Archive for the ‘Temple Newsam’ Category

ALISTAIR’S TALE

January 1, 2013

ALISTAIR’S TALE
Alistair is a true Scot who now lives in America but in the late 1940s/early 50s we had the honour of having him as part of our little East Leeds gang.

Exile from Fife to East Leeds
And
An introduction to cricket
By Alistair Duckworth.

When I came to Leeds at the age of 10 in 1946, it was to enter a very different world from the Fife of my childhood. In chauvinistic Scotland, the English were the auld enemy. At school in Cellardyke my friends and I compelled a new pupil from England to forsake his allegiances. We made him admit that the thistle was better than the rose, that Wallace and Bruce were the true heroes of history, that Bannockburn was the greatest victory of all time, and that the saltire of St Andrew was a superior banner to the red cross of St George. We even made him agree, against all evidence, that the Scottish football team was better than the English team and–incredibly!– that Wullie Waddell was a better outside right than Stanley Matthews. When one day my mother casually told me that we would soon be leaving for England (so that my father, on leaving the Royal Navy, could find employment in Leeds), I was horrified, believing it would now be my turn to give up my most fervent beliefs.

Of course, nothing of the sort occurred. In Leeds I learned that though the Scots were aggressive towards the English, the reverse was not true. Coming from cold, bleak Anstruther, where fights were common in the schoolyard, to warm and friendly Leeds where fights, as I recall, were nonexistent, was a revelation. My father was from Leeds, and I had visited the city at an earlier age, even attending St Hilda’s school (Mrs Duckworth’s class). But the change was great nevertheless—from a Presbyterian kirk to a high Anglican church, from John Knox and Calvinistic austerity to Pusey and Anglo Catholic ritual, from fishing village to industrial city, from bracing ozone to pea-soup fogs, from the “taws” as an instrument of punishment to the cane.

In Leeds, I was introduced to fascinating new games that changed with the seasons: conkers, top-spinning and marbles (another kind of taws) for boys; jacks and rope-skipping accompanied by songs for the girls. I encountered boys with amazing skills. “Bools” in Fife had been a mild affair played on a concrete surface with vividly coloured glass marbles. Taws at St Hilda’s was played on a dirt surface with stone-hard, dirty-white marbles that had little aesthetic appeal. But in the knuckles of Harold Sedgwick, the game was played at a level of skill that had to be seen to be believed. Rather than rest the marble on the middle joint of the index finger and propel it with his thumb nail, Harold (in a way I could never repeat) lodged the marble between the knuckle of his thumb and the point of his index finger. He could then propel it with astonishing speed and accuracy at the target marble, which would be sent into the middle distance far beyond the circle drawn in the dirt. Harold’s marble, meanwhile, would stay, rapidly spinning on its axis, in the spot once occupied by his opponent’s marble.

Leeds at that time was a dirty city with more than a passing resemblance to Dickens’s infernal Coketown in Hard Times. Born in rural Fife, I at first missed grass, trees and fields. Stone-slab pavements and tarmac or cobbled roads seemed to cover the earth everywhere. From the soot-covered windows of our red-brick house I saw a Lowry landscape of chimneys belching out smoke and carcinogenic particles. The actuaries put the early 60’s as an average life expectancy for men. Soon, however, I found that fields existed, only minutes from St Hilda’s church. To the east Snake Land had two football pitches, a bowling green and tennis courts. And to the south was the village of Knostrop, which time seemed to have passed by. At the bottom of the hill leading from Cross Green Lane, and close to the River Aire, the hamlet was, I believe, a part of the Temple Newsam estate. Its Jacobean hall was still precariously in existence and inhabited by a man named Benn.

Looking back on the place, I see Knostrop as a cross between Cold Comfort Farm and a Grimm’s Fairy Tale landscape (it had a “humbug house”). But I enjoyed going down to this other, rural, world. In the autumn we gathered chestnuts to pickle into conkers. We also played rugby in the pond field next to the old hall. Jack, Benn’s dog, would accompany us. He was the wicket-keeper when we played cricket and the goalkeeper when we played football. But he disapproved of rugby. The ball was the wrong shape, and he was left with nothing to do. Jack is long dead, and so is Knostrop, swallowed up by industry and business parks. But it has an enduring existence in the published memories, written and collected by Peter Wood, an old friend at St Hilda’s School.

