BERRY CAPERS - 4

The Cockerel

Ivor Richards, who lived at Moules Farm, kept a fine cockerel. It had large spurs on its legs and strutted on the road outside the farm as though it owned it! Woe betide anyone who got in his way. The cockerel would charge at their legs and had even been known to draw blood.

Behind the farm was a field, called Hospital Field [local legend has it that it was the burial ground many years before for donkeys and horses]. Being very flat, it was ideal for playing cricket and many a visitor was challenged to a game up there.

One day, the boys were walking home after such a game, and as they got close to the farm they spied the dreaded cockerel. One lad picked up a stone and threw it quite close to it to scare it, but to no avail, it kept coming towards them. Arthur [who we met in the Ghost story in the April issue], was with the boys and he picked up a stone and threw it, hitting the cockerel on the leg, which broke.

Well, the noise and commotion brought Ivor on the scene, at which the lads all began denying that they had thrown the stone, but Arthur said: "All right, I'll pay for the bu**er, it was worth it"!

Strawberry Time

The boys had gathered at Billy Smith's to decide how to spend the day. It was decided that bird nesting would be the order of the day and so they set off to the glen between Glen Lee and Hill Barton, going the long way round which took them up the lane behind Middle Lee.

Along the fields below Lee Hills, they kept to the bottom hedge. Part way along the field they heard voices from the other side of the hedge and peering through they saw Morna Parsons with some other people picking strawberries.

Morna's family ran a market garden from Glen Lee and the strawberries would be put in punnets before being sent to market or Morna would sit outside Woolworth's in Ilfracombe High Street and sell them along with flowers and other produce from the garden. Morna was a well-loved local character - she always had a flower in her beautiful black hair.

The strawberries looked large, red and delicious. How the boys' mouths watered! They signalled to each other to keep quiet and went on their way. Once out of earshot they agreed that a visit to the garden was a must!

When it was time to go home after their day of fun up in the glen, they returned the same way, pushing through the hedge and in to the garden. The smell of the ripe strawberries . . . oh, how delicious they were. There was also a row of peas, all plump and ready for picking, just waiting to be eaten. They, too, went down a treat!

Feeling full and contented, the boys made their way home, agreeing that a return visit would be a wonderful experience. So, at dusk, a few days later, they made their way up the lane and through the hedge again. They had only picked a few strawberries when one of the boys let out an almighty scream. He had put his hand down to pick a strawberry and had caught it in a gin trap which been tilled to catch thieving varmints, both two or four legged! It was very lucky that the boy's father was a trapper and had taught him how to deal with traps because his accomplices fled the scene leaving him to fend for himself.

Illustrations by: Paul Swailes

Marlene

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BERRY CAPERS - 3

The Cat

Gerald and Charlie Floyd decided they would go to visit Kate Diamond who lived at Rowes Farm. Kate's white cat took a liking to Gerald, purring and rubbing itself against him. Kate asked Gerald if he would like the cat, and as Gerald's cat had died just a few weeks earlier, he said he would. Kate found a box and the cat was placed in it and the boys went on their way home with their precious load. Charlie lived at Blind Will's, which is only a stone's throw from Rowes Farm and as they were going past his house, he decided he needed to go in and get something, So up the steep steps they went but as they reached the house it began to rain. Charlie suggested it would be a good idea to wait for the rain to stop before they walked on to Gerald's home in the village.

The cat was making a lot of noise at being shut in the box and Gerald wondered what to do about it. Charlie told him to let it out as there was nowhere it could go in the kitchen, and it would be quite safe.

Well, when the box was opened the cat sprang out in a flash and frantically dashed for the window leapt up

the curtains and pulled them down. This scared it even more, and it chased around the room before racing to the fireplace and disappearing up the chimney in a cloud of soot which billowed out in to the room.

