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Knottingley and Ferrybridge Memories

QUARRIES AND BIKES

STEVEN WOOD

I had just made a hair raising descent of Fremlington Edge in Swaledale and now I was ascending to the lovely named village of Booze. Beyond the village should be the next checkpoint. I was competing in The Swaledale Trailquest (Orienteering on a mountain bike). the hill was long and the legs were tired, it was time to change to lower gear. A press of the gear change tells me I am already in my lowest gear and so there is nothing else for it but to keep spinning the pedals as fast as I can. While suffering up this hill at a snail’s pace, I started thinking what possesses me to enter these events but even though I am suffering at the minute I know that the overall enjoyment will far outway the suffering.

I got into mountain bike orienteering because I had enjoyed foot orienteering from the early 1980’s but I think the real reason for my love of cycling, orienteering, and a general love of the outdoors, stems from my formative years growing up in Knottingley.

I was born in the front bedroom of 5 West View Knottingley (now 87 Womersley Road). I had an older brother Jack who was 14 when I arrived on the scene. I think my arrival was a bit of a shock to mum & dad.

From our back bedroom window you could see for miles. The housing estate at Downland Crescent hadn't been built at that time and I remember watching the flashes from the welders as they worked on the construction of Kellingley Pit. There was a quarry at the bottom of the garden in which hens were kept, and you could see the sand quarry between Broomhill and Scholeys farm. The only downside to having an open aspect at the back of the house was that when the wind was in the right direction there was no stopping the smell from the 'Kimics', as dad used to call the Chemical Works.

One of the earliest memories I have of the outdoors is going to the swimming quarry with my dad (Joe) and my brother Jack. This quarry must now be a High School playing field. I remember Jack searching for a rose stick to make me a bow with and dad telling me the water was very deep. I don’t remember swimmers in there but I think it was popular at the time.

As I got older the local quarries played a big part in my life and I would be in them all day generally having a good time.  We would catch askards (Newts) which were plentiful in those days. There were plain green ones and the great crested ones which were easy to see through the clear limestone waters. It was while catching newts one day that I was taken hostage and tied up by 2 older lads. They must have held us captive for a long time as my dad came looking for us, I remember him scaring them off and being impressed by how far he was able to throw a brick after them.

In the wintertime, the ponds would freeze over - the ice being thick enough to walk on with caution. I remember two lads from Broomhill losing their life’s after falling through the ice, and this brought home how foolish we were.

We had a dog named “Sandy” who was a Labrador/terrier cross. He wasn’t very keen on water so one day while out walking with him I decided to introduce him to the water, I had to take him by surprise so as we were walking alongside a pond I took the opportunity of shoving him in, but he was quicker than me and ducked out of the way at which point I went hurtling headfirst into an algae covered pond complete with airgun in hand, I had to walk home covered in green slime, so if anybody tells you a tale of slimy green ET spotted in Knottingley in the 1960’s it could easily have been me. I got my own back on Sandy by putting him on a raft someone had built in the quarry near Englands Lane. I sent him out to the middle of the pond and set off home so that he had to swim to join me. ( yes it was cruel)

The quarry where the boys drowned was separated from the quarry nearest to our house by a long strip of untouched land known as the breasting.  I would climb this from all possible directions over the years. I think it was left standing to support telegraph poles. At the other side of the breasting the quarry was used as a tip at both sides.  We used to scavenge ball bearings & nuts which must have come from Pollards at Ferrybridge. These were lethal when used in a catapult. Catapults were made from carefully chosen sticks, bits of dads old braces and elastic available in 2 strengths from a shop on Aire Street, the name of which I forget. I think it was a cycle shop near the top of the street. If you could afford one you could get a readymade metal catapult complete with indent for your thumb!

The quarry with the tip at either side had a raised mound of earth on the flat bit between the tips which had been used as a firing range, we were told, so searching for spent bullets occupied some time. Later we would ride motorbikes over this mound and it was while landing after completing a jump on a motorbike on this mound that the handlebars slipped and I got identical cuts to each hand from the brake levers!