An Introduction to Cricket

When I came to Leeds, I was introduced to cricket, a game not often played in Fife and never with the skill and enthusiasm displayed by my new friends in the summer of 1947. When we had time, we played with stumps and a proper cricket ball (but not pads) on a grass pitch at Snake Lane. More usually we played in the streets (still mostly free of traffic) with a tennis ball or a solid composition-rubber ball. If a box or similar object were to hand, it would serve as a make-shift wicket; if not, a man-hole in the tarmac would do just as well. Someone would supply a bat, sides would be selected, and the match was on. On Sundays we played outside St Hilda’s church both before and after Sunday School. I was surprised by the lack of bickering over “out” decisions. A catch was obvious, of course, but appeals for lbw, if credible, would be accepted by the batsman without demur, and if he were beaten by a ball that passed over the manhole within the imagined dimensions of the stumps, batsman, bowler, wicket-keeper and fielders would generally concur that it was an out. A basic fairness prevailed.

Cricket was a topic of much interest in my father’s family, particularly to my Auntie Alice, who followed the fortunes of Yorkshire and England throughout a long life, at first on radio, later on TV. From my father and my aunt I soon acquired a strange new vocabulary; I learned about cover point, long on, and silly mid-off, about off drives, hooks and late cuts, about yorkers, googlies and chinamen, about in-swingers and out-swingers. I came to understand the importance of the weather in determining whether the pitch at Headingley would be favorable to batsmen or bowlers on a given day, and if to the latter, whether it would be best to use fast, medium-fast, or slow bowlers. If slow bowlers, the question would then be debated whether to use an off-spinner or, much more dangerously, a leg-spinner.

But it was not only the terminology of cricket that made it fascinating to me. The history of cricket was also a common topic of conversation. The Duckworth adults knew about the great players of the past stretching back to W. G. Grace and Jack Hobbs, and held strong opinions about the best opening partership (Hobbs and Sutcliffe), the best all-rounder (Wilfred Rhodes, a Yorkshireman, of course), and the best fast bowler (grudgingly conceded to be the Australian Lindwall). They told me about England’s controversial (“bodyline”) tour of Australia in 1932-33, in which the fast bowler Harold Larwood had aimed “bouncers” at the bodies and heads of the Australian batsmen. In an attempt to disarm persistent Australian criticism of England’s tactics, the MCC banned bodyline bowling and called on Larwood to apologise. Larwood refused on the grounds that he had been told to bowl in this way by the team’s captain, Jardine. Jardine, in common with all captains of England until Len Hutton, was a gentleman amateur, whereas the working-class Larwood was a professional. In consequence of his refusal to apologise, I was told, Larwood was never picked for England again. For my father, uncles and aunts, this was a deplorable action on the part of the establishment.

In the late summer of 2009 the Enland XI won the test match over the Aussies at the Oval and by so doing regained the Ashes. Living in Boston, Massachusetts, I was only able to follow the state of play on my lap-top. Even so the thrill of England’s victory was palpable. I was taken back to England’s Ashes victory in 2003, which my wife and I followed on TV while living in London (my wife was in Trafalgar Square when the England team, featuring a very drunk Freddie Flintoff, appeared on the top-deck of an open double-decker bus). Even more evocatively, I recalled an earlier series, the tour of the Australians in 1948. At that time I was a fervent fan of Yorkshire and England. Len Hutton, master of the cover drive, was my hero. And when matches against Yorkshire were not at issue, I could also enthuse about Cyril Washbrook of Lancashire (who opened with Hutton), Bill Edrich of Essex who came in number three, and the dashing Denis Compton of Middlesex, who came in number four.

