1959 - 1981 John & Joyce Wood with Geoff, Penny & Rachel
John Wood and his children Geoff and Penny, moved to no. 57 from no. 14 in 1959. They were joined by Joyce in early 1961 and the arrival of Rachel at the end of that year. The holding was about 4 acres, and the land was put to mixed and evolving use: outside, soft-fruit (strawberries, gooseberries, and currants) and runner beans; under glass, salads and celery and occasionally chrysanthemums. Chickens for domestic egg consumption and a limited number of pigs were phased out in the late 1960s, as was the beehive. In addition to the ‘old’ landlord's and mobile greenhouses, three large ‘fenlands’ were constructed in the early 1970s for greater production of tomato and lettuce crops.
No 57 extended along Three Ashes Lane, abutting against the Colwills to the east at no. 56. The land sloped at the end of the holding, where the soft-fruits were grown, creating an open view across to May Hill, which felt like a guardian of the land.
Life was uncomplicated; no creature comforts but outward-facing where the land and its produce formed the centre of our small world. I remember an idyllic childhood – one where the seasons of crops marked the cycle of the year which extended to an appreciation of the natural flux of the Gloucestershire landscape. There were times of relative calm when the holding demanded little attention, punctuated by the harvest months when all hands, including many day-pickers, in all daylight hours were needed for soft-fruit, cutting lettuces, side-shooting, and what felt like endless tons of tomatoes.
Roaming the holding and beyond was real freedom; by contrast the glasshouses were humid and hot. The school bus collected and deposited the children from Three Ashes Lane at the Lime Tree; myself and the four Colwill girls. We roamed the two holdings in twosomes or as a mischievous pack, and made every inch of every tree, shed, bird nest, and muddy field our own. Our parents often had no idea where we were from hour to hour, but we knew to be home for dinner at 6 pm.
We made tree houses and small gardens in an area of uncultivated land we called the ‘The Wood’ between the two holdings. This was the site of joint family Bonfire night fires, but otherwise it was entirely the domain of the children. The Wood was dominated by old Elm trees; they contracted Dutch Elm disease and they were felled in the early 1970s. Before this we were ‘Princes of the apple towns and happy as the grass was green’.
Geoff left home in 1963, Pen in 1966, and Rachel in 1980. John and Joyce left Newent to retire to North Wales in January 1981.