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News > Bilton Grange Society News > Carol Adler | Nature Logs, Wild Gardens and Rationing at Homefield

Carol Adler | Nature Logs, Wild Gardens and Rationing at Homefield

Signatures from members of staff at Homefield School from 1951-1955, collected by Carol Adler
Signatures from members of staff at Homefield School from 1951-1955, collected by Carol Adler

At the age of just 9, I arrived at Homefield in September 1951, ration book in hand. My trunk was hefted upstairs and I was shown into the big dormitory where I was to sleep for several years. Most of my classmates had already spent a year at Homefield, so I had to fit in as best I could; not easy being shy. However, I made good friends and was later joined by Jill Berry whom I had known since infancy having grown up in the same Leicestershire village.

After the first year, when lessons were in the main house, we did the daily trek to North Lodge, either on foot or bicycle (depending on the state of the tyres). My principal memories are of the Nature Log that fostered a lifelong love of all things natural; measuring the redwood tree in the grounds; drinking warm, verging on sour milk at break; watching one slide show in history class and cavorting in the woods on Ascension Day.

I loved the art classes at Bilton Grange where all media types were available to us - pottery, painting from powder paint to oils, lino cuts, scraper board, etc. Gym was also a favourite where I knew that, as I vaulted over the horse, I would be caught at the other end by our husky Tom Cruikshank. Policemen and Pirates, played on all the gym equipment, was exciting and daring and we loved it, climbing the wall bars and swinging on the ropes.

As a boarder, I was assigned a small plot in the garden. I don’t remember what was in it except for a very old rose bush. At weekends we were let loose in the Wild Garden and clambered over rhododendron bushes while munching on the stems of wild garlic. We built ‘jumps’ in the field and pretended to be horse and rider as we navigated the course. The swing was there; we went higher and higher until jumping off to see who could go the furthest distance. We chalked out hopscotch squares in the yard and played games with tennis balls against a wall.

I took weekly ballet classes, that I loved, from Nicolette who came to the school by train from London. We put on a little ballet featuring a weather house with sunshine, rain and rainbow characters. I was a raindrop.

Once a week we visited the Tuck Shop at Bilton Grange, after lunch and during rest time. We raced past the paddock with the ponies to get there as quickly as possible. With rationing still in effect, the choice was limited. We took our points and chose our small weekly allowance. Cadbury’s Chocolate Flake was my favourite when I could get it.

The food was institutional until one short time when an Italian chef occupied the kitchen. Occasionally he would prepare cream-filled pastries! A huge treat after battered cod, beetroot in white sauce and dripping on toast.

Names that I remember include Elizabeth Attenborough, Annette Higgins, Sarah Kirby, Jane Bayley, Angela Patton. The Reeds - Rosamund, Romaine and Roland.

I took many photographs while at Homefield. Taken with my box camera, the focus is lacking but the essence remains. Also staff autographs and a drawing of me by Nicolette, the ballet teacher.

After Homefield I was sent to a school in Bexhill perched on the cliff with a shingle beach across from the hockey field. It was cold, sterile and petty with none of the creativity of Homefield - and I couldn’t even continue ballet classes!

Words by Carol Adler (now Felton), who attended Homefield between 1951-1955.  

Join us on 23 March 2024 for the Homefield Reunion. Register here.


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