When my aunt Alice asked my cousin Peter and me if we would like to go to see the Australians at Headingley, I was ecstatic. That summer the Aussies had a formidable cast of players: the legendary batsman Donald Bradman, who had played in the bodyline tests, the charismatic all-rounder Keith Miller, the fast bowler Lindwall. We went on the fourth day and were allowed to sit on the grass next to the boundary opposite the pavilion. Australia’s first innings’ tail was quickly dismissed in the morning, and then Hutton and Washbrook opened England’s second innings. They made an excellent 129 for the first wicket. By the fifth morning, whenYardley declared at 365 for 8 wickets, Australia were left with what seemed to be an impossible target of 404 runs for victory. But Bradman and Morris made a very fast and record-breaking partnership of 301, and Australia won the test, with Bradman scoring 178 not out at the end. I did not see Bradman bat, but he was in the field on the fourth day, not far from where we were sitting, and as captain he could be heard directing the fielders where to position themselves.

In the final test at the Oval, Bradman needed only 4 runs to end his career with an average of 100 per test match innings; ironically, he was bowled out for a duck. No subsequent batsman, however, has come anywhere close to his Test Match batting average.

A great tale, Alistair – thanks for letting us use it.

Did you guess last month’s picture? I know many of you did. It was of course the remaining front façade of York Road Baths and Library

Now for this month’s pic – a power house for boy meets girl – especially on Sunday nights in the 1950sStar York Road

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The Basins

December 23, 2011

The following is an article by the late great Keith Waterhouse in the Daily Mirror of Thursday 13th September 1984. The original newspaper lovingly preserved and cherished over the years by Roy Gibbins and merely retyped here for legibility. Well done Roy. At the conclusion is a reminder of our own adventures in the basins.

 

KEITH WATERHOUSE

Those old basin blues

There used to be a little periodical, a monthly ragbag of jokes and cartoons with the extraordinary title of a Basinful of Fun.

 

            I was reminded of it by a letter from Mrs Annie Fenn of Leeds this week, conveying the mournful intelligence that, they have filled in the basins.

            The basins were a series of shallow quarries in the middle of an enchanted forest – well more a little wood, really – which was the training-ground for my boyhood apprenticeship as cowboy, outlaw, smuggler, ape-man, castaway, detective, engine driver and such like career opportunities.

            Where A Basinful of Fun comes into it is that it never occurred to me that there was anything unusual about such a title. The basins were such enormous fun that it seemed altogether natural and proper that someone should want to name a joke book about them.

            How these four or five craters came into being I had and have no idea, though theories were legion. One was that they were old mine workings, another that they had been caused by a stray bomb from a Zeppelin in World War One, another that they concealed hidden gold looted from a treasure ship that had foundered on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal

            By far the most plausible or anyway the most popular, explanation was that they had been formed by rockets landing from Jupiter.

***

            Sometimes when the August sun filtered through the trees, we would catch the glint of metal in one of these basins and would dig feverishly for the concealed spacecraft. In this way we unearthed many rare objects such as old sardine tins, and once, what was either a time worn Abyssinian coin or a tap washer.

            The basins were all things to all boys. To the bike riders they were the speedway track or the Wall of Death. To the owners of chariots in the form of a plank on four pram wheels, they were the Roman Coliseum. To the underprivileged, deprived of any form of transport accept an imaginary bucking bronco they were the foothills of Arizona.

            My own special delight, as a wounded colonel in command of the First Leeds Mounted Aerial Marine Infantry, was to find the basins occupied by kids from the local Catholic school. If our council school platoon were present and correct in sufficient numbers, we would fight the Battle of Mons.

                                                 ***   

            (No doubt my correspondent, Mrs Fenn, being of the younger generation, took part in the D-Day landings on the basins where she would have been allowed to be a nurse.)

            In winter the basins filled up with water when they became the Atlantic or the Mississippi River. In high summer when the clay surrounding the basins became baked hard and stippled with little cracks, they were the    Sahara Desert on the moon.

There was never any single moment when any of us saw them for what they were – a few small depressions in the middle of a wood.

