I was fortunate to grow up in the Wychwoods, living at the top of Milton High Street near the Baptist Chapel. I remember going to Sunday school there 50 years ago and specifically Mrs Markham, Mrs Bradley and Mary Saunders being my Sunday School teachers. I’m thankful they sowed the seeds and while I don’t consider myself too religious, I do have faith in God through Jesus.
I was proud to attend the brand new Wychwood Primary School and loved my time at Burford School. The school dinners were world class back then as well as many of the teachers. Mr. Glover was a great Headmaster and I loved the school rule: “Respect for people, respect for property”. It covered everything!
After qualifying as a plumber in 1984 I was blessed and motivated to buy a property in Banbury and then Ducklington. I was on my way or so I thought…….
Fast forward to the evening of September 19th………..
It’s the evening of September 19, 1991 and I’m heading on Highway 400 to Barrie, an hour north of Toronto, thinking what on earth have I done? A combination of buying high and selling low, coupled with 18% interest rates bankrupted me and having been familiar with Canada for some time, it felt like a good move. A new bride, an 18-month-old son, six suitcases and C$6000 in cash to start a new life!
Leaving the most beautiful part of England was difficult and I still miss it immensely, as well as back bacon, roundabouts and the silly chatter down at The Red Horse (now The Wychwood Inn) or Quart Pot. I miss the characters of all stripes and backgrounds: village characters like ‘Pedro’ – Peter Hunt the legendary Shipton streaker who it is said, once agreed to streak from the Red Horse, around the green, past Dr Scott’s and back to the pub to make some beer money, and ‘Windy’ – Gord Warner the fastest electrician in the county in the 1950’s, or so he claimed! These two characters made me laugh and a late night in the Red Horse stands out. Pedro noticed an almost full pint of lager alone and Windy was onto it not realizing he was pouring it into his upside-down glass till the end!
Elwyn Lewis was a legendary landlord and was very happy with his team winning the Cancer Research Great Barrington to Burford Raft Race one Saturday in August 1983. Paul Huxford, Clifford Grove, Andrew West, a mate of Paul’s from Northleach and myself won the race. The RAF team with more resources and time were not impressed!
I also remember Aunty Vi Miles riding her bike and doing all kinds of great community services in Milton. She organized the coke and crisps discos in the late ’70s with 50p admission. She once organized carol singing and we ended up at Mr and Mrs Edgingtons on Frog Lane for a fantastic yuletide spread including mince pies and punch. Vi was a fine Christian lady who received an OBE and well deserved!
I also looked up to local businessmen like Arthur Hunt, Tony McCaul, and my old boss Malcolm Snell from Woodstock Felt Roofing. My uncle, Graeme Miles, a true gentleman, did much for me as I grew up. They gave me encouragement to believe that hard work pays off and to take some chances in life.
Scores of people from the Wychwoods helped me, from when I started my window cleaning business in 1979 moving on to becoming a plumber in the early to mid ’80s.
Peter Grove, Billy Collett and Alan and Derek Hepden (local plumbers) were always there for me when needed. I am very grateful for all these old friends and customers, many unfortunately no longer with us.
I’ve been lucky enough to drive from Kelowna to Vancouver, Calgary to Banff and Lake Louise but the A40 from Burford to Cheltenham is still for me the nicest road in the world! Coming into the Wychwood valley from all directions is an epic, magical and glorious view. The Wychwoods and the fine folk who live there hold a special place in my heart. I am so grateful for being blessed to have once lived in such a unique part of the world.
I wish everyone reading this all the best and look forward to seeing some old and new faces one day.
December 2020 – January 2021