse, up to the town centre to assemble their rides!

I remember shouting excitedly to my parents as I watched the ghost train, bumper cars, waltzers etc go up! I couldn’t wait to go up and see them!

I probably have an even greater passion as both my grandfather, and father built ghost trains and bumper car rides !

The first weekend, the Mop was opened by the Lord Mayor at 12 noon on the Saturday. It would run until 10.30/11.00 pm. There was always a pig roast around by the Globe Hotel!

The second week the Mop was open Friday and Saturday from lunch time until about 10.30/11.00 pm. This was called the ‘Runaway Mop’!

We used to save our pocket money, and I also remember my grandparents giving us extra.

We would go up as a family early evening, with our pennies in our purses! Eyes wide open !

I remember the smells like it was yesterday ! Candy floss, toffee apples, hot dogs and burgers ! Even the diesel smelt good from the generators!

Then there was the noises of the rides, and children’s laughter, adults screening as some of the bigger rides went faster and higher! Multi coloured lights and music filled the air! It was a time of pure joy!

Everyone always seemed happy when you walked around ! It seemed to always dry and crisp too !

We would walk around wondering how to spend our money ? The ‘hook a duck’ was always a good one, as you were always guaranteed a prize! In those days you could win goldfish ! Now I know why we had a pond in our garden !!

There were also amusement arcades! My favourite then, and now is still the machine that forms the t.v programme ‘Tipping Point’. In my day though it was pennies or 2p!

Now a days it’s all changed! The rides are bigger and more expensive ! They still have a few old favourites though, such as ‘hook a duck’. You still get the same smells and noises!

To me it’s still magical. It’s been part of Warwick for so long, I hope it never stops !

Here is a whistle stop tour of 2018 !

https://youtu.be/gKZNI6265J4

The History of the Mop

The tradition of Warwick Mop, goes back as far as King Edward III, when he granted a legal charter that it be held in the town centre! This was a time when even the Castle, as it stands now was still being built, and certainly before Lord Leycester was even a twinkle in his daddies eye!

The date is believed to be linked to when harvesting was done, with Stratford Upon Avon having the Mop on the 12th!

So for those of us who think it’s a modern thing, and to some a nuisance, it is steeped in over 700 years of history!

It is said that the first Mops were set up for hiring labourers, and for employers to meet and have fun!

In those days it was different types of stalls, rather than the big rides you associate with fairs today!

Workers would be hired on a trial basis. The runaway Mop, the second weekend, gets its name from the fact that either the employer, or worker, could back out of the arrangement they had made!

The money they earned during that week was then spent on the stalls, or for some, the pub!

No-one really knows for sure where the word ‘Mop’ came from, however it is thought to be linked to a symbol worn by labourers.

The pig roast, or ox as it also was then, provided food as well as warmth. Whilst we still have this tradition now, the money raised is passed on to charities!

Rides came along later with the industrial revolution, as has continued to evolve. In the early days, it would have been peddle power! Now they are so sophisticated.

I for one think it’s important that we keep these traditions alive for generations to come !

The next Mop in Warwick is 19/20 & 26/27 October!

Go along and support it if you can! Even if you don’t like the ride, (I’m not a fan), walk around, listen to the sounds, smell the air and soak in the atmosphere.  Let it take you back over 700 years to a different time.  Ultimately, the purpose of having fun is still there! So open your mind and enjoy it.