Page 16 of 19
A Walk Through Hilton in the 1930s, continued
There was a large pond in the middle of the meadow and in the summer, if not at school or working, I and some of my mates would go fishing for newts. All we used was a stick, a piece of thin string and a bent pin with worms for bait. We never hooked the newts but when they grabbed the worm they would never let go. You could pull them out and shake them and they still hung on. We usually lost the worm to the newt and some of them were crested newts which are now rare and a protected species. The water in the pond was very clear and if it was a hot day we would strip off and have a swim.
We were not allowed to work on the farm until we were eleven years old and for a couple of years prior to this we would spend a lot of days during our school holidays exploring the fields and woods. Our favourite haunt was the land between Hilton and Connington. One field of about 15 acres was full of hawthorn bushes and was kept this way as cover for foxes. Several rides had been left through the bushes and the huntsmen would wait in theses rides while the hounds tried to flush out a fox for them to chase.
During the autumn and winter, huge flocks of starlings would congregate in the tops of the large trees on the village green. Here they would chatter for about fifteen minutes, then, as if given a signal, they would all take off and fly to the field of hawthorn bushes to roost. At the end of the winter the ground below the bushes would be white with their droppings.
On each side of the bush field were two large grass fields, the land was very impoverished so the grass was only a few inches high. The field nearest to Hilton was called the Rough Field and the one nearest to Connington was called Red Hill. There were lots of rabbit burrows and the soil that had been scratched out was rust colours. The land here is quite a few feet higher than the surrounding land and on a really clear day and good eyesight looking north-east you can see Ely Cathedral.
I recall sitting by the hedge watching a family of foxes playing in the Red Hill field. Bordering the field on the Connington side, was a small wood and two derelict cottages well worth us exploring! There was also the remains of an old orchard and some of the old trees still yielded a few apples of which a few found their way into our pockets. (Two of my mates were once caught red handed scrumping in an orchard by the owner who had tree dogs with him. He tied the dogs to the trunk and left them there for three hours, leaving my mates stranded in the tree. When he eventually returned he just collected his dogs and never said a word
Beyond the orchard was a small wood which was carpeted with Bluebells in the spring. Before you reached Connington from Hilton, there was a large grass field which was used as a landing strip for a local flying club. Most of the planes were Tiger Moths.
In the late nineteen twenties and early nineteen thirties, the vicar of Hilton was also the vicar of Papworth St Agnes. He was a very forgetful man and on several occasions, after he had taken a lesson on religion (it was a C of E school) he would forget where he had left his cycle. Several times some of us boys would be sent out to find it!