A CHILDS LIFE IN BELTON
Well where do I start, having moved to Belton in 1971 – the village at that time wasn’t that big it still had the remnants of the railway line and station, only 3 shops Carvers, Berry’s and Greenacres Butchers, two pubs The Kings Head and The Railway Tavern, Post Office on Station Road South and the newspapers were delivered from Kemp’s garage on St. Johns Rd. the doctor visited fortnightly from Gorleston and held surgery in the Institute in what is now the kitchen area.
The village then was nearly all cornfields and greenhouses which were the remains of it’s market garden heydays.
Summer holidays consisted of various activities within the local area bearing in mind there was very little traffic about in village apart from the holidaymakers (peelies as we called them as their nose was always the first to peel!).
I will try to cover each activity in detail starting with crab fishing – down the river for two or three of us, we used to get the equipment required for a day out consisting of a bucket, about 8 feet of string with a safety pin at one end, bacon scraps and of course our food!!
We used to walk down to the river via Marsh Lane which was situated next to Jack Hall’s place (more on Jack later) once we had crossed the stile and covered the ½ mile across the marshes we arrived at the River Waveney we lowered the bucket in and half filled it this would hold the crabs once caught.
We then proceeded to bait up, a large piece of bacon or fat was secured to the safety pin, the line was lowered into the river and once the crabs started tugging at the bait you gently hauled it in, hopefully you had scored with one or two crabs which were deposited into your bucket, you then carried on to see who could catch the most during the day, the only problem we had was cruisers passing by that created a wake that knocked your crabs off.
If you didn’t fancy crabbing you could always go swimming at Sunfields Caravan Park especially during the summer of ’76 which was rather hot, I remember having grabbed your swimming gear and pedalled to the camp office and paid for your ticket you could proceed through the gate having negotiated your way through all the dumped bikes outside. The pool was outdoors and unheated with the most basic of amenities you even had to go to the camp shop for your ice creams, usually sending one person to get everyone’s!
We used to spend a lot of time at Burgh Castle Roman Fort as well – having biked or walked down the river’s edge past Burgh Marina and the old brickworks to this historic place – what a kids playground especially in the wooded area where there were rope swings and slides down the steep fort sides,there were no health and safety signs or fencing it was just open to anyone that fancied a climb, slide or a swing, although we had been on school visits it was not quite the same as sliding on your backside down a 60 degree incline and trying to climb back up!.
If you didn’t fancy any of that you could walk for miles exploring the old railway line and common, talking of railway lines and such the old railway station was a great place to play on the platforms and inside the main building, situated outside was an old engine shed where we once found a load of fairground horses and aircraft wheels, looking back now the latter could have come off the Belle of the East if only I knew then what I know now!
In the late 70’s they decided to build a new school that was called Breydon and within that was a Community Centre that was run by Jenny Carver who ran the canteen area, there was also a small bar area, but Friday was disco night this the highlight of the week with Paul Eldred spinning the 45’s with his light boxes shining across the dance floor, this where many a romance was struck up!, during the holiday’s Jenny used to open up during the day for us to play pool, darts and generally hang out with each other.
I was one of the founding members of the pack, myself, Andrew Clarke and David Leonard were members of the Hathor Pack at Bradwell, but we heard that Diane and Ray Smith had formed 1stBelton Cubs so we transferred across and twice a week we assembled in the village Institute for Grand Howl, Diane was Akela and Ray was Baloo, from that beginning the Scouts were also formed for you to move on to as you got a little older. (My parents still have my cub uniform!)
The annual bonfire which was attended by most of the village was situated on waste land between Waveney School and The Church before Breydon School was built, the construction normally started in late September, I think the village council members were in charge of it (or was it the PCC – editor)and it started with a corridor built from wood pallets for the ignition and things were then added by the general public I can remember climbing on it like a huge climbing frame, almost anything went on it from hedge trimmings to household goods, one year I can remember a fridge flying out of the fire during the evenings events luckily no one was hurt, the evening was concluded with the fireworks display and the fire was so intense it would still be burning the next morning.
These took place at the grounds of Belton Rectory with permission from Rev Leslie Ward, (who by the way christened me in Gt. Yarmouth) we finished early from school to attend, these events were well supported with stalls from cubs/scouts,W.I., church, school and many other organisations that wanted to raise money, these events were opened by celebrities that were appearing in Gt Yarmouth for the summer season, I can remember the likes of Bob Monkhouse, Rod Hull and Emu, Roy Hudd and Frank Carson attending.
We also had events on the Bell Lane playing field with the loan of a 40ft trailer from Ronnie Hudson where various acts took parts and the same organisations listed above took part.
Jack Hall – This gentleman lived on Station Road North on the corner of Marsh Lane, he owned a rickety old shed full of old tools and bike bits that became the local haunt of many a boy who had a cycle, Jack would do anything to your bike from punctures to fitting of chopper handlebars and banana seats – this probably led to many a boy going into engineering.
Arthur the Postman – Arthur was the local postie who rode his bike round our housing estate, quite a tall chap with white hair and glasses, when the GPO deemed it necessary to place a Telephone box some 20 feet from our house, Arthur would be seen cleaning it out everyday whilst doing his mail delivery, even when Arthur retired he could still be seen cleaning out the phone box. He used to live in a house opposite Carvers Village store (now a private bungalow also on Station Road north), it wasn’t till after his death that it was found that he was a Coldstream Guard during WWII.
Tom Doddington – The School Caretaker, Tom and his wife lived in the caretakers bungalow outside Waveney School and it was his school he cleaned, scrubbed and scraped snow away to ensure that everyone could get into lessons, his pet hate was muddy foot prints when it rained, he was armed with his blue mop bucket and mop ready for action, shouting at anyone that didn’t wipe their feet before entering the school.