            Back to Mrs Finn and her letter: ‘My friend and I (both in our thirties with assortment of kids) make our annual pilgrimage every July to where we – and you – were brought up. Always we hear the call of the basins. We swoop down into them making the ancient animal noises known only by our tribe, watched by the younger generation who stand in wonder. Once this ancient ritual is accomplished we are refreshed and invigorated enough to face another year. 

          Anyway imagine our surprise this year when we turned the corner where the basins should be in sight and saw a ploughed field there instead. I thought I had better write and inform you of their passing

            Indeed, yes. It is depressing news, but it had to be broken, otherwise I should have had an even nastier shock. For by coincidence I was up in Leeds myself this week where someone wanted to take my photograph in some of the old haunts, and I as near as dammit headed for the basins. Heart attack material that could have been, to find crops growing where Mars, the Grand Canyon and Lake Geneva used to be.

            I did, however, drive past a deserted adventure playground. It didn’t look anything like the foothills of Arizonato to  me.   

And finally, just a reminder, by Eric Allen, of how we used come across the basins, which I suppose were in Halton, on our walks or bike rides, from East End Park on our ‘Route 66’ to Temple Newsam

            The Basins   

                                                                                            The Basins  

 By Eric Allen

Who remembers ‘The Basins?  The Basins were to be found on the Red Road edge of Temple Newsam. They were to be reached along Black Road and through Austin’s farm and were a site of great adventure for young ‘dare devil’ bicycle riders.  The basins had originally been mine workings and their spoil heaps. Some had paths going around the sides making them like the fair ground ‘wall of death’ The largest basin had a path going down one side into the bottom and up the other side, this was the best run for the young ‘dare devil’. Unfortunately on many occasions the rider did not have enough speed to carry them up the other side, which ended up with a quick dismount and a hard push to get the boy and bike up the other side before it toppled back on him.

Red Walls

August 1, 2011

 

 Red Walls

 Not much to see is there? But Red Walls was an iconic play ground for East Leeds lads and lasses. It was reached down the equally iconic Black Road. We would set off on our walking expeditions to Temple Newsam equipped with our liquorish water and perhaps jam sandwiches – we could always pinch some ‘tuskey’ on the way. We would be off down Black Road, perhaps a paddle in the beck at Red Walls and on via ‘The Basins’ to Temple Newsam. Special days on that route are so memorable they are with us for the rest of our lives.

Roy Marriot remembers an illicit day playing truant and going fishing ‘Tom Sawyer’ type to Red Walls; Eric Sanderson sets the scene for bike rides down Black Road; Muriel Parking (nee Bailey) fondly paddles in memories with her dog, Queenie; Janet Elliott (nee Lawler) gets butted by a nanny goat and Eric Allen dares to ride the ‘Wall of Death Basins.’ Plus a map of the location of Red Walls.

 (Next month more Audrey)

   GONE FISHING

  By Roy Marriott

I was in Mr, Holmes’ class (Chuck) atEllerbyLaneSchoolfrom Sept 1945 to Sept 1946. As many of the lads will remember, who were fortunate to be taught by him, he would often end the afternoon lesson by reading from a story, maybe just from 3-45 to 4-00 p.m. I certainly enjoyed it, I’m sure the rest of the class did too.

            I well remember him reading ‘Tom Sawyer’ the part about Tom and his friend Huckleberry Finn playing truant and going fishing was especially enjoyable. A very good friend of mine was Brian Helley, his father was a regular in the forces – I can’t remember which branch, though I remember Brian had to leave Leeds because his dad was posted somewhere near Driffield. I think he left in late ’46. Anyway Brian and I had been enthralled with the idea of playing truant and going fishing. That morning the weather was glorious and as Brian, Frank McGann – another good friend – and I walked home from school we were hatching out a plan. Brian lived quite near to Eddie Purdy’s shop onPontefract Lane in one of theClark streets – I cannot remember which one. Anyway after he’d had his dinner Brian came round to our house and said, ‘Come on then – let’s go fishing!’

