Childhood memories of Fishpond Wood

by Andrea Ives, nee Turner

Fishpond Wood was one of Nidderdale’s earliest tourist attractions. John Yorke, in the 18th century, first set out to fashion a picturesque wood and by the time his nephew, also John, inherited the wood, and the railway came, it was an important feature of the tourist map. Unfortunately the Yorke family lost their estates after the First World War, and Fishpond Wood was only open to the public on designated footpaths.

My brother, Mike Turner, and I were unaware of the restrictions when, in the late forties and early fifties, we lived in Ravensgill House. Just after the War, the Turner family had moved from Lincolnshire to Pateley Bridge, when our father Joseph Turner took up a teaching post at Bewerley Park Camp School. We lived for a year in Bewerley Grange, then moved to Ravensgill House, in Middle Tongue, along Peat Lane. For Doris Turner, Joe’s wife, it must have been very lonely, but for my brother and me it was an idyllic place to live. In 1947 brother Mike was four years old and I, Andrea, was four and a half years older. We played wild in Ravensgill, White Wood and Fishpond Wood, developing a love of the living world which has stayed with us all our lives. We say that it was rather like Swallows and Amazons on land; we had such adventures (mostly in our imaginations!) and experiences in this blessed area that we considered to be our own playground.

Mike remembers one adventure above Ravensgill, when we came upon a family of young badgers as we chased blue butterflies on our way to Heatherview Cottage to see Miss Dean and Mrs Sawney (anyone remember them?) He says that he still has a broken little finger from a badger bite, but blames me for the idea of trying to take a badger cub home, whereas I think it was his own idea. I remember him commenting on the coarseness of the hair.

Mike’s first memory, is probably of White Wood, rather than Fishpond Wood.

One year the family kept some pigs: Dominic was spotty, Rufus was red and Mary was a girl. We children were often asked to take the pigs into the wood so that they could forage for beech nuts and acorns, but once Dad and Mike did the job together as Mike remembers:
‘Dad was in his Sunday super scruffs, unshaven and hair all over the place, while I was VERY scruffy and in my usual shorts and jacket. There we were, running through the thickets of rhododendron, using the many passageways that were not obvious from the outside. As we burst through into what was a parking place, just off Peat Lane, we found a very posh family sitting down to enjoy a picnic on their large tartan rug. The peace of the countryside was shattered as scruffy Dad was the first through, shouting “Pig, Pig, Pig”. The family assumed that they had come across one of the local village idiots and carried on with their picnic. Unfortunately he was followed by an equally scruffy unwashed son, also shouting, “Pig, Pig, Pig”, but again the decision was made to ignore these strange people in the hope that they would go away. They finally gave in when the three pigs burst through the apparently impenetrable rhododendrons, seemingly intent on sharing their lovely picnic – well, to be fair, there was no intention on the part of the pigs to share, but boy, did the pigs enjoy the picnic! My final impression was of a very frightened large posh family picking up what they could, jumping into their large, posh saloon car and beating a hasty retreat before the Natives got them’.

Mike and I had fun in the rhododendrons which encircled the fish pond, often making cave-like dens under the large yew trees that were there all those years ago. We would go to the pond early in the morning to see and hear the wood waking up and seeing the moorhens on the water, then staying to catch taddies. I remember one evening, following some herons to the far end of the pond, that we noticed out of the corners of our eyes, that the earth seems to be moving. It was a migration of tiny froglets which covered the path and seethed and writhed as we watched spellbound.

Mike takes up the story again:
‘Another memory of Fishpond Wood was that when my sister Andy, and her husband Brian Ives, were with the RAF teaching in Libya, I recorded the evening and morning choruses for her. There were nightingales, chiffchaffs and many warblers in those lovely woods and I wanted to make her homesick by sending these beautiful sounds on an early tape recorder.’

We had such a wonderful five years, just at the formative time of our lives, but the family moved to the School House when, in 1952, Dad became Headteacher of Pateley Bridge Secondary Modern School, in the building which is now St. Cuthbert’s School.

Mike and I both remember our years at Ravensgill House with the greatest affection and our parents must have loved the area, too, because they asked for their ashes to be scattered in Ravensgill, above the house.

Both Mike and I eventually moved away from Pateley Bridge; he has lived in Berkshire for many years, but I came back in 1976 with husband, Brian Ives, and two teenage sons.