Friday, October 4, 2013

The School Christmas Tree and Wyre Forest

Stan Webb
Stan Webb (The Bursar's son) posed this question on the Facebook page.

"Unsure if this subject has already been covered, but I can recall in the 50s and 60s seeing either Gordon Plaice, Alan Thorn or Wally Clarke disappearing into Wyre Forest every December with a group of 20 or 30 boys with the sole intention of returning to the school with a Christmas tree for the Dining Hall, ("National Lampoon Christmas Vacation" style!) They always returned with a huge magnificent specimen which would very quickly be decorated and left in the corner of the Dining Hall. My question is this! Was this a legitimate purchase or did it amount to a form of petty theft!!? Or is my memory playing tricks with me, and this didn't actually happen!?"

Trev Teasdel "Wyre Forest is owned by the Forestry commission and this post i found on the web seems to answer the legal point (unless it was different in the 60's).http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2007/11/23/christmas-tree-thefts-warning/

Ken Hammond  "The 'school' had Forestry Commission permission for us to do this. The same went for the collection of fallen trees and the felling of one tree for centre pole for the bonfire."

Stan Webb "Thinking back, the snapshot in my memory must have been in 1963- the year of non-stop snow,- as I can remember seeing all the boys and staff in their wellingtons and scarves etc, as the weather was really bad as the tree was hauled along into the school."

Michael Billings "When I was at Cleobury we did go into the forest every year for the Christmas tree
and the pole for the bonfire and collected any fallen branches also for the bonfire. On one of these sorties I tore my inner cartilage on my right knee and had to go to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham to have a knee op. When i returned to school i had to go to Kidderminster Hospital twice a week for physio. I was collected from the school by ambulance and also returned by ambulance. End of 1956 this would have been."

Brian Slater  "Ken yes I remember the adventure of going into forest for centre pole for nov 5th. Also how heavy a 30 ft long tree trunk was to get back to the top field."

Brian Slater "I went several times. In those days you would just have a word with someone local and it would happen. Now everyone would need hi viz, hardhats, and enough paperwork to have a bonfire of your own. H & S, risk assessment, safety case. We have gone mad. No one was ever hurt during these exercises. Rant over."

Michael Billings We went out over the back of the Art Class Room, The top dorm building, across fields and over a stile or two. It was while dragging a large tree branch over a stile that I tore my cartilage.

Dennis Elmer If I remember correctly this was legal as we also made a similar trip to build the annual bonfire for November the fifth. The fifth form was responsible for the centre pole and the rest of the school for the rest. The guy that had pride of place on top was the winner of a competition held for that purpose I think. Can anyone confirm this after all it was nigh on fifty years ago in my case."

Steve Webb The route you took Micheal is very familiar to Rosemary and I as we, for many years, we would walk that way to get to "Break Neck Bank" about a mile from the school inside the forest. This was a steep bank furnished with a zig-zag path taking you to the top-- very steep and very dangerous, (hence its name I guess!) At its base was a testing station for the Elan Valley water pipeline which passed through the school grounds. The station was locked of course, and was surrounded by a black metal fence with sharp upward facing spikes which were ready to greet you should you fall down the bank!

Black dot indicates the art room - rather than the long way round the road, you could access Wyre Forest across the fields at the back of the art room.


Sarah Williams Steve and Rose told me that those railings were known as the Dragon's Teeth.

Michael Breslin We would have at least one biology class at Breakneck Bank where we would catch Crayfish and water boatmen for study. Neil Cummings was the teacher. Great laugh and a nice escape for an hour during school time.