A VILLAGE HISTORY: Clare Miles has sent us a lovely piece about her mum. It covers much of the same ground that Val herself covered in her farewell to Mountfield which we re-ran recently but, although it was about Val, Clare’s account also reads as a real strand in Mountfield’s recent history. Over to Clare (and brother Steve)…
It was with great sadness, but with happy memories, that we said goodbye to our Mum, Val Miles, last week. She had been unwell for a while, not that she let that slow her up much! In her memory, we wanted to write something about her for the Village Voice.
Valerie Martin, or ‘Judy’ as she was nicknamed as a girl, was born in 1938 and grew up in Redhill, Surrey. She became a florist and then met, and became engaged to Michael (Mick) Miles on her 21st birthday. They bought 1 & 2 Rock Cottages in the summer of 1961. At that time the cottage that is now known as Butters Cottage was occupied by tenants: Jessie Butters and her elderly mother. Rock Cottage, where Val and Mick would live, was in need of much repair and modernisation, with neither mains electricity nor running water.
Val and Mick travelled down from Surrey by motorbike every weekend, even in deep snow, to get the cottage into habitable condition. They did most of the work themselves, with a some help from Mick’s father, and soon they were hooked up to electricity and had running water. Mick promised Val that milk ‘on tap’ would follow. They married and moved in on 17th March 1962 and Mick surprised Val with a black labrador pup called Sue.
They both found full-time jobs: Mick as a carpenter in Robertsbridge and Val as a Florist at Cheverall’s in Battle. Later, Val worked at Tills until 1968. She talked of hard winters in those times, and of one year (winter 1962-3) when snow drifts along the lane towards Brightling were above their heads from Boxing Day to March.
Clare and Stephen were born in 1968 and 1970 and slowly Miss Butters became part of the family. Her mother, Fanny, had taken to her bed for many years and died in 1979; because of this Clare and Steve never met her.
Val worked very hard bringing up a family with few mod-cons. She managed without a washing machine until Clare was 16, but still regularly festooned a very long washing line with the whitest of whites.
When Clare was born, Val started going to ‘Keep Fit’ in Robertsbridge. She remained a keen ‘Keep Fitter’ for the rest of her life, even going along to the AGM and joining in with a demonstration very shortly before she passed away.
In 1979 Val was enthused by the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. She decorated Rock Cottage with flags, red, white and blue swags and a picture of the queen, and won first prize for the best decorated house in the village. At that time she also became involved in running the Mountfield Children’s Jubilee Fund Club at the Village Hall on Friday evenings with her great friends Ruby Willis, Noreen Edwards, Reg and Joan Langley, Don Stone, Angela Tidmarsh, Brian Smith and many others.
Val remembered more deep snow in the 1980s. Being cut off from civilisation for a few days she orchestrated a family expedition across the fields to Robertsbridge with a sledge to collect supplies from the shop.
During the 70s and 80s, Val and Mick built up a business as antique dealers. Val had a stall at ‘Battle Antiques’ and they would deal through local antique fairs, Heathfield Market, and their shop in Norman Road, St. Leonards. It was a period of very early starts for the whole family, and never a boot sale was missed!
Val regularly contributed to the Mountfield Flower Show, and was a regular winner for her flower arrangements. She was also a keen writer, and she documented some of her experiences at Rock Cottage. We will submit some of them to Village Voice in the future, so that they can be enjoyed by others who shared her experiences or are interested in local history.
In 1987, the Hurricane caused devastation throughout Mountfield and the wider area, but luckily Rock Cottage and Butters Cottage, and her beloved woods and enormous silver birch tree opposite the cottage, were unharmed. Val was terribly upset by the damage to the Chestnut Avenue at Mountfield Court, however.
In 1990 Mick passed away, aged just 52, and barely a few days later another very fierce storm hit Rock Cottage and caused quite a lot of damage. It also blew over “The Beech Tree” halfway up the hill on the right from Rock Cottage – a huge tree that local children had climbed and carved their names on for many generations. Miss Butters passed away very soon afterwards, and it was a sad and difficult time for the Miles family. Being such a strong and positive woman, Val decided to crack on with something useful, and put all of her energy into creating a beautiful garden at Rock Cottage, where before it had been part chicken run, part builder’s yard and part overgrown garden. She adopted some peacocks, who decorated the place beautifully. Gradually Val’s life took a different course, and her garden and her friends were always a great source of enjoyment from that time onward.
In 2001 Val moved to Battle, and lived for the rest of her life in a bungalow behind the shops in the High Street where she cultivated another beautiful garden.
Once based in Battle, Val took up photography and joined the Battle Photographic Society. She won quite a few prizes, but did it for the enjoyment of taking photos of the beauty around her, and to see her friends at the Society.
Val was a kind, generous and positive person, who had great determination and quiet strength. She loved Mountfield and was very much loved by many in the village. She was a very special lady and will be very much missed.
MOUNTFIELD HISTORY 2: Thanks to Clare and Steve for that: a lovely piece of local history. Judging from the recent spate of For Sale boards, the village is likely to have a concentrated influx of incomers who, we hope, will find new interest in what is commonplace to others so if you have any details to share, do let us know. Wells on front gardens? WWII defences? Former parish paths? We’d love to hear.
REMINDERS: There’s just room for a couple of reminders. First, Mountfield Club are running a car treasure hunt on Saturday September 12th, with starting times between 5.00 and 6.00 pm. Weather permitting, there will be a BBQ for those who make it back to base. Entry is just £5.00 per car. This was a great success last year. To enter, just give Glenn a call on 07917 752576. And Saturday September 19th is the date for the Mountfield Ride/Walk that will take place on with setting out any time between 9.30 and 12.30. The full distance is approximately 10 miles but there are opportunities to shorten the route according to fitness levels. In the event of very bad weather, the ride will take place in the Village Hall. Entry forms, prices, etc are available from your Village Voices. All proceeds to Mountfield Church.
FINALLY: How ironic that on the day we had a day of Biblical rain, with all the roads running with water, most of the village should also be treated to a burst water pipe that took out all mains water twice in one day. As ever, if you have anything for the Village Voice, we can be contacted on 880614 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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