I’ve had a great email from reader Stuart Cowley, about growing up and spending summers helping his family out at the cafe in Chasewater in the 1960s. It’s a really touching, well-written piece. I remember the Chasewater of the 70s, when it was running down, but at it’s height it seems to have been a real leisure attraction.
This is a great piece, full of memory – and I know readers love it. If you have anything to add, please do comment or mail me BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.
I thank Stuart for this time and effort. I’m sure it’ll bring memories flooding back for folks far and wide.
The images in this article are available to purchase from Francis Frith.
As a young child in Chasetown, growing up in the 60s the one time of the year that I would always look forward to was the Easter bank holiday weekend because this was the time that come rain or shine, the cafe at Chasewater’s south shore used to officially open, along with the rest of the activities.
From about the age of 5, every weekend and the odd day in the school holidays I would walk along the dam wall with my mother Dorothy and sometimes my older sister Angela who both used to work in the main cafe and nearby ice cream kiosks.
The place used to be a hive of activity with about a dozen staff , including my Nan, with two main rooms and also a sun terrace overlooking an ornamental pond complete with fountain at the rear just before the pitch and put. The caretaker’s bungalow (Mr & Mrs Adcock) was attached to the cafe just by where you used to enter the main gate. The buildings are still there with windows blanked out, part of the rangers storage facility now.
Throughout the summer it was like being on constant holiday over there, the kids paddling pool, the park, boating lake, resident fun fair (complete with big dipper), go-karts, speed boats, ski boats, there was always something to do and explore but if ever I got bored I would go and help out in the cafe, taking out supplies to the kiosks to satisfy the lines of customers waiting for ice cream. One of my jobs was putting the wafers on the blocks of ice cream, another would be to restock the crisps (the ones with the blue bag inside). I would sometimes clear the tables and tidy up the room and at age 8, this was the first pay packet that I picked up, a pay bag containing a pound in threepenny bits from a very grateful Mrs Adcock.
When the park was very busy my dad Charley would help collect the entrance fees on the main gate, welcome relief from his normal work as a miner at Cannock Wood. At times, coach loads of people would visit, that was another job of mine, to run to the cafe and warn them of a coach arrival meaning that they would have to fill the tea urn again and put on more salmon and cucumber sandwiches! My Nan would sometimes have to go and open up a second cafe at times used on the road down by the kart track, coaches were often turned away because the car parks were full.
A typical scene on a sunny day would be the busy noisy fun fair, people sat on the sun terraces that circled the boating lake, the paddling pool full of kids splashing and screaming, every item on the park loaded with kids with the monkey puzzle climbing frame (now on the island by the entrance) taking prominent place on its own grass mound , people strolling along the wooden jetty that led to the lighthouse, a brass band playing on the neatly paved area that led to the park and paddling pool, and then the lake itself glistening in the sun with the rhythmic sounds of the speed boats fading in and out competing with the sound of intermittent announcements of lost children from the tannoy on the main gate .
This was how my summers were filled up until the age of about 10, resulting in a lifetime of happy memories… and I don’t ever remember it raining once!
Other Chasewater memories (since the early 60s):
- The spectacle of the 24 hour boat race and firework display
- The wildlife on the lake first thing in the morning.
- The beauty of the winter sunsets
- Local history lessons from my dad, every time we walked across the wall
- Fishing for sticklebacks in the canal with my dad
- Playing tracking at the back of the parsons [Bob: I have no idea what this is, can anyone enlighten me please?]
- Waving my Union jack at Prince Phillip when he visited by helicopter
- Riding bikes over the seven hills on the north shore
- Sense of achievement on circumnavigating the lake for the first time
- Watching the colliery steam trains on the north shore from Cookie’s hut by the end of the dam
- The armed forces practising mass parachuting in to the lake
- Local boat builders Fletchers testing boats for the film ‘Live and let die’
- Walking one Christmas day to my aunties at Watling Street seeing skaters on the lake
- Being too small to see over the dam wall
- Lake being so choppy that the water lapped over the top of the wall.
- Skimming stones on the surface at north shore
- Throwing stones across the ice
- Walking with our dog ‘Bob’ a border collie, throwing sticks for him on the north shore with dad watching from the start of the dam
- Walking with my girlfriend (now wife) every Sunday along the wall
- My children playing on the north shore watched by me and my dad from the dam wall
- Visiting the lake to look back on memories following the loss of my mom and later my dad