My mum Rene (Alice Irene Flitney née Harding) died in 1999. When my brother, sister and I went through her things we found an envelope full of old newspaper clippings and other bits and pieces. We looked through the papers and put the envelope away, but those yellowing pieces of paper keep whispering of half-forgotten times and places. Places like Butlers Cross, Stoke Mandeville, Aylesbury, West Wycombe, Little Kimble, Wendover, Ellesborough, Southcourt and Princes Risborough.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Leaving Lower Farm, Pitchcott By John Flitney

View of village green Quainton, circa 1860, showing whipping post. 

So I had saved my feet from getting burnt but had to walk home with puddles in my wellies. Then when mum found out what had happened, I got my ears ‘burnt’ hearing how stupid I had been. By the time I dared to return to the scene of the crime the fire had burnt out and the ‘dragons’ had gone. The ash was cold.

Talking of cold, one winter while we were at Lower Farm it snowed several times and the snow remained between each fall so the countryside stayed white for several weeks. In places it had been blown into deep drifts. The stream-bed beside the road at the bottom of the big field was about five feet below the road level. The snow, where it had drifted, had filled in the ditch to the same height as the road. The water was still running and was coming out of, and running into white tunnels. It was quite a coincidence but at that time I just happened to be a famous Arctic explorer. Famed for hunting Polar bears in the wilds of Buckinghamshire. (Such imagination! Must have done a good job though, I haven’t heard reports of any sightings there since!) One morning I decided to find a really deep drift to dig myself an ice cave where I could hide and ambush the bears. Behind one of the sheds was a drift higher than me, so I was at it straight away. As I dug into it I noticed that the snow was in distinct layers, some separated by thin layers of ice. One was powdery, one had larger crystals of ice where it had perhaps thawed a little before freezing again and been covered by the next fall. Another layer was softer and made super snowballs, ideal for attacking those bears. The bottom layer was quite compacted by the weight of those above. So explorer and scientist too, never did finish the ice cave though. Funny how just getting cold hands, toes, ears and nose can put you off a good scheme. Hence the expression ‘getting cold feet’ perhaps?

I have mentioned the road at the bottom of the sixty-six acre field in front of the house, it was, and still is called Carters's Lane. It was a good adventure in spring time to take the dogs and search the dividing hedge between the two lower fields on the way to the pond near the lane. Once there check out the water for frog spawn or tadpoles then go on to the road and turn right.  Further along there were hedges both sides of the lane with large patches of wild Violets on the verges. I also remember for some distance along the lane, on either side grew huge majestic Elm trees whose branches formed a high arch above the road. Way up in the branches were dozens of Rook's nests and the noise the disturbed birds made was quite amazing. On the way home we would pick mum a posy of the sweet-smelling Violets.

My recollecttion of the time at Lower Farm is full of happy memories, I don’t recall having any tedious daily chores to do. There were times, when Dad had sawn an old telegraph pole into short lengths, that Richard and me would spend ages chopping the logs into kindling. It was enjoyable work as the wood split so easily. With three dogs as company, and for a while a pig as well, while roaming the fields, sheds and barns to play in, mostly in summer time when the animals were out, trees to climb, bikes to ride. Life was idyllic for two boys. Then on rainy days we had toys indoors, a quarter size snooker table, a Meccano set and Dinky toys, then later an electric train set. Weekly we would look forward to the arrival of ‘The Eagle” comic. My favourite story in that was Dan Dare and his adventures in space. I think also, about that time, there was a programme on the wireless (radio, nowadays) A series of plays called ‘Journey into Space’ which was both exciting and at times scary, especially with the weird sound effects. There were Jet Morgan, the captain, Doc, Mitch, engineer and Lemmy, crewman. The later was played by Alfie Bass I believe. These, I think, started my liking for science fiction and I now have a small collection of favourite stories with Eric Frank Russell my first choice author.

Dad had got some solid wood models of aircraft and these intrigued Richard to the point where he started to build, from kits, flying models and it was always exciting to witness the maiden flights of these. There were also trips into Aylesbury for shopping, the usual groceries and clothes I expect but I don’t remember much of that just the pleasure and excitement of visiting the toy shop and being allowed to choose a new toy. Also back at the bus station we would go to the cafe and have a meal. My choice was always egg and chips. Other bus trips we took, on, I think Greenline coaches, were to Aunt Mary and Uncle Fred at Boxmoor a village near Hemel Hempstead. I liked Aunt Mary a lot and always enjoyed those visits and the pleasure of the watercress sandwiches she did for tea. (Later when I had my own transport I would go and visit her and Fred. Then years later, not long before she died, they surprised us by coming to see us here in Devon. Although she was then confined to a wheelchair she was still her usual cheerful self. A really special day.)

