Sea-change: Wivenhoe Remembered - Rabbiting: Children’s fun and food
Contributions by Brian Green, Phil Faucheux, Alan Green, Charles Tayler, Don Smith and Dennis Sparling
Page created by Peter Hill, copied from the earlier Wivenhoe Encyclopedia website
Good fare – Brian Green
We were lucky in them days, that was pre-myxomatosis days, and we used to go rabbiting in the harvest fields, with a stick. You couldn’t afford luxury meals, the rabbits were quite good fare for all the local folk. I went with a stick, a walking stick or a stick out the hedge, didn’t shoot them! They cut the corn and you used to charge along behind the binder.
Rabbiting – Phil Faucheux
One of the greatest things was rabbiting in the summer time. I was always out rabbiting at all the various farms. Go out on a bicycle, rabbiting, bring home several rabbits, sell them for about 6d. each, collect the skins afterwards and cycle to the Hythe, there was a factory called ‘Wambax’ (?) there and we used to sell the skins to the old boy there for tuppence each. Always made a few shillings, you know!
Catching a rabbit – Alan Green
Before the War, when I was a youngster, we used to play over the marshes, and in fact when I was four and a half, my mate and I – Ernie Hatch – we caught a rabbit between us. Duly recorded. He tripped me up, and I fell on it! But I managed to hold on to it and we both sort of killed it between us – nearly! I’ve got a photograph of it, actually, so that is bona fide!
Follow the binder – Brian Green
We were lucky in them days, that was pre-myxomatosis days and we used to go rabbiting in the harvest fields, with a stick. You couldn’t afford luxury meals, the rabbits were quite good fare for all the local folk. I went with a walking stick or a stick out the hedge – didn’t shoot them! They cut the corn and that and you used to charge along behind the binder and first of all, I can remember horse and cart, and I can remember Spion Kop when that was ploughed up and had a corn field. That was only done about two years, and that was Claude Watsham farmed that.
Rabbit pie – Charles Tayler
I liked my mother’s rabbit pie and all things like that! Steak and kidney puddings and suet duffs and that, but you won’t get a kid to eat a suet duff nowadays! They won’t eat a rabbit pie, nowadays. We used to snare the rabbits. My father used to have to do that to get a few shillings. When he worked on the farm, wherever he worked, he always had the ferrets and he had the rabbits. He used to go snaring when that was in the time for the rabbits, he used to snare and ferreting and he used to sell the rabbits. I used to walk from Alresford when I was no more than seven years old, go down the Anchorage on Anchor Hill with a great big string of rabbits on a pole on my shoulder, from right from Alresford Ford, along the wall to old Annie Oakley, on the corner where old Bill Sparrow used to live on Anchor Hill, and Annie Oakley kept that, and bring these rabbits there to her. Sixpence the rabbits used to be each, they did.
We ran for miles – Don Smith
There was no Youth Clubs or anything like that. I was in the Cubs at some time and there was the Scouts. Summer time was great here. We ran for miles and miles, for walks. And, of course, harvest time, when we turned into terrible little people and chasing rabbits and killing them with a stick – which I don’t think I could do now. We used to go to the harvest when they cut the corn and it used to go round, ‘Oh, Mr Watcham’s cutting his field tomorrow,’ and we’d all go up there, and then ‘Mr Bowes is going to do his next week,’ and you’d chase over there on your bikes and that was a great activity. Where I was living up the top of the village when I was 12, 13, 14, and the big estate now, called Broomfield Estate, was covered in broom – hence the name – and that was our cowboy and Indian country over there!
Chasing rabbits – Dennis Sparling
At harvest time everybody used to go rabbiting. You had to chase them with a stick and hit them with a stick. Obviously it was in the days when you had a binder so the big binder used to go round and you knew there was not going to be anything when they started off, but as the patch got smaller and smaller and smaller the rabbits started to run, and you used to try and hit these rabbits as they came out of the corn, out of the standing crop. And sometimes you were allowed to take all of them, if you caught two or three, you could take them all. Sometimes you’d only be allowed to take one. Although you might kill more than one you could only take one, but then the binder driver would get one and the farmer, and you would get one. But, no, there was no guns, nobody had guns. But everybody say, ‘Oh, they’re cutting at Gooch’s today,’ or ‘That looks as though that’s going to be cut tomorrow,’ and you’d see it or somebody would see it and they’d say, ‘Yes, they’re cutting at Tye Farm,’ or whatever the farm was, and whole gangs of boys would turn up. This would only be after school or in the evenings. They had Double Summer Time so it was daylight until 10 o’clock, so you’d go off on your bike after school. I don’t ever remember missing school for it.