scan0081The Fir Trees Pub, Hermon Hill, circa 1930s (now the Ark Fish Restaurant)

The latest novel by Peter Chegwidden is a tale of love and tragedy which draws on memories of growing up in Wanstead and South Woodford in the 1950s and 1960s. Here, the author shares some of those memories

Ah, memories. And childhood memories, often the best. I was born in Wanstead in 1949, living in Chestnut Drive before moving in infancy to Malford Grove in South Woodford. I started my education at Churchfields (Mr Williams was the Head) and after a day’s schooling, there was nothing better than a visit to Downey’s for sweets on the way home!

Dad made us a wooden toboggan for use when the Hollow Ponds were frozen and the land covered by snow – our sledge went much faster than the bought ones. Us means me and my beloved sister Kathleen, who later attended Gowan Lea. Both sister and school are now sadly long gone. 

Ah, memories. The cows from the nearby forest wandering up Malford Grove to graze uninvited in our front garden! Going shopping with Mum at the Home and Colonial Stores near South Woodford station. Hearing the eerie sound of the air-raid siren being tested at Gates Corner every morning. The council thinking it was a good idea to give Malford Grove pink concrete verges. Aargh! Standing on Pulteney Road bridge, watching the trains go by, occasionally seeing a shunting engine working in the coal yards there. Mum and Dad taking us to the Plaza cinema on George Lane to see a comedy film. Dad taking us to the green in front of The Drive to throw sticks at the trees in the hope of bringing some conkers down. Mum taking us on the 101 from Wanstead, past the park and across the Flats to feed the swans near the City of London Cemetery. Or letting us play on the swings in the park surrounding Christ Church. Even to a small child, it gave a village feel to Wanstead. 

Dear memories. For his business, Dad had several lock-up garages at De Gruchy’s (I think it was) on New Wanstead, a large complex I found fascinating. There was my first girlfriend, Nola, who took my illustrated love letters to school where the teacher held them up for the class to see. Blush. We were both 10. It didn’t last. Later, I went to school in Loughton, often travelling on the Green Line 720 coaches. 

Cherished memories. For worship Sunday morning, it was communion wine at Holy Trinity on Hermon Hill, then over the road to the Fir Trees for beer! The then vicar, Father Angwin, joined us there once. And I was now out of my teens. But there had been a ‘guiding star’ for my future in my childhood.

Near Snaresbrook Station was a road sign to ‘Maidstone A20’ (no doubt via the Woolwich ferry), and at 23, that was where I moved when my firm relocated. And I’ve been in Kent ever since. But my memories of Wanstead and South Woodford have never left.

Peter’s novel, The Valour of the Heart, is available from Amazon (Kindle: £2.99; paperback: £6.99). Visit wnstd.com/valour