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U3A Writing: Precious Memories

...My dearest playmate, friend and companion was our sheep dog Chum. We had to walk across two fields to get to the house or down a long muddy lane - wellington boots were essential equipment! We kept one milking cow named Judy and made our own butter in a long wooden churn. The skimmed milk left was used to rear one or two calves who were suckled by hand...

Joyce Nicholas tells of delightful days in the heart of rural Wales.

Redwick, an idyllic little moorland village near Magor is situated on the edge of the Severn Estuary below sea level, and noted for it's unique wetlands. My father worked maintaining the sea-wall and often at high tide during the winter gales men were called out to walk the wall. Some old Roman pottery was recovered from there a while back. The village is still mainly a farming community passed down in families for many generations.

The church St Thomas the Apostle is of great historic interest and recently made a Grade I listed building. At the entrance to the Church Porch is a pole indicating the height of the Great Flood in 1606. During the war on 5 August 1942 three bombs landed in a field next to the church resulting in the Tower structure being unsafe for bell ringing. In 1991 repairs were carried out and the bells then restored to their proper ringing condition. On a clear day there is a magnificent view from the top of the Church Tower of the surrounding countryside, both Severn Bridges and right down the Bristol Channel.

The Baptist Chapel, which always had a full congregation when I was a child, and the village school both closed and were converted into houses. The school closed in 1949, and then for while was used for social events - dances, whist drives etc. In 1955 a new village hall was built to serve the community. The housing of the old school bell still remains, also the original old red letter box built into the school wall. My parents and I were taught at Redwick school, and my mother and I by the same teacher, Mrs Gertie Griffiths, who travelled every day from Magor in all weathers on her bicycle.

There were two Public Houses - The Kings Head, and the Rose Inn, only the latter has survived. Possibly the focal point of any community was the local village store which was managed by my grandmother and opened all hours. Unable to compete with the new Supermarkets the store closed in 1977.

I lived in a small cottage at Green Moor, and we had about 6 - 7 acres of land. Our nearest neighbours were about one mile away. My dearest playmate, friend and companion was our sheep dog Chum. We had to walk across two fields to get to the house or down a long muddy lane - wellington boots were essential equipment! We kept one milking cow named Judy and made our own butter in a long wooden churn. The skimmed milk left was used to rear one or two calves who were suckled by hand.

We had a large dairy which kept everything cool. Occasionally we would keep a pig and then salted and cured our own bacon on large slate slabs. The sides of bacon were then hung up on the wooden beams. The pork meat was usually shared by friends and family who would repay in kind. A local farmer always helped us with our small amount of hay making and in return my father would help him - my job was leading and stopping the horse between the rows of hay. Also we kept a few chicken and ducks, and always hatched our own baby ducks and chicks. Christmas time we also hatched goslings and sold the fully grown killed, dressed and plucked for the Michaelmas and Festive season.

Our garden was always cultivated summer and winter, fresh vegetables plentiful all through the year, also soft fruit - blackcurrants, gooseberries, rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries. The orchard produced plenty of apples, pears, plums and damsons. In the autumn enough potatoes and apples were spread out in a loft to last us through the winter months. Any excess produce my mother would take to the Newport Provision Market by bus to sell - in season that also included baskets of blackberries and field mushrooms.

Bath night was a tin bath in front of a large log fire. No electricity only oil lamps, and torches. Our water supply was rain - water which ran off the house roof into a large tank. There was a road-side water tap about one mile away but unfortunately our only transport was one bicycle which we shared between three of us. The wireless was our evening entertainment which was run with an accumulator and had to be recharged and topped up with acid regularly.

Tarts, cakes, meat etc. were cooked in the oven of an old open coal fire range, and the vegetables in saucepans on the coal fire itself. A big bread oven and boiler took up practically half the kitchen, and stone paving slabs covered all the floors downstairs. Monday, washday, was hard for my mother. Weather permitting the washing was done outside with a rubbing board and large tin bath on a wooden bench - plenty of elbow grease was needed too. Dinner was always bubble and squeak (leftovers from Sunday lunch).

Today buses run here very infrequently because most of the villagers have their own transport. As a teenager buses were more plentiful and we could go to Newport to a cinema twice a week. On a Saturday evening we used to go to a dance at Dinham in Caerwent and return to Magor on a Special bus, afterwards enjoy a three mile walk home.

I consider myself to have been very fortunate to have lived and grown up in Redwick. I married and moved away for several years, but we still visited friends and relatives in the village often. My husband John also began to fall in love with Redwick and at the first opportunity we moved back to the house I was born in - The Old Village Store. My aunt, Mrs Beatrice Parker, was the owner of the shop and, on her death, it was sold and made a Grade II listed building. We were lucky enough to purchase the property and then proceeded in turning it into a lovely home. My husband really loved the short time he was privileged to live here, but never finished all he had plans to achieve.

I have always found from past experience that in times of trouble the villagers still rally round to help one another.

Redwick is still renowned for its many ghosts both old and new. The most famous possibly being 'Tom the Lord' but that is another story.

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