8 months ago



40 EVERGREEN Autumn The Foley family at home but their earlier domestic conditions did not look anything remotely as salubrious as this. FOREST OF DEAN FAMILY HISTORY TRUST around their children, initially in London but latterly in the Forest. She made many friends in London and her insight into the urban poor, especially the idiosyncratic characters, makes truly delightful reading although disconcerting in many cases. Making a home was not easy and often a desperate struggle. However, an offer of better accommodation was gratefully accepted only to find they had jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, the flat only becoming available because “her downstairs” had driven everyone else out! They managed to grin and bear it through the Second World War but as the children grew older, Winifred felt increasingly like an exiled Forester and when an opportunity arose, her husband agreed to move to Gloucestershire. His job at a sawmill came with a tied cottage which looked ideal from the outside but closer inspection revealed a very different picture. There was no running water, a bucket for a toilet which had to be carried through the lounge to be emptied, and dampness shared by many rodents and creepy crawlies. The long quest to turn it into a home makes compulsive reading and in due time, at the age of 60 when her children had grown up, she submitted some of her writing to BBC Radio Woman’s Hour where producers quickly realised they had something unusual and serialised it. When it came out in book form shortly afterwards, however, she became almost a household name. The rest of her story is a complete hoot as she was invited to open fetes and speak at W.I. meetings, some in splendid surroundings where she felt like a square peg in a round hole. Her jottings are witty but thoughtprovoking and the reader will enjoy The Forest Trilogy (1992), A Child in the Forest being followed by No Pipedreams for Father (1977) and finally Back to the Forest (1981), thus completing a life story mirrored by millions but never

2017 EVERGREEN 41 Syd and Winifred Foley in later life. Her books quickly made her famous and the royalties were enough to allow them to finally settle at Cliffords Mesne on the northern fringe of the Forest of Dean. FOREST OF DEAN FAMILY HISTORY TRUST previously fully documented. Winifred Foley died in 2009 leaving behind a literary legacy for which we should all be grateful. It is easy to forget the past, especially in today’s society of instant gratification for everything from entertainment and leisure to employment, family and food. We need to be regularly reminded of how our country was — to mix several metaphors — forged in a forest of poverty and elbow grease. Life has changed beyond all recognition but, thanks to A Child in the Forest, we can discover and relive the past. DAISY DRUMMOND The final Foley family home was near May Hill where, if you look carefully in the left centre background, you can see a clump of trees visible for miles which were planted for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. PAUL MAKEPEACE

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