Bell Pit

It was 1950, midwinter and freezing.  We’d just come across ice covered water in a steep hollow between some trees.  The ice was thick and in the middle was a small island of branches, twigs and moss.

We were always ‘dufting’ (daring) and I edged across to the island and with increasing confidence gave a couple of jumps to see how solid it was.  On the second time the central island collapsed and with a scream I went down with arms outstretched into thick, stinking, cloying mud. The surrounding ice was holding but I was unable to gain purchase to scramble out.

I clearly recall screaming as Mike Shillito to his eternal credit and my everlasting gratitude dashed off and returned with a large branch.  He pushed one end across and with one movement I grasped it and clung on as Mike pulled me out…….It was our introduction to an ancient bell pit.  The enormity of what might have happened did not escape either of us as we raced back home.  Two ten year olds, one covered in black stinking mud, both trying to avoid detection, getting stripped in the coal hole (house) with clothes and shoes in a bucket of icy water was, of course a bit of a give-away.

It took a long time to work out why I didn’t get a good hiding!

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