Fine and cold. Said farewell to Margery, Uncle Jim and the Land Army Girl and left on my cycle, with great reluctance at 10.30. Oak Corner, past Gt Martins, Beenham Heath, Hawthorn Hill, The “Royal Forester” land very wet. Training planes about. Big searchlight camp. Turn left
Bath Road at
, across to Horsemoor Green, (United
Dairies horse here), the same road I took with Bob on our return from the Royal Windsor Show in 1939.
full of RAF, and planes roaring on an aerodrome nearby. Through large orchards, old trees, grass
sown, every other tree now being torn out by tractors. Met a muck cart with tandem. Langley
Shuding Green, Iver charming little village still. Extraordinary deep rural character of country, yet only 3 miles. Uxbridge.
Glorious house by the bridge over Colne, brick, c,1740, with magnificent iron railings and gate in front. Very narrow bridge, probably contemporary.
cows grazing, and so to Cowley. Over
streams and canal to Uxbridge – Huntsmoor Park Yewsley
Road and into Middlesex. A house destroyed, many windows broken, some
now being repaired, but no serious damage along here. So to Uxbridge. Signposts very bad, but what there were
indicated the delights far away – High Wycombe, .
Almost turned back. Decided not
to face Oxford
but to head for Bishops Stortford and to take train there. Went by Ickenham to Ruislip. Huge RAF camps and dumps, and thousands of
WAAFs. That air
reaching out into the country – public lavatories in a lane, stations, ARP
notices etc. London
Ruislip, ate sandwiches in a shelter. On at 2, towards Pinner and Stanmore. Huge houses, some Army, some RAF, schools, Hatch End. Crossed road from Wealdstone, where I met the phone girl from
years ago to walk to Grimsdyke.
St to Stanmore, remember coming here one night on way to Daven Soar’s, - walking over golf course.
11 miles. Hazy. Could hear faint distant explosions. North to Elstree, over high hill. Aldenham Reservoir on the left, shining in
afternoon sun. Next to Chipping Barnet,
only 4 miles on. Through Arkley across
few miles of Herts. Up and down hills, farmland, cows, autumn trees, to
Barnet. Saw the 18th cent.
houses which were bombed in 1940 and so excellently restored. London
Town very crowded. Bought battery and a rear lamp. Had tea at an Ex Dairy on
Finchley Rd at 4pm. Sun sinking below houses.
Through New Barnet to Cockfosters. Considerable damage by Cat Hill, houses down, some unroofed, many smashed windows. Glaziers and builders busy. Still hear explosions towards
Schoolchildren running home from school. Back into Middlesex and on to
, just on 5. Crowds of girls coming out of factories. Uncertain what to do. Moon rising.
Decided to make for Enfield Chelmsford, as I had
done once before, so down to Ponders End, across lea into Essex,
by King George Reservoir. AA guns mounted on
its edge, so to Chingford Green and the Forest. Cold, banks of mist. Felt no tiredness.
Broken windows common at Ponder's End. (By the Hunting Lodge). On through
Forest, weird, gloomy, wet, great craters by side of
road, moon glittering on water in them, like lunar landscape themselves. Thought I once heard sirens but no. Road to Epping seemed endless, but at last the
6 miles were done, and ran into wide street, London buses, etc. Very narrow escape – ran over nail, which
stuck in tyre yet did not penetrate. No
lights here. Turned off. Debated whether to head to Bishops Stortford (12 miles) or
Chelmsford (18 miles). Decided Chelmsford. Perhaps no trains at Bishops Stortford.
Saw 2 strange lights in sky, low down. Thought for a moment they were divers, but turned out to be lights on the North Weald masts. As got nearer, saw every mast lit. Aerodrome guide lights, but rest dark. Searchlight upright. RAF and WAAFs going to dance, walking and cycling.
To Chipping Ongar. Felt panic. Decided not Chelmsford, but to go to Dunmow. Turned north through Shelley and Fyfield. Silent nights, no traffic, nobody. Up through Rodings, in a moonlit landscape.
Went in the Merry Fiddler’s at Leaden Roding. No cider, had half pint beer. 5 labourers in bar, talking of war –“Many more men being trained no sign of end yet.”
“Hear that one last night?
“His son’s coming home? Lucky bugger.”
Stared curiously at me. Gave one evening paper. Felt absurdly embarrassed and guilty. Outside, elderly man in trouble with rear light. He was going to Sawbridgeworth, very worried.
Going through long street of High Roding as 9 news began. Very worried because so late, but stopped to eat slice of iced cake Margery had put in my bag and a sausage roll. Still no feeling of tiredness.
At last main road. Thought there was a lane opposite, but none, only wet track. Into Dunmow, shrieks of pig at bacon factory. Main road to Colchester – felt I was “home”. To Lt. Dunmow seemed very far. Moon now clouding over.
2 rockets fell loudly. Moon now very clouded, wind banking to SW.
A few street lamps, gas. Felt
homesick for Braintree . RAF men looking for Weathersfield. Coggeshall
seemed to come in no time. Drank at the
well ate another sandwich. At Broad Green went into one
of Edinburgh ’s
fields and sat on new threshed straw 10 mins, and finished food. Creepings and noises too much for me
though. Past Godbolts, over
railway. Prayed for no divers, as so
many fall near here. Warren
Turned down by station to Aldham, to
Halstead Rd. Rain beginning, but behind me. Across Fordham Heath, through
the Battery there, huge guns lights in tents,
down to New Mill, few yards of Colchester territory up to West Bergholt to Westwood,
rain very hard now, by Pitsbury Coach Road and so to Woodside. Could not get in. Legs wet, arms wet. Lay on sacks for perhaps half an hour. Rain worse and worse. Suddenly heard Mosquito going over, then 2
lights came on waving jerking. Thought
“Divers?” Could stand no more and
decided to go to ,
got there in time for breakfast. Walked
a mile. Find we have no guns up near the
Cross. Dawn. Saw a light here and there downstairs, as if
people stirring, but Dedham
in darkness. Moon going down. Went on to Joy’s at Lawford. Lay on straw wet through. Moon gone, daylight no come. Filthy, vile misery. At last a light in the kitchen. Knocked.
Joy not surprised. Dedham
Breakfast, but only 6.45! Got clothes dry. Felt a little tired. Must have done about 114 miles in about 20 hours.