Ray Lucas: Shorne in the 1950s

At the time I used to go to Shorne Woods, all during the 1950’s, I lived in Taunton Vale, there were five of us that used to roam everywhere and the woods was one of our haunts. To get to the woods we would cut across the Warren, in Valley Drive and then the airfield, which is now Riverview Park Estate, this brought us to the footpath on the East side of Thong Lane, next to Cheyney’s Cottages and then take the footpath from this footpath which took us right up to where the clay extraction was taking place.

The whole area was like a ‘moonscape’, no vegetation of any sort, just a gigantic scar in the land. Although the extraction was in full swing at this time the number of men working there must have been really few as we rarely saw anybody at all. This was a good place to go ‘bird nesting’ for lapwings eggs as it was so open.

I remember the conveyor belt quite clearly, it was about a metre high and a metre wide, which was a convenient size for us to climb over. The conveyor belt was moved from time to time, I assume that this was so that it could be erected to where the extraction was taking place at the time. Strangely I don’t remember seeing the excavating taking place, or how the clay was transported to the conveyor. I can also recall the railway line but again not the engine or wagons that would have run on it. A friend of mine has the same thought but can remember the rail line going into a building.

In between where the visitor centre and the fishponds are, there was another pond, which is no longer there, that we used to go swimming in.

There was also a pond where we used to go fishing for carp. That had a brick sluice, from what Trevor has told me I think this is actually Randall Bottom pond, although we used to call it ‘The Secret Pond’. It always held water, which is why it had fish in it but one year it started drying up and we could see the carp swimming about and eventually stripped off and went in and caught some really big carp that we took home to eat, conservation wasn’t heard of back then so we thought nothing of it.

There is a pond, just north of the park that we also went fishing in, this belonged to Len Hales, the farmer and he would throw us out if he caught us there.

Being quite young at the time I didn’t really take too much notice of what was around us but one summer we built a wooden shelter in the middle of a massive Rhododendron, that were very prevalent in the park, we cut our way in so that we and our ‘hut’ couldn’t be seen. One day, while roaming round the clay works we went into the workman’s hut, there was nobody about as usual and ‘borrowed’ their pot bellied stove and took it back to our camp, we had it for quite a while before the workmen found our camp, took back their stove and burnt our hut down.

The head gamekeeper for the Darnley Estate in the 1950’s was Albert Court who lived in ‘The Mount’ in Ashenbank Wood, later on he was replaced by Tony Graves.

(As told to Trevor Bent in October 2010.)



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