Spotlight on some locals

It can take a long time to get to know everyone in a village – but let’s get you started…

Percy Walton

Some of you may remember me as the General Village Odd Job Man and Gardener as well as the Village Postman for 35 years. But most of you will be far too young to remember Percy Walton.

I was born Percy Edward Walton at 46 Main Road up by Slate Drift in 1923. Yes, I’m still going strong after 94 years but I now live in a lovely care home in Stamford. My father Albion and mother Charlotte already had two daughters, Florence and Gladys, when I appeared on the scene. My father was unsurprisingly a slater and had one very interesting job of note. He set sail with Arthur Osbourne, another slater, on the SS Teutonic from Liverpool to New York in 1905. They helped build the magnificent Westbury House in New York.

What an adventure that must have been. When they returned to the village a few years later they had enough money to build a pair of houses (where I was born) and then my father Albion married Charlotte from Edith Weston in 1909.

I was to live in Collyweston nearly all my life. I’m from a generation who did not voluntarily travel too far from their roots. I left the local school at 14 and my first job was to work for WH Smith Newsagent at Stamford Station. Having delivered one bag full to Burghley House and Barnack Road, I rushed back for another one and pedalled off to Tinwell and Ketton. I then worked as an errand boy for T&J Eyres. This was the original home delivery service but without computers. You collected the orders from the customers, filled the order and then delivered their groceries later.

I was 16 when World War Two began and I went to work as a tea boy at Wittering Aerodrome. I then progressed to storeman at the NAAFI. We had a close call one day when a bomb landed on the Officer’s Mess right next to the NAAFI grocery store. I moved to Westwood Aerodrome in Peterborough, followed by Chipping Warden near Banbury, and finally Snailwell Airfield near Newmarket where my NAAFI career came to an end in 1943. I’ll perhaps talk of my War Years and my recent visit to Normandy at another time.

After the War I tried factory work in Stamford but it was not for me. In 1948, after a chat with Pat Fahie the postmaster and shopkeeper at Easton, I became the Stamford Road and Collyweston postman for the next 35 years. In those days you also collected post from people. I had to carry stamps and scales as well. I wonder how many miles I did on that post bike? The post work was only 4 hours a day so I did all sorts of other work to make up. I made mangle rollers, police truncheons, croquet sets, farming, gardening, rent collecting, odd jobs, removals and haulage. I was even Collyweston’s sub postmaster for a couple of years. The Post Office converted my garage at Main Road and I opened 12 noon to 6pm each day.

I shared Steward’s House at the bottom of the High Street with my old friend Jim Goodes for a number of years and then I moved to Easton on the Hill. My lifetime friend, Mabel Hodgett, and I were regular winners of the Best Garden Competition. Mabel and I moved back to Collyweston in 1992 and happily lived at Woodfields until first Mabel in 2012 and then me in 2014 moved to the care home after becoming a little unsteady on our feet and needing extra help. Sadly, we lost Mabel just over a year ago.

I love receiving Collyweston News each month and catching up with local news. I thank those who produce it, print it and support it by advertising. Best wishes to you all. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that 2018 is a happy year for you all.

Percy Walton – December 2018


Alistair Brown – gone now from the village but still a part of it!

Paul Holland and I have enjoyed another trip on my narrow boat Gussie Goose. I set out from Lichfield, where the boat is moored, on the Friday and spent three and a half days leisurely working my way down the Coventry and North Oxford canals to the village of Braunston where we had arranged for Miriam to drop Paul off on the Wednesday.

Braunston had hosted a rally and parade for traditional working boats over the weekend and many were still there when I tied up on Monday morning. The village is always full of narrow boats as it is well provided with marinas, boat yards, chandlers and pubs – all of which are a magnet for the boating fraternity. I spent a most enjoyable time on the Monday and Tuesday looking at the working boats, buying odd bits of boat equipment from the chandlers and chatting with other boaters.

Among the interesting people I met were a pair of actresses who tour a play about the “Idle Women” from the working boat on which they live. During WW2  many of the men working the canals were called up to fight. To make up for the shortage a plea went out for women who would be willing to work the boats which still carried essential supplies (including ammunition and explosives) around the country. The call was met by young women, often from privileged backgrounds, who were provided with overalls emblazoned with the initials IW, for Inland Waterways. This led to their being referred to as the Idle Women, which was very far from the truth.