            I didn’t need asking twice. I got an empty dried milk tin from the kitchen, punched a couple of holes in the rim, added string and managed to secrete my fishing net. I don’t think my mother even realised what was going on. Off we went, just as we got to the top ofClark Lanewe met Frank coming along Pontefract lane. He was not interested in joining us but he did agree to tell Mr. Holmes we had been sick on the way home and that was the reason for our absence. Our destination – where else of course but down Black road to Red Walls. 

            We had no way of telling what time it was – but we just about filled the tin with tiddlers, sticklebacks and bomb-bellies when our tummy clocks told us it must be just about tea time. So off we set for home. Brian managed to get hold of a jam jar and we transferred a few fish into it.

            When I got home I smuggled my tin upstairs into my bedroom (which was in the attic) fortunately my mother did not come into my bedroom that night. The evening was very warm, the poor fish didn’t stand a chance; there were far too many for the size of the tin. The result being that the next morning there was this awful smell. My Mam thought it was coming from the quarry. The first chance I got I took the can outside and emptied it down the drain. I felt really upset for ages afterwards because I had caused the death of so many fishes.  While you are catching fish it’s great – but you do really have to know how to take care of them. Playing truant – Never again!

            One thing that was amazing, we got back home, around the time we would have if we had been at school. The next morning Mr Holmes asked how we were, I wonder if he knew what we had been up to – he really was a great teacher.    

                                  Eric Sanderson Remembers  Red Walls.

I spent many happy hours down there at the Red Walls. Isn’t the stream in fact nearly the end of Wyke Beck before it finally tumbles into the river? During the long summer days and before we had bikes, we’d often meander down towards there, sometimes down Red Road, past the Basins and cut across Halton Moor but more often than not, down Black Rd with a few distractions like Oxley’s field or even Knostrop Army camp with it’s water filled tank obstacles, brim full of wildlife ready to be caught with a few basic implements.

In those days, the stream was very clear, especially a little further upstream as it ran over Halton Moor, and many’s the time when we’ve drunk the cool, clear water on a hot summer day. We’re still here and I never remember anyone suffering any ill effects, so it can’t have been too bad.

It must have been fairly well unpolluted because it had lots of Sticklebacks & Red-bellies in those days.

It was also a good way to cool off by stripping off shoes & socks, sit on the bank down by the Red Walls and let the lovely cool water do its work by refreshing our red hot and aching feet. 

When we were a little older, we used to use it as a turning point for bike races from the top ofBlack Rd, down there and back, it was a good test. A problem we had to avoid however was the huge potholes, created by the Leviathans from the open cast coal mine and the cause of more than a few tumbles.

I’m sure many others will say the same but, as the Paddy ran close by, it was occasionally a relief for our weary legs after a tiring day and to save trudging back to the top of Black Road, to hop onto the back of the slow moving Paddy Train for a quick ride to the top, dropping off just before Cross Green Lane

 OUR QUEENIE

By Muriel Parkin (nee Bailey)

It was coming to the end of the summer holidays: soon we would be back at school. The family decided that if the weather kept fine we would have a walk downBlack Roadto the blue bell wood. We often went to the blue bell wood but only with Mam and Dad. When Sunday arrived the weather was fine, Mam got on with the dinner early and Dad decided we should give Queenie, our dog, a bath as she had been confined to the house for a number of weeks. After dinner my sister and I did our usual job of washing up and clearing away the dinner crockery and then we were ready for off: Mam, Dad, Brenda, Baby Andrea, Queenie and of course me.

            Queenie was my dog she had been bought for me when she was weaned at six weeks old; she was a white bundle of fluff with just the two patches of brown in her coat. Anyway I had her on her lead until we reached ‘Red Bricks’ (Red Walls).

