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15 October 2014
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In the Golden Valley: A Land Girl Remembers.icon for Recommended story

by Stockton Libraries

Contributed by 
Stockton Libraries
People in story: 
Mary Cooper also the Williams Family: Mr Dewi Williams ,his wife, two sons 14 & 2 his brother Bert and 'Auntie Liz '
Location of story: 
Herefordshire England
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 November 2004

I joined the Women’s Land Army in June1942. Women were shortly to be conscripted & I did not want to join the Forces mainly because I'd been influenced by the ideas of the Quakers & the beliefs of conscientious objectors. But I was keen to leave home, full of romantic ideas. The WLA seemed the perfect solution. And in many ways it was. I lived & worked for nearly two years with the Williams family at Upper House Farm Snodhill, Dorstone, Herefordshire - on the edge of the Golden Valley & the Black mountains looking westwards towards the beautiful valleys and dingles of the welsh border country.

It was a rough, remote place, no running water, except for one cold erratic tap in the kitchen, oil lamps downstairs, candles upstairs, no bathroom, a basin on the washstand & a pot under the bed. If I hadn't been used to the deprivations of country living way back home in rural Warwickshire I would never have stuck it! But there were compensations. Many of them. The quietness - no air raid warnings , no air raids, no evacuees even, no other land girls for miles around - only the soldiers & airmen from Herefordshire's surrounding bases- who livened up the nearest Saturday night village hops in Peterchuch no end! I suppose there must have been the black out- but I can't remember it. There were no street lights of course - not eastwards between Snodhill & Hereford, nor westwards between Dorstone & Welsh Hay.

But Mrs Williams knew umpteen wonderful ways to cook the rabbits that Bert shot in the fields. Her cooking was a real bonus because I was always hungry. No one had cars or telephones - no one that I knew anyway & petrol was rationed even for farmers. So I walked or cycled the three miles to Peterchurch for a Saturday night out after the evening milking was finished. It was the highlight of my week & I always hoped I'd have someone to walk me home. The back door would still be open when I got back & I'd creep upstairs with my candle.’ How did you get on last night?' Bert would ask me as we sat on our wooden stools milking Jess or Bluker or one of the other cows whose names I have forgotten...

Brother Bert was keeping the farm going - until the sons were older. The boss, Dewi Williams, was an invalid. I never saw him out of bed. It was a small family farm around 90 acres - with 12- 15 milking cows at most. In the autumn when the milk was short we couldn't have any milk in the house. It all had to go into the churn, dragged up the lane to catch Cadbury's milk lorry. Looking back the Williams must have been a poorish family desperate for the regular cash from the Milk Marketing Board & wartime subsidies for the meagre corn crops.

A visit to Hereford market on a Wednesday was a rare treat for any of the family. It only happened when there was a bull calf to sell. Neighbours & relations from their farms near by would visit but only occasionally. When it came round to threshing or sheep shearing time labour was exchanged - just as good pieces of pig meat were passed around when it was your turn to kill the pig.

I was the one sent to pay back borrowed labour. The muscles in my arms and hands & legs had grown apace. I could do every job on the farm bar one. That was tractor driving. Tractors were the new toys and strictly for the boys! That didn't worry me over much. Once I'd learned how to harness Libby, the mare & how to back her & fix the gear to the shafts I was happy enough. The Golden Valley was a good place to remember, even today at 80. And I think of it often.

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