More memories of Audrey Jackson

A Path I Remember

We would walk towards St. Mary’s church from my house, Hawthorn, in North Cray Road, just up from the Coach and Horses with its big Sandemans advert, which looked just like our vicar in his wide brimmed hat, and where I learned to ride my neighbour’s bike in anti-clockwise circles. Our house was opposite the fields at the more respectable end of the road, above the labourer’s cottages, next door to a canon and his wife, who had a cook and a housemaid pre-war, but below the big detached houses. Opposite to, but near the church was the shop; nowadays we might call it a poodle parlour; where my doggy friend would bath and trim the local poodles, including two huge ones belonging to Dorothy Squires, who would let them swim in Chislehurst ponds. Here I would also collect a dog or two for walking before I was upgraded to part-time, poorly paid, weekend kennel maid.
Turning right at the church I would take the path between houses to parallel the boundary of the churchyard, where I guess granny and granpa Jackson still rest, though now sadly crowded by the later additions. Where the path then crossed open fields there was a left turn footpath to the bypass, where I once sinfully rode a horse because it ran away with me! The path continued to a fork. Left was rough and led to Wansunt Road, I think, coming out by the home of the aforementioned poodles. Right was the "Tinkly Path" – I don’t know if anyone else called it that or if it was a family name, but it describes exactly the echo made by footsteps on the tarmac suface between high walls.

From here there was a stretch of road, possibly Heath Road now, close to a private school (St. Michaels?) with which we had a continual cold war and leading to an orchard, where we often purchased fruit in season (and regularly searched vainly for holes in its fences in order to scrump). There followed another open field path across to the woods, at the edge of which was a stile. Sitting here it was possible to get a most successful echo across the slight valley and we spent a happy half hour one evening doing just that. Next morning at school we were hauled over the coals once more for disturbing the patients at the nursing home at Coldblow by our shouting and screaming and generally unladylike behaviour – life was pretty unfair in those days….

On a good day, however, we would continue up into the Dell and over Denton Road onto Dartford Heath with its endless amusements, house-building amongst the heather, riding over the Glory Bumps and very rarely glimpsing some unfortunate inhabitant of the Asylum, allowed to take the air on the Heath and actually removing most of their clothes to do so. We were a pretty hardy lot in those days and didn’t seem to come to much harm from our freedom. How different from our mollycoddled grandchildren! Anyway after this long walk it was obviously time to catch the 401 bus home. Where I now live there is probably one bus a day. Then we had a half-hourly service – so much for progress!

Audrey

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