            There had been another occasion at Red Walls when I had ventured into the stream and stood on some glass, it cut my foot quite badly and I had to walk ‘tip toe’ all the way upBlack Roadhome. The glass was in fast and Dad had to remove it with pliers. Anyway on this particular day we didn’t venture into the water  but there were plenty of other boys and girls playing in there who all wanted to stroke her. I was so proud to be her owner. Unfortunately she had no tail to wag for them as she had been ‘docked’ by the man we bought her from; she just had a stub for a tail and a long ringlet at the end which was soft and wavy like her coat.

            Dad wanted us to push on or we would lose the day and that is when everything went wrong. I let Queenie off the lead as we approachedAustin’s Farm and she bolted. Straight into the duck pond she went as we looked on in horror. Our lovely white and tan dog came out a horrible shade of green and dripping with slime.

 We finally arrived at our usual place to find Mam and Dad’s friends were already there. We had a lovely day playing hide and seek in the farm yard and Queenie was allowed to romp around to her heart’s content and as blackberries were in season and we had taken a basin with us we were able to collect blackberries too.

            Eventually the evening sun began to show, telling us that it was time to go home. By the time we got to the end of our street people were taking advantage of the warm evening to sit around in the street talking. I ran up the street as fast as my legs would carry me with Queenie on the end of the leash looking like and old rag. She had dried but oh did she smell! This meant she was not allowed to go into the house until she had another bath. Two baths in a day for Queenie. We had to use the ‘Peggy tub’ for our own bath. We had some sandwiches and off to bed ourselves. What a wonderful day!

Now Mam and Dad are long gone and we three sisters are in our old age but we still talk about those childhood days and laugh, we couldn’t have had better days, they were fantastic. 

The Nanny Goat

By Mrs Janet Elliot (nee Lawler)

(What a lovely little tale)

When I was twelve years old me and Brenda Johnson, Beryl Morgan and Pat York, all fromVictoriaSchool, went off down to Red Walls to catch tadpoles in a jam jar. We used to take with us: jam sandwiches and a bottle of liquorish water. We were very happy in those days. On the way back we climbed over a fence and took some rhubarb to eat on the way home. As we were walking away a nanny goat escaped out of a field and chased us upRed Road, it ran straight past Beryl and chassed Brenda, Pat and me. It caught me and butted me up the backside. I suppose it served my right for pinching the rhubarb! 

And finally

The Basins

   By Eric Allen

Who remembers ‘The Basins?  The Basins were to be found on the Red Roadedge of Temple Newsam. They were to be reached along Black Road and through Austin’s farm and were a site of great adventure for young ‘dare devil’ bicycle riders.  The basins had originally been mine workings and their spoil heaps. Some had paths going around the sides making them like the fair ground ‘wall of death’ The largest basin had a path going down one side into the bottom and up the other side, this was the best run for the young ‘dare devil’. Unfortunately on many occasions the rider did not have enough speed to carry them up the other side, which ended up with a quick dismount and a hard push to get the boy and bike up the other side before it toppled back on him.

And by popular demand a map showing location of Red Walls.

.

 

The Fifteen Steps

July 1, 2008

blog-15-stepsRoy Marriott relates the tale of a wartime adventure undertaken with a freind in the grounds of Temple Newsam Mansion, East Leeds. They thought they were on the trail of spies but if they had taken a sixteenth step it is unlikely they would be here today to tell us this tale. 

Ronald (Roy) Marriott & Burt Fawcett

The Fifteen Steps

(A True Adventure From 1943)

About half a mile from Morton Manor (Temple Newsam) is ‘ The Lost World of the Incas’, at least that’s what my pal Burt, and I called it. In actual fact it is an assortment of cinder rocks, piled in odd arrangements and scattered over an area of about one hundred square yards. Here and there were small groups of bushes and shrubs. In the center of our ‘Lost World’ was a grassy hillock, which had half buried rocks and odd slits covering most of this section. To add to the illusion there was a dry streambed that stretched and twisted from one end to the other. It was towards our haven that we made our way one warm and idyllic Saturday morning during the July school holidays of 1943. I was approaching the age of ten and my friend Burt was eleven almost twelve.