At this point Charlie's father Jim, home from work, arrived on the scene and as it was skittles night, he needed to be quick with his meal to be ready when George Diamond called to give him a lift to Ilfracombe,

and decided he would have a quick fry up in the pan on the fire for his meal. At this, Gerald and Charlie didn't know whether to own up or keep quiet - keeping quiet was the easy answer. Jim put the pan on the fire which must have made the frightened cat move further up the chimney, and down came another cloud of soot, filling the pan! Jim began cursing the birds that must be up the chimney, whilst Gerald and Charlie raced outside, trying hard not to laugh, or even worse, cry! Just at that moment, the cat emerged from the chimney and it definitely was not white any more! It climbed down the roof, jumped in to the trees and headed back towards Rowes Farm.

At that moment there was a hooting of a car horn, George in his Austin Seven was at the bottom of the steps, so poor old Jim had to rush off without any supper.

Fireworks

Firework day was huge excitement for the boys and on this particular Guy Fawkes Day Gerald was about 8. The boys met in the village and together let off their penny [1d] bangers. When they had no more, they made their way to Billy Smith's house at Middle Lee Farm. Billy loved fireworks so much that he saved all his pocket money, and did odd jobs to get more money to buy them.

This year, the boys had built a bonfire up on Lee hills above the farm. The old gorse had been cut down and a monster of a bonfire had been built. Billy's father grew potatoes, so there were plenty to put in the fire to cook.

The boys arrived at Billy's to find a great big hamper filled with fireworks - all shapes and sizes, more fireworks than they had ever seen before! It took two of them to carry it up the lane towards the bonfire, and they couldn't resist letting a few off on the way. Then disaster struck! A spark got in the hamper and all the fireworks blew up. There were rockets, jumping jacks and Catherine wheels whizzing everywhere; bangers echoing in the night air, Roman candles intensely bright, lighting up the night sky and children diving for cover. It was all over in just a few minutes, leaving a very crestfallen Billy.

On another firework night Tilly Delbridge had put her milk can out ready for Lester Bowden to fill it with milk in the morning. The can had a saucer on the top. One of the boys put a jumping jack in the can and replaced the saucer which jumped up and down, much to the amusement of the other boys.

Marlene

 

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BERRY CAPERS - 2

The Sledge

One winter, the boys built themselves a wooden sledge. It was a beauty, about 8 feet long, and Norman [Richards] obtained the steel for the runners - the rims of old cart wheels. Four boys could ride on the sledge at one time.

One day, after a very heavy snow fall, Mr. Sid Dummett, who lived at South Lee, couldn't get his horse and cart up Ridge Hill to collect the mangolds with which to feed the stock he kept at South Lee.

So, he asked the boys if they would go up to the mangold cave [pit], which was half way up Ridge Hill, and fill some 'West of England' sacks with mangolds and bring them down on the sledge. Always up for a challenge, the boys were quick to respond.

After a hard pull up the hill, they filled the first couple of sacks and loaded them on the sledge. With a good hard shove, off they set, down the hill like a rocket! A sharp left turn at the Rectory into Jan Braggs Hill, with snow spraying from the boys' boots as they tried to slow the sledge down a little, and with a right turn into Blind Lane, the sledge flew out of the end of Blind Lane and came to a halt very close to South Lee.

The older residents of the area were aghast!

The boys returned up the hill to collect more mangolds. But, in the meantime, the delivery men from Cleaves, the baker from Combe Martin, couldn't get beyond Sandy Cove with their van to deliver the bread and cakes, and had decided to walk into the village carrying their wares in big wicker baskets to sell to their customers. At the same time, the concerned locals decided it was time to halt the boys and their sledge.

Bill Blackmore, who lived at Little Sanctuary, unfortunately had a stutter, heard the sledge and the boys coming down Ridge Hill again, and said, "I'll stop the b b b------!" and threw a shovel of hot cinders and ashes on the road. However, on went the sledge undeterred, only to scatter the poor men who had walked from Sandy Cove with the bread. Cakes and bread spilled all over the place, and the rolls rolled down Jan Braggs hill almost a fast as the sledge!

Again, the boys took the route down Blind lane but someone had shovelled up the snow at the bottom to block the exit and to try and stop them. All to no avail - the loose snow scattered everywhere and the sledge again came to rest at South Lee.

