Chapter Fifteen - Heritage Day
Trip Start Sep 28, 2012
20Trip End Oct 14, 2012
We'll start at the birth bit. A small town just south of busy Croydon is Selsdon, a very middle class enclave. Thanks to Google Maps it is easy to find Littleheath Road and even see photos of my house long before getting there. Here’s where I lived for the first five years of my life. The street now looks a lot smarter than when I remember it. A couple of doors down lived Joyce, my first sweetheart. At the end of the street were the shops and nearby was an alleyway with access to Littleheath Woods. This wonderful protected woodland area stretched out behind our house.
Although it was starting to rain, I’m obliged to jump out of the car and feel once more what could not have been a more perfect home for a little nipper like me
With assets from his wartime job at the Chase Manhattan Bank in London, my father elects to purchase a shop in Southfields, a somewhat modest working class neighbourhood near Wimbledon. The shop is located on Brookwood Road, a street of unpretentious terraced houses. Today they would be called townhouses, and our shop a convenience store. We sell everything from wool to butter in our minuscule setting. No supermarket lanes here. If you want something, you ask for it, and Dad will hand it to you over the counter.
The shop occupied half of the ground floor with the living room located right behind the shop and overlooking a narrow, dismal back garden. It was a huge difference from our expansive, semi-detached suburban home in Selsdon and the grim urban environment took some getting used to.
Today everything seems to be gentrified, and all the little shops facing the street have been closed down and converted to living room extensions
Southfields turned out to be just too much for my parents and they started looking for a much quieter business elsewhere. A local estate agent drew their attention to a shop in the small village of Droxford, sixty miles southwest of London, near Winchester. It seemed a leap of faith to move from the big city to a tiny village of 550 inhabitants.
So now we are off now into the soggy countryside to visit Droxford. It’s our wettest day yet, but the countryside is still glorious.
Everything in Droxford seems exactly the same as when I left it so many years ago, but on closer inspection it has gentrified too. Farm labourer’s cottages are now cute residences for retired businesspeople seeking the "village life". The baker, butcher, general stores and cobbler’s shops have all gone, including Crossland’s Stores on the High Street. The only remaining businesses are the post office, which is actually in The Baker’s Arms Pub, an antique store, a mechanic and one other pub, The White Horse. I guess mechanics and pubs will always be in demand
I walk through the village remembering my younger days; going to school on the No. 32 bus, an hour and a half each way; riding my bike through the countryside, sometimes even to the seaside. I would leave in the morning and not be back until nightfall. Were there no paedophiles in those days?
One of my favourite hikes was the Beech Walk. In spite of the drizzle, I persuade Miryam to accompany me. We cross the River Meon beside the old mill and walk along muddy tracks towards the line of beech trees through which the path meanders. It brings back such memories. We return crossing back over the river on the very same bridge that I traversed as a young lad with my dog, Sally.
From Droxford we proceed to Alresford, where my parents moved after retiring. This is a lovely village that still has lots of life. In fact it seems to be even more active today; it’s close to Winchester and is a popular tourist destination. As a perfect ending we take my mother’s favourite walk beside the River Itchen, where she loved feeding the ducks, to the charming cottage called the Fulling Mill.