At the top of the tip Gypsies used to camp with their colourful covered wagons that were drawn by horses. You also used to get a lot down Common Lane. It was a great site to see a convoy of them pass our house. While camped at the top of the tip they had a horse funeral that went on for days.

As we got older catapults made way for Airguns. There was an older youth who frequented the quarry with a pump airgun and I remember being very impressed with the power and bolt action of his gun. We were using BSA Merlin and Airsporter guns which didn’t seem to match up to his.

We would walk up the railway line with the guns from near Englands Lane to what we called the second bridge, the gaps between the railway sleepers being a perfect strides length. At the Second Bridge was a small wood which could also be accessed from Womersley Road by a track over the railway. It was in this wood that trees were climbed and swings were constructed. Just before the turnoff for the lane was the old observation post, used to look out for enemy aircraft. Our next door neighbour, Charlie Eades, used to be an observer and when a plane was heard overhead he could be seen in the back garden with his binoculars. When the corn was in the adjacent field we would jump from the top of the building into the field. I remember it being quite an height .

Near the top of West View lived Mr Tunningley who used to recruit us as Beaters for the local farmers shoot. This entailed riding in the back of a Land Rover across farmland and then forming a line across the countryside and driving the birds towards the farmers guns. You had to jump ditches and wade through mud while getting showered with shot. At the end of the day you went home tired but happy. I loved it!

Today foot orienteering leaves me with the same satisfaction. I still jump ditches, wade through mud, and climb breasting - only the shot is missing. Today I have to pay to enter an event whereas we got paid to beat.

The first cycling adventure I remember was going on dads crossbar to the nut wood to gather nuts from the trees, this wood was about where Gail Common Ash Mound is today. Bicycles were the only mode of transport at our house. Dad used to go to work at Bagleys everyday on the bike and mum used to visit Grandma Andrews at Broomhill everyday by bike. Their journeys by bike up and down Womersley Road by them both must be in the thousands so it was appropriate that I learned to ride on this road, using mums heavy 3 speed hub bike.  Mums bike was used because there was no crossbar so I could stand up and ride.

The tips in the quarries mentioned above where the source of a frame and various bits for my first bike build,  put together with tips from dad and a little experimentation. I still remember that bike - it was sky blue with cow horn handlebars and a fixed rear wheel.

My first real bike, a Raleigh racer, was bought with money I earned from working on Scholey’s Farm in the big summer holidays. This involved stacking bails in the fields and then loading them onto a trailer and taking them to the farm where they were unloaded onto a haystack. It was hard work for young lads but we got to drive the tractors which was a bonus. The bales were loaded onto the trailer with a pitch fork and if they were wet it took two of you with pitch forks to load one bail. I remember one of the older farm hands shouting to me “come sithy here and yuk it up” meaning “give me hand to lift this bale

We had a red van that used to come round selling groceries. It was owned by the Lancaster's who lived a few doors down from us. I used to play with Keith and Tony Lancaster and my first proper bike ride was to relations of theirs at Grimethorpe. It seemed a long way in those days. I rode that bike for many a mile and there has not been many occasions since when I have not owned a bike.

In writing this article I hope I have rekindled some memories of outdoor Knottingley for some people. I acknowledge the people below who played some part in my outdoor Knottingley life. In no particular order: Peter Martin, Gordon Martin, Keith Lancaster, Tony Lancaster, Granville Bottomley, Graham Weston, Tony Sackowitz, Frank (Yanky) Barnaby and all his England Lane mates, Alan Williamson, Terry Tunningley, Stephen Dickinson, Yak (don’t know his proper name) and all the people on Scholey and Gills farm, Mr Tunningley.  If I have missed anybody, sorry.

I have been researching my family tree and found a lovely story about my great-grandmother on the Knottingley website and it got me thinking of how little we know of our ancestors past so I hope my great grandchildren read this and if they get up Fremlington Edge on their Hoverboards, I hope they think, ”how the **** did great-granddad get up here on his bike. It must have been his Knotla upbringing".

STEVE WOOD

PS. I couldn’t find Askards on Google, does anybody else remember calling Newts Askards?



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