Sid got his stock fed; the boys got some extra pocket money from Sid and the locals talked about the escapade for days!

Someone else to encounter the sledge was Les Toms. Les lived on the corner of Silver Street and Barton Lane and worked in Ilfracombe. He used to cycle to Sawmills o catch the bus. Coming home one night when it had been snowing, he was pushing his bike up Pitt Hill when he heard a commotion. He looked up to see the sledge and boys racing around the corner towards him. He dropped his bike and jumped out of the way, only for the sledge to hit the bike. All the boys fell off into the snow, none the worst for wear, but that's more than could be said for the bike!

Ridge Hill runs down from Cross Park to the Rectory, and Blind Lane runs down beside Beech Lee.

The Ghost

Arthur Edwards, or Tiddly Edwards as he was known locally, lived on Castle Hill.

One evening he had been in to Ilfracombe to play bingo, at which he won some money, and after catching the bus back to Berrynarbor with his pockets full of his winnings, he decided to go to the pub for a drink.

There were the usual lads in the bar and, like the beer, the banter was soon flowing. One of the lads told Arthur that he'd seen a ghost up in the churchyard, but Arthur was having none of it. He said he didn't believe in ghosts, However, the lad told Arthur that if he went up into the churchyard and touched seven grave stones then he would see a ghost. Still protesting that there was no such thing, Arthur reluctantly agreed to go and touch the seven grave stones.

Off he went with the lads following but they remained at the lych gate, trying not to laugh. When Arthur got to the seventh grave, he hitched his toe and fell over, his winnings spilled out of his pocket but that was enough for Arthur, he took off out of the churchyard and up Castle Hill like a bat out of hell. He returned next day to retrieve his money!

Marlene

Illustrations by: Paul Swailes

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BERRY CAPERS - 1

The Sow

Farmer George Irwin of Hill Barton had a sow that kept eating her young and so he decided she would have to go.

Market day arrived and George, Gerald and a friend prepared a trailer for the sow and hitched it up behind the Landrover. Whilst George went off to get dressed ready for going to Barnstaple Market, the boys were left coaxing the sow into the trailer. Suddenly she took it into her head to make a run for it just as George was coming along in his best suit. He tried to stop her but she ran straight at him as he stood with his arms and legs spread wide. George ended up sitting backwards on her back as she charged through a small pond where he was deposited. His suit was filthy, his temper frayed and the air blue!

George changed his suit, the sow was loaded and off to market she did go!

The Horse

Farmer George has an evacuee boy called Peter Allen living at the farm, and he and Gerald became friends.

George has a horse that had just foaled and she was in a field the boys used to take as a short cut. They were warned not to go through the field, but Peter had to go to Miss Cooper's - the village stores - on an errand and on the way back he told Gerald he was going to take the short cut. Gerald was a bit scared and wanted to go the long way round, but Peter was having none of it and so Gerald gave in. They were just going through the hunter gate into the field when the horse, which was at the top of the hill, spotted them and came galloping down, ears back, nostrils flared and what looked to Gerald huge teeth bared. She kicked out with her hind legs and sent poor Peter over the telegraph wire.

Scared to death, Gerald fled the scene, and Peter got the beating of his live from George!

The Scrambler

To have some fun, the local lads decided that a scrambler was called for. The local paper was scoured and a likely sounding bike was to be had at Filleigh. All the boys put forward their share of the cost and Roderick Long went to collect the bike.

Great anticipation and excitement abounded when they took the bike up to Leonard Bowden's farm at Ruggaton. There they took it in turns to ride the bike in one of the fields.

It was Billy Toms turn when the throttle stuck fast. Billy thought the only thing to do was to ride it until it ran out of petrol. But, as the tank was nearly full, this was going to take some time. Riding at quite a speed, he lost complete control and ended up in Leonard's potato field which was ready for digging. With potatoes shooting everywhere, like bullets from a gun, Billy clung on for dear life, much to the amazement of the others.

Illustrations by Paul Swailes

Marlene

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