Not Many Wise -

Faith and spirituality in a modern world

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[17] John (Jack) Wales: Cycling through localised Earith flooding

Two girls from John's family standing under an umbrella. Earith flooding.
Two girls from John’s family standing under an umbrella. Earith flooding.

As children we used to have a great time down there (Earith flooding: the Causeway) when the water was only about, say, a foot deep and the cars used to try and get through and they’d get stuck.

So in we’d go, the lads; “Give you a push?” and then get a sixpence or something like that.

The petrol ones, it used to splash up and short circuit them and then they’d stop.

Eastern County buses, they were diesel, they could still come through when it was about 2-3 ft water but once we knew the buses were stopped then everybody else stopped.

There was no way of getting across, only by the boat.

(The road got raised up in the 50’s to stop it flooding when they built the new bridge.)

When I farmed at Cottenham, we used to go there every day and used to take my father who was in his seventies and we’d come back and there’d be water across the road you see, so we used to leave the car on the Hermitage side and I’d got wellies on, so I used to hump my father on my back and if you walk to the right hand side the grass is a little bit higher where the posts are and I used to struggle through the water with him humped up on the top.

Earith flooding: the Causeway road flooded.
Earith flooding: the Causeway road flooded.

Then when it got too deep, and quite a few times we had to go round either by St Ives or Chatteris, and then we would cut out between Willingham and Rampton.

It was flooded there one day about 3 or 4 feet and we couldn’t get through that way either, so I don’t know what we did about milking the cows that day.

I used to bike to school at Huntingdon, we used to go through the Thicket at St Ives, a lovely walk, but If you kept to the main road you had to go up Houghton Hill and the wind would be blowing and was hard work.

So we would cut through there but when the waters were up, you can’t and we used to be able to half pedal, then there used to be, like a stile, across there (about half way along) and of course you had to get off your bike and the water came over your knees, lift your bike over the top.

And one day we got up to Houghton clock tower, that’s where it used to come out, just through there and back onto the main road.
But there was water all round there the clock tower- 2 or 3 feet I suppose – and we had to carry our bikes, put our bikes on our shoulders and cut off to right up Harry Anderson’s fields, walked up onto the top road that goes by the aerodrome and then when we got to school half an hour late.
There the blooming Prefects waiting at the bike shed, giving a hundred lines because you were late.
It was no good saying we couldn’t get through.

(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)

John (Jack) Wales

August 2012

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