Aunt Mary and her Mum, Granny Flitney.

There must have been other outings from Pitchcott but how they were undertaken I cannot say as I have no idea if we owned a car at that time. Dad had started working for Bob Kirkland in his spare time. Bob was an engineer and had a place at Blackgrove. From there he would go out and fix all manner of machinery from farm tractors to industrial stone crushers or cement mixers to diggers and cranes. With the extra cash Dad may well have bought a car as I can recall visits to Ellesborough and Combehill, Butler’s Cross to see Aunt Margaret. Visit Great Aunt Flo or go to Holmergreen to see Mum’s friend, from her school days, Ivy Knowles.

Mum and Ivy, in later life

We even had outings to Bournemouth and to Brighton. On one of these visits, Bournemouth I believe, I got lost for about an hour. In fact it is the only thing I remember of either visit to the seaside. I had been allowed to go for a paddle and while enjoying myself had unwittingly moved along the shore line. So when I had had enough of the water and went straight up the beach, as Mum had instructed, I was in the wrong place with no familiar faces in sight. What I did next who knows, I must have turned the wrong way in my search as I was a good distance from where I started from when eventually Mum appeared. All I remember next is walking along the beach crying and a woman stopping me to ask the reason I was so upset. On explaining she suggested I sit down with her and wait for Mum to come along, “If you keep roaming about she’ll never find you”. Now whether that dear lady put the word out about having found a lost boy I don’t know but I shall be eternally grateful for her kindness and wisdom for not long after Mum came along. 

Me at the beach.

Also we went to Murcott to see Granny and Grampy Moore. One time I got to stay with them for a week and managed to get into trouble then as well. They kept a pony and had a very elegant four wheel cart too, as Grampy at one time, when they lived at Holmergreen, had delivered goods around the area. The buggy was well sprung, and I could sit on the seat and get it really rocking and bouncing along the dusty prairie trail at the head of the pioneers wagon train while the indians fired arrows at us all. (Well I’d seen the pictures in a book at home you see.) What really spoilt things was being betrayed by the sheet on the hayrick. Close by the rick was an apple tree with a branch laden with fruit within reach from the top of the rick. So one hot sunny day I climbed up, got myself an apple and settled down to eat it. Now me being in ‘wildwest’ mode at the time the height of my vantage point gave me good cover for shooting all manner of enemies. Now what I didn’t know at the time was that canvas sheets create a ‘bloom’ as they age. Unfortunately, this will attach itself to anything it makes contact with, especially young boys squirming about bumping off baddies. The storm broke when I got called in for tea and I realized I was green from head to foot. So no more ‘cowboys and indians’ or buggy riding.

Richard and John at Murcott

Overall my memories of life at Lower Farm are of happy and carefree times. Young enough not to be troubled by adult issues and old enough to have a good imagination and the freedom to be able to act out those dreams. Richard, I think being older, took life a little more seriously and maybe already had plans for what he wanted for his life in the future. We had very generous and loving parents. Things, obviously, were not so carefree for Mum and Dad. Dad had taken more work to earn a bit extra. Mum was becoming more and more concerned about her parents not being able to cope as they got older. Aunt Ada (Mum’s sister) had not married and lived with them until her death.

Aunt Ada

After this Mum would occasionally cycle the twenty plus miles to Murcott to see how they were. These visits became more frequent as Grampies health deteriorated and he became bedridden. Gran was finding it increasingly hard to cope so Mum would stay for days at a time. Eventually Mum, Dad and Grannie agreed that as the house was big enough we should move there so that Mum could care for her parents full time. So sometime in 1954 that is what we did.

The Cottage, Pidgeon House Lane, Murcott

To be continued...........

Previous episodes here, here and here  


  1. Dear Barbara, Thank you again. Perfectly corrected and beautifully presented, you smartie!

    1. There I go again using the "Royal We" when I should have said me! You know me so well :-)

  2. What a lovely blog, so interesting and such lovely photo's.

  3. Thank you Sue, so kind of you to say so


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Barbara x

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