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A Memory from the 1950’s
As a young girl in the 1950s I used to come to Gorran Haven regularly on summer holidays with my family (my parents, two sisters and brother). Sometimes we were joined by my grandparents from Sheffield or my uncle from London. Granny never saw the magic that we saw in Gorran – she missed the city life and thought we were a bit mad to keep coming to Gorran. But Grandad liked it, even if he never had a pair of “swimming trunks” in his life and couldn’t swim. His idea of being at the seaside was to sit in a deck chair admiring the view or to pace anxiously along the water’s edge as we swam, calling to me not to go so far out. As for us, we loved it.
Dad and Mum would start talking about getting booked in January for our holidays in July. It was by chance, in the Manchester Guardian, that they first came across a small advertisement. The price was just in reach and the place seemed so exotic, so removed from our everyday world in Bedfordshire. We used to drive from Luton, a drive that in those days used to take about 13 hours. My older sister used to get quite car sick, but even with the not infrequent needs for a sudden stop for her, all of us used to get so excited as we got near to Gorran Church. We knew that Gorran Haven was almost in sight (as I recall all the three old sign posts at each corner on the way down declared that it was 3/4 mile), then on to Foxghole Lane and up to Lamledra which would be our home for two weeks. In those days, we thought of Gorran Haven as our secret holiday place: we thought the beaches were positively crowded if there were 4 families on them! As soon as we had unpacked, we would make it a point to go into Mr Tubb’s to make sure everything remained the same from last time, then to Cakebread’s and – am I really right with the name? – Snowball’s, then to check on the wonderful beaches, the rock pools, the caves, the headlands.
In those days we would collect our daily newspaper from the little shop everyday, but because the paper was sent from Manchester, it was always one day behind publication date, but that was part of the charm in being in Gorran. While the beaches were the focus for myself, my brother and younger sister, the coffee bar was a real thrill for my older sister who thought it very classy, frequented occasionally by a young beatnik artist from Newton Abbott with the last name of Oliver. On days when we were bringing a picnic to the second beach (our preferred beach), we would drive down the narrow lane and park on the Lime Kiln car park,then, laden with deck chairs, beach towels, picnic baskets, and swimming costumes we would clamber over the headland, knowing that as the tide came in we would have to finish our day by climbing up the steps at the back of the beach with all our gear to get back up. Would I be right in remembering Dad counting that there are 147 steps? I know it was a lot. Our days were spent swimming, playing cricket, rock pooling, picnicking, treating each other to afternoon ice creams, playing catch, walking to Dodman Point and occasionally meeting up with a family from Bristol whose visits seemed to coincide with ours several years in so cession. As the strongest swimmer in the family, I was allowed to swim across the two bays to the quay; I enjoyed the taste of the salt water, the experience of the waves, the pull of the water – by comparison, the only option Luton offered was doing many laps in a chlorinated swimming pool.
I live in Canada now, but still look with great fondness not just at my old black and white Brownie camera photographs of Gorran in the mid-late 1950s, but also at my little brown leather purse engraved in gold with a picksie and the name, “Gorran Haven” that used to hold my half-crowns,shillings, sixpences, threepenny bits, pennies and half pennies for ice cream treats, fishing nets and I Spy books. I bought that in 1957 as my souvenir of Gorran Haven. It has travelled the world with me!