On the Wednesday, Paul and Miriam arrived at the Boathouse Inn, where we had a pleasant lunch before Miriam waved us goodbye, and Paul and I set off in a light drizzle. Within five minutes we had met up with friends of mine from the Lichfield Boat Club and were exchanging banter and discussing our respective plans. They were heading south as we went north. After that, Paul and I continued to Rugby, Paul demonstrating his skill taking the boat through three locks en-route and me doing all the hard work opening and shutting the lock gates.

Thursday took us to Hawksbury Junction (known as Sutton Stop to the old bargees) where the North Oxford meets the Coventry Canal at an interesting intersection involving a lock in which the water rises or falls just 1 foot. This is the easiest lock to operate that I know. The reason for it being there is that when the canals were built there was rivalry between the two companies building them, and neither wanted their water to flow into the other’s canal. The two canals were therefore built at different heights – one foot different!

As we were about to moor up at the junction we were met by a friendly call – and there were another couple of friends on a boat I hadn’t seen since they had bought it. As soon as we had tied up Paul and I were invited on board to inspect their pride and joy – and a very pleasant half hour ensured before we went back to Gussie Goose for lunch, followed by a pint at the Greyhound Inn. After that we helped Marie and Phil through the lock and on their way south.

The evening found us back in the Greyhound, where we had one of the best pub meals we’d had anywhere.

Friday was a busy day (for me) as we had a flight of eleven locks to descend, which Paul managed to navigate like an old hand. I had to run around lifting and dropping paddles and opening and closing gates. To be fair, I enjoy doing it and it probably helped me to lose some of the previous evening’s calories. Having tied up at Polesworth, Paul was able to spend a couple of hours fishing, before we went to an Indian restaurant where we’d enjoyed good food on a previous cruise.

Saturday took us through the last two locks and back to the boat club where we tied up at lunch time. Again, Paul passed the time in the beautiful sunny afternoon fishing, with some success, while I wandered round the moorings catching up with the news from the other half dozen Club members who were on their boats. This was followed by a pleasant meal in the local canal-side pub, after which we joined other boaters in our clubhouse.

An early start on Sunday morning found us back in Collyweston in time for Paul to go fly fishing on Rutland Water and for me to return to Maggie in Sussex. We had both had a memorable interlude – and I was left with the thought that it’s a tough life … but someone’s got to do it.

Alistair Brown, August 2017 – already planning next year’s trip!

Werner Schulze – a litter hero                        

Werner was a parish councillor for years, because he likes to ‘give back’. During that time, he picked up on a CPRE county-wide campaign to appoint Litter Wardens. He successfully applied, and for the past 13 years he’s been out every week picking up the cans and wrappers and other junk thrown away. Latterly he’s done more of these patrols on his mobility scooter, which he adapted to carry a bin bag.

He’s clocked up 550 hours of this unpaid labour of love, and collected over 400 bin bags of rubbish. He’s reported fly-tipping, and on one  occasion even found an addressed envelope in a dumped bin bag which enabled the County Council to identify the source of the rubbish. (Anyone who knows the old Arlo Guthrie song ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ will be smiling at this point…)

Werner kept going till the end of 2016 but has now hung up his litter-grabber for the last time. (Although he will still keep an eye on his immediate area in the village!)

We all owe Werner Schulze a massive THANK YOU for his years of work, trying to turn back the tide of fag-ends and junk food boxes mostly tossed out of cars all over Collyweston. And I think we owe it to him to do our own litterpicks from time to time – please take with you a bag and a pair of stout gloves and take other people’s trash to the bin.
February 2017

Amanda Milsom Flowers

My floristry career began in 1996 when I left a good job of 22 years in commercial insurance to pursue a long held dream of working with flowers and plants. I undertook a 2-year floristry diploma course at Brooksby College, where I met Judith who was also retraining after a long previous career. We became great friends and, five years later, after we’d both gained valuable experience working for respected florists, we opened our first flower shop near Derby.

It turned out to be the most unexpected and enjoyable venture of my working life. After all those years behind a desk, here I was working for myself, in a pretty flower shop, with my friend, doing what I had always wanted. Happy days.

