A Ditchling Winter's Tale - Ice Skating

With the snow came ice and it was not uncommon for Ditchling pond and dew ponds on the Beacon to freeze over.  Skating was a welcome distraction for the children, though perhaps enjoyed by some more than others who were not as proficient as they would have liked to be at this particular winter past time.

Cecil Evans (1914 - 2009) described,

“They all sat on the bank and watched my antics trying to get back.  I think I cracked the ice two or three times.  There always used to be very, very thin ice under the old oak tree, under the oak tree at Ditchling, always very thin ice there, there used to be a spring there I think.”

And Jill Holmes (1935 - 2010) adds:

“Well, I can remember if there were a lot in the middle you could hear the ice cracking couldn’t you, and we’d scamper to the side.” 

Frank Goddard (1912 - 2002) tells this tale:

“I must have been about eight actually, it was a very bitter winter and the pond had frozen well over, solid.  And the bigger boys were going skating on it … we went round there and George Pratt, Wally’s brother and a couple of older cousins of mine and one or two other of the boys coaxed me to test the pond out, to test the ice out.  I don’t know whether I walked out or whether I slid out or skated out or what happened but I went out and I went through it.  Luckily for me … some farm hands were in the cow sheds working the farm yard and heard the kids screaming … and with the help of a ladder and that managed to rake me out.  Somebody sent for my mother.  I remember mother coming up grabbing me, pulling me out and taking me home plonking my feet in a bowl of hot water, an old bath of water, and sitting me by the side of the kitchen range to get warm….  and afterwards I was plonked in a hot bath.”