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Monday 12th May 2008, a beautiful, hot sunny day. Just right for a good walk in the countryside of Leicestershire. Why not? Armed with walking sticks, knee supports and trusses, three old Dixie stalwarts of yesteryear, all born and bred in Newbold Verdon, set out, with some trepidation to retrace those fields and footpaths where they had enjoyed the earlier years of their lives.

Picture the scene, at 10.30 a. m., outside Kingdom Hall, at the top of Mill Lane in Newbold. Cry your hearts out, you aficionados of “The Last of the Summer Wine”!

It all began at The Cock Inn, Sibson, on Tuesday 22nd April, venue for the 1943/44/45 Dixie intake biennial “Nosh”, when some thirty or so ex-pupils, wives and husbands got together for a very convivial meal aided by the odd tipple, which becomes such an enjoyable occasion.  “Do you fancy a trip down memory lane”? said Brian, “John is interested, how about you? Five miles? We’ll plan a route”. Decision made. Date to be fixed. Hope for good weather.

It had to be Newbold Verdon, where each of us first saw the light of day. The village has changed enormously from those early days and since none of us now live there, we all had to make our way there by car. So, punctual as always (inspired by Mr. Gosling!), we all turned up dressed for the occasion, trying to regain the vitality of youth.

I have to list by age, seniors first: John Poole, ex Newbold Heath, now of Leicester Forest East, married to Janet Shaw of Newbold; Brian Hill (Chubby), now a retired Baptist Minister living in Earl Shilton and married to Christine Causon, also of Newbold; and then the youngest (by far!), Norman Gilliver, a retired nobody, married to Evelyn Hodgkinson, formerly of Bilstone, now living in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire.

What a lot of ground we had to cover, physically, on foot, and mentally, each of us still blessed with excellent memories, recalling times gone by.

Events of all descriptions, old colleagues and characters, members of staff, sporting and cultural events at the School, military service, families we all knew, the list is endless.  

So we set of down Harry’s Lane, right along the Black Pad, past what was once the site of Grandad’s allotment (everyone had one during the war years); down the Mansfoot to Fisher’s Brook (minnows, sticklebacks, watercress, owl’s nests in the old broken willow, crab-apples, hazel nuts, mushrooms); over the brook by the bridge that Brian helped to build when he was on the Parish Council. Past Eggses (?) where Derek Statham’s (Sto) dad had a smallholding. (The old lavatory pans used to be emptied in those fields!) How those stiles are becoming harder to climb. Please find us a few gates!

Ah yes! Here we are heading to the Foxcovert, and the path leads into Merrylees Road, with a good view across to Desford church. Turn left along the road to Newbold Heath, past “Big Bill’s” old shack, which ain’t there no more! Ditto the Hook, John’s birthplace.

The entrance on the left is to Halifax Farm, and then it’s onwards to the Chater Farm, home of the Bates family. It still is, and an old pupil, Brenda Loseby, is married to Roland. So we stopped for a chat and more reminiscences! Through the fields to the Hollow, which was excellent for sledging. (Remember that fantastic, snowed up winter of 1947? With hindsight a lot of hardship, but for us kids, maybe some fond memories). Through the gate to the Pingle, on the left, then up Stoney Hill and back to Harry’s Lane and the cars.

What a memorable walk (and we’re still no older than sixteen!). We all lasted the trek, in spite of Brian’s offer of a free funeral should any of us succumb.

To wind up the occasion we then drove to the Blue Bell at Desford, met up again with Evelyn and sat down to a very satisfying meal and a welcome pint of Everards.

So there you have it. Yet another memory implanted among so many along life’s way.Looking at the photo  you have to admit that we don’t look too worse for wear.

If any of you, whatever your ages, can manage such a renewal of old friendships, do have a go. You’ll enjoy it!

Norman Gilliver (le Bourgeois Gentilhomme)   21st July 2008.

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