Rickmansworth & District

01. Walking back from Covid 19

Wednesday, 10th June 2020 (84 days of isolation).

It is 6.10am. Leaving the house with mobile and house key safely secured in my pockets I proceed down the road from my home. All is quiet, not a soul around as I walk past the house where my Auntie Edie lived all her married life. A real character recognised and loved by many older members of the village. One of my favourite memories of her was when she asked my friend ‘they are nice teeth, are they all your own’!!!! I expect you could call her a little eccentric!

Onward, pass by the Library, which now has the facility to enter with a passcode when librarians are not on site.

Onto one of my favourite roads, where all the old terraced houses were built for the workers of the Mill. The local Mill where many of my husband, George’s, family worked to produce a variety of paper for distribution throughout the world. The local Mill now pulled down to make room for a housing estate.

Back to the terraced houses, it was here during the 100th anniversary of the First World War many proudly displayed posters in their windows naming the young men living within who fought for King and Country.

Into the next road where my son and his family live. The house received damage from a bomb dropped nearby during the second world war. On the left is the ‘old school’ attended by George. After many hours of dedicated commitment to preserve the building it has now been transformed into three attractive homes.

Across the main road, with All Saints Church on my right and the local Comprehensive Academy School on my left. It began as a Grammar School and is where all my children and grandchildren have been or are being educated.

There is the elderly gentleman I see every morning with his stick and carrier bag, walking back from the newspaper shop.

Down the steep hill, dodging the dog roses that are encroaching onto the path. ‘Dog roses’, bringing back memories of the time we children would earn a few pennies collecting the rose hips for rose hip syrup. Then, recalling the time when the double decker buses were unable to climb the hill, it was the biggest fear of my childhood. Was it just here when the bus came to a halt and I thought it was going to roll back down the hill? All the passengers were instructed to get out, walk up the hill and climb back aboard at the top. This is now a dual carriage way reducing the gradient for all vehicles climbing the hill.

I enter into a private road with its grand, detached homes. Walking along I sneak glimpses, through gaps between the houses, of the spectacular view across the Chess Valley. It is breath taking and while continuing my walk, in the surrounding silence, I am accompanied by the bird songs, most beautiful of all, the blackbird singing from the roof tops.

Walking past my daughter’s home and enjoying, at leisure the many beautiful homes and gardens I emerge onto the wonderful scene of The Green. I look to the left and the right to take in the simple beauty of our treasure ‘The Green’ which George calls ‘the jewel in the village crown’. In the hedgerows the blackberry bushes are in full flower so there should be plenty of berries to pick in the Autumn. Continuing my walk I pass the two public houses, now temporarily closed. It is here we meet on the last Sunday before Christmas to watch, with many of the locals, the performance of the ’Croxley Mummers’.

Crossing the road I enter onto one of the oldest roads in the village. Not many gardens here, just hard drives accommodating parked cars. But, where are my two remaining ‘old fashioned’ gardens with their profusion of flowers no longer popular in the modern garden. I stop at each one and the flowers remind me of my little plot in the village school garden. A garden which, I understand, my Grandad created. I try to remember names of the flowers: London pride, forget-me-not, Lilly-of-the-valley, poppies, lupins, roses.

Wandering along I recall my Aunt telling me of the time my Grandad walked up to the village school to say good-bye to his son, Tom. He spoke to him through the railings of the school, before he left to fight in the First World War where he suffered the loss of a leg. This leads me to think of my father-in-law who lived in this road with four of his brothers who all fought in the First World War and returned safely home.

Nearly home and here is the bus stop, where I would wait for my mother to arrive on her weekly visit. Was it 50 years ago that my beautiful baby daughter sat in her pram while we waited for the bus to come into view at the end of the road? Oh, happy days!

Jean Paddick
Rickmansworth U3A