            The day seemed magical. The immense orange sun just resting momentarily 

on the horizon before making its majestic climb into the cloudless blue sky, appeared to gild the leaves of the nearby trees. Spears of golden light penetrated the denser areas where the trees thickened into woodland.

            A group of gypsies, busying themselves with early morning chores as we passed, reminded my of a poem we had to learn at school: ‘The gypsies lit their fires by the chalk pit gates anew, and the hobbled horses supped in early morning dew.’ Mind you. I never could remember the poet’s name.

            Once we had left the huddled figures of the gypsies we crossed a couple of fields and turned into the track that led virtually to our destination. We had often wondered about a rather large slit in the side of the center mound. For some unknown reason we decided to take a closer look. After removing the rubble and loose grass sods we realized that it wasn’t a slit but the upper edge of an archway of some sort. It took quite a while to remove enough of the loose earth to allow us to crawl through and drop onto what we discovered to be a stone floor.

            The light hardly managed to penetrate the dim interior. We decided to get our eyes used to the light before venturing further. We reckoned it must be a man made cave of some kind or even a tunnel built in case of an invasion, where secret messages could be taken from one place to another. Our imaginations seemed to be running away with us, but where did it go? We were both eager to find out as much as we could about the mystery.

            The width of the entrance was twenty-four footsteps; toe to heel and the walls were slightly concave. Eventually the time came for further investigation. We carefully inched forward into the darker depths of the tunnel, another interesting fact we found, was that there was a curving of the tunnel. As we crept forward we were looking back every few steps and after a while we noticed that the faint glimmer from the opening was disappearing sideways.

            Suddenly we stumbled and we both caught our breath, it was only a step across the floor of the tunnel but in the velvet darkness it felt as though we had fallen over the edge of a cliff. Burt and I held on to each other, deciding there and then to proceed only a little further. With our heels to the step we counted out the steps, slowly advancing into the void – thirteen, fourteen, fifteen…We both suddenly stopped, there was a sound and it seemed to be below us but so far away – and there was also a change in the air, a definite chillier feel to it. Burt, being older than me, told me to back up, ‘We’ll get back to the step, turn round and go back out of the tunnel,’ which is exactly what we did.

            Once out into the warmth of the daylight a plan of action was worked out. We decide to return at a later date with matches, candles and a drop of paraffin (my dad used this last item in a lamp in the outside toilet). We thought if necessary we could soak some dried twiggy branches in paraffin it would illuminate a larger area should we need to.

            For some reason or other we did not go back to our ‘Lost World’ for several weeks. In fact there was very little of the holiday left by the time we embarked on our ‘Journey into the Unknown’ as we had named our trip. We talked about what we might find at the end of the passage or tunnel or whatever it turned out to be. We though it might even be a secret agent’s escape route.

            The journey seemed to take twice as long as usual, but once there, no time was lost in sorting out the items, gathering some dry branches and dropping them through the enlarged entrance. Our first task was to get some light, so we lit some candles and placed them about on the floor. Then we lit two more candles and proceeded down the tunnel for several yards and repeated the process, realizing that the floor had a slight gradient. We hadn’t realised just how far we had covered on our first initial venture but after the fourth set of candles had been lit, just a few steps further brought us to the step, some eight inches deep. We placed these two candles on the step, lit our last two and made our way slowly forward.

            The light from the candles seemed to bounce back at us – there was a deeper impenetrable blackness immediately in front of us – and that sound again. ‘Don’t move!’ screamed Burt. I realized why a moment later when the truth dawned. We had come to the very edge of the passageway, where for some reason it had collapsed. We could feel a draught of cold air and the sound we had heard before was below us, running water, an underground waterway probably. We carefully gathered the branches together and splashed paraffin all over. Holding the bundle over the abyss we held the flame to one end and dropped it into the void.

The flames, fierce at first, died out well before we heard the faint splash as the bundle reached the water. It must have been hundreds of feet down. We both felt quite shaken as we gathered up the matches and the other remaining bits we had placed on the floor while we had looked over the edge. We counted the steps we had taken back to the eight-inch step across the tunnel floor. We counted just fifteen.