Five years went by in a flash. Then things started to change. Judith got busy with grandchildren and I got restless to move house and have my mum live with us. We decided to close the shop. We had worked hard. Long, busy days, early starts to the flower market, winters spent in the freezing cold (not heating allowed in a flower shop! and the door open!). Lots of lovely weddings, Mother’s Days, Valentines, Christmas and all those days in between. It had been a brilliant venture, rewarding an fun, but it was time to move on. We had made a good working team but now we could go back to being just great friends.

Sean, Mum and I moved to Collyweston 10 years ago. I had another shop for a few years in Wymondham but gave it up 4 years ago to care for my mum.

I now work from home, supplying 3 local shops (including Collyweston Community Shop) with flowers and plants, as well as offering a full floristry service, weddings, funerals, gift bouquets etc. I do miss the buzz of the shop but I have the freedom to work when I want … and best of all, I can close the door if I want – and put the heating on! 

Amanda is on 07788 968933.

Sean Milsom tells us about his passion for speed!

Working in the communications industry, as I have for the last 25 years, I get to “enjoy” working with computers most days. But they also drive me nuts, so when I get home I’m ready for something completely different.

I’ve always been interested in all things mechanical and older cars in particular. Through a series of coincidences, a few years ago I got involved in drag racing, and in 2009 bought my own car to race in a series called the Gasser Circus; this was very popular in the 1960s and 70s and is for ‘gas’ (petrol) powered cars with British body styles of the 40s and 50s and American body styles up to 1969. Part of the appeal for me was that modern electronics (electronic fuel injection, launch control, computerised ignition and so on) are not allowed. My car is actually a van based on a 1947 Morris Z body and chassis with a 5.7 litre V8 engine.

The race series is contested over five events from late May through to September at either Shakespeare County Raceway near Stratford on Avon, or Santa Pod in Northamptonshire.

It took me a couple of years to get the van ready to race and I entered my first event in September 2011, where I found my 3-speed auto box had become a 2-speed. A gearbox re-build followed over the winter and I contested all five rounds in 2012 although I cannot remember where I ended in the Championship that year. 2013 was a much better year for me as I won one round, was runner-up in another and did enough to win the Championship.

2014 was all about learning (ie making mistakes!) and again I cannot remember where I finished the year. I obviously respond better to odd years as I won two events in 2015 and again it was enough to win the Championship.

Right now, I’m busy with some upgrades and looking forward to another’s racing and seeing whether I can do better in an even-numbered year!

Will Stebbings had to relocate from Norfolk in 1982 to take up a new job in Peterborough. After exploring the area, he and his wife Yvonne decided that Peterborough was not the place for them and settled here instead.

Will has just published his third novel called Tess of the Dormobiles. Both of his previous novels feature the amusing exploits of Mark Barker who leaves an all-boys grammar school in the mid-1960s, with no experience of girls, or indeed the world at large. The novels are set in Norfolk, and will appeal to anyone who likes a bit of a laugh and some sixties nostalgia. The latest book is different in that it is contemporary and has a female lead – but like the others it is set mainly in Norfolk, even though the central character lives in Woodnewton and works in Stamford.

Tess of the Dormobiles is available from the village shop for just £5.00.

November 2015

David Lattimore (“Bodie”) started work as a young Collyweston stone slating apprentice in 1977, learning his trade with the Master Slaters who worked for Stapleton & Son. It took years to become a qualified slater, learning the art from dressing to finally setting out the roof and finishing to a quality accepted by the old boys!

In 2010 Bodie started his own company, Collyweston Wood Burners and Roofing, specialising in Collyweston slating but being drawn into the chimney side of building and finally fitting wood burners as they became more popular.

Bodie has lived in Collyweston for 31 years, having married his wife Denise at Collyweston Church in 1984. Denise has lived in the village most of her life. They have 3 “wonderful” children: Steven, Neal and Fay, each having been to university to study their chosen careers.

Denise works alongside Bodie, booking appointments, sourcing wood burners and looking after their customers. They supply and install chimney liners and double insulated flue systems through their HETAS registration as engineers, and following all the requirements set out by HETAS. They also take on repairs and chimney sweeping. They carry out all types of Collyweston roofing work from small problems to complete reroofing – their latest work was re-roofing the Collyweston stone slate roof at Milton Hall.

Since living in “our lovely village” they support the local community. Bodie is a member of the Collyweston Playing Field Association; he supports and helps out at the Church fete, village hall, is President of Easton on the Hill Cricket Club and an active member of King’s Cliffe Football Club – his home village where his parents and son still live.

October 2015