(John Wales speaking about Earith skating while standing at Bridge End.)
Bobby Dring, Grandad Dring, I told you about Granny Dring skating didn’t I?
Her family were related to the Browns who kept the Houghton Mill, they were corn merchants.
So this lady – she was a school teacher, died when she was 90, she was very friendly with my mother and she was telling me one day, her father said;
Skating from Earith to St Ives
“Come on, get your skates on we will skate over to see Uncle so and so at Houghton (skating all the way on the river).” The river was frozen and they could do in those days.
So they skated all the way from here (Earith) and got to St Ives and up to Houghton Mill, and it wasn’t until 4 o’clock in the afternoon, father said “l think it’s about time we started going home.”
Imagine, to walk from Houghton in the winter time and she said we skated and skated and got as far as Bluntisham and the ice was just beginning to break up and father said we might suddenly drop through.
So we came off at Bluntisham and walked home.
They lived by the (Earith) bridge there in one of those houses.
Skating from Earith to Ely
Can remember Father saying they used to put their skates on, him and Ephraim Seamark, – who was another Thatcher who lived just down in the village, – and was a very good skater and they’d skate to Ely – 12 miles from here roughly.
And then they’d skate back for dinner, wouldn’t take their skates off and they’d skate up ‘Riverview’s’ garden into the house, have their dinner out again and skate up to St Ives in the afternoon.
Skating on the river
I saw Richard one day and he said, “Come on, surely we can go and skate on the river (Great Ouse) just to say that we have done it.”
So that’s what we did.
It was a very sharp one, the pipes under the ground froze.
My mother-In-law lived In St Ives and they couldn’t get any water cos Needingworth Road all the pipes froze.
When we were kids we nearly always skated, but now once every 5 years, 8 years or something like that.
(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)
See the next article:  John (Jack) Wales: Earith evocative walk; Discipline and gardens
Or look at the first article in this series:  John (Jack) Wales: Earith early years, born 1925