This week we continue the reminiscences of Michael Maddox who first came to High Wycombe in 1946 and lived in The Camp at Daws Hill before moving to the then new housing estate at Booker Hill. 

In the last article Michael was telling us about his memories of the school at Sands, which he attended from 1949 to 1953.

He continues his story: “At some point in a person’s life comes a notable highlight. Mine came early in my last years at Sands. I’d made the school football team as centre-half and remarkably we won the competition against all of High Wycombe’s primary schools in 1953. 

“My contribution in the final amounted to a defensive role in which I made about half-a-dozen forceful kicks on the principle that the further the ball was away from me, the better.

“The final was held at Loakes Park, a stone’s throw from my former school in Loakes Road.

“One of our teachers was Mr. Anning who, during that time, emigrated to South Australia. Before he left, he taught us about the Murray-Darling river system, the Great Dividing Range and other geographical facts. Looking back, this must have been the seed that eventually led to my own emigration in 1964.

“Unlike all the other Australian states, South Australia, the driest of the states, commenced life as a freely settled British province and was never a penal colony. 

“This is something that South Australians are quite proud of. Even now, South Australia is lightly populated at 1.72 million in an area of 980,000 sq. km, compared with the UK, which has 65.6 million in an area of 242,500 sq. km.

“As I mentioned earlier, the fields and woods in the Booker area were our playground. Roundwood, before the Great Storm in 1987, was full of tall mature trees and with very little undergrowth, apart from the odd holly bush, it was like roaming in a vast sheltered cathedral of tree trunks.
Sherbrook Forest near my home in the Dandenong Ranges, Australia is quite different. The dominant species are eucalypts, which occupy the upper storey, letting light filter through. 

“This allows a middle storey of wattles and a lower storey of shrubs and tree ferns, the whole lot forming an almost impenetrable mass for lyrebirds and small creatures. 

“It’s only possible to walk through the forest along cleared tracks. Australia is significantly larger than most people realise (see map) and this is only one of the forest types to be found here.

“In the wintertime, a steep field at the back of our flat, which led down to the corner of Lane End and Hillbottom Roads, was perfect for tobogganing. It appears from Google Maps that Roundwood has now encroached, but then it was an open grassy hill. 

“At the bottom were several furniture factories where we could cadge chair backs, which were ideal for making toboggans. 
Nearby at the end of Hillbottom Road, which was much shorter then, was a small, oval, dirt bicycle track.

“Races were regularly held here, but whether they were just informal or part of a larger organised event, I couldn’t say.

“Exploring further afield, we often walked to West Wycombe via Toweridge. Our destination, of course, was Hell-Fire Caves, where sixpence bought you entry and a lighted candle. 

“Boys being boys, the first thing we do would be to blow out each other’s candle and then grope our way through the dark, tripping over the rough ground and clutching at damp chalk walls. 

“I’m not sure we ever made it to the innermost chamber, but then, that was hardly the point; it was the excitement and authenticity that counted.

“Another frequent destination was Park Farm. The horse chestnut trees lining the road leading to the farm were a known source of conkers, that essential tool for determining pecking order and rapping knuckles. 

“We also caught Miller’s Thumbs (Bullheads) in the gravel-bottomed stream, under the bridge, where the footpath crossed the Wye. Now that we were older, we’d release them after a few hours of captivity.
And of course, we couldn’t resist the Pepper-pots in Chapel Lane.

“Somehow we had found out that if you were brave enough and prepared to accept a few scrapes, it was possible to get inside. 

“It was easy enough to climb up on the footpath wall and then by clinging on to the flint with fingertips and inching along the tiniest of ledges formed in the decorative stonework, it was possible to work your way round to the back where a gaping entrance awaited you. You dare not look down, as a fall would have surely resulted in injury.

“Gardening the roughly excavated ground of Highwood Crescent was next to impossible, but we did manage to laboriously create a front lawn in the garden next to the laneway, my brother and I carrying bucket loads of leaf mold from the wood. 

“The resulting verdure proved to be an irresistible shortcut to passers-by! Our solution was to transplant hawthorn seedlings that dotted the field and create a prickly hedge against the wall. 

“This proved to be very successful in curbing the practice and with nary a cross word uttered. 

“The hawthorn hedge remains to this day and is a memorial to the time we lived there.

“There are many other stories to be told, such as the Booker Hill Social Club outing to the Town Hall where we were entertained by a popular singing duo. I wonder who they were? 

“And the fete at Park Farm, which surely had to be the last time I saw old-fashioned games such as apple bobbing. However, space precludes and my time at Sands Primary School had come to an end.

“It was off to Mill End Secondary School for Boys after the August holidays and a new phase in my life.”

To be continued.