Filling the in the Pits and building the Wates Estate – by PP

I can’t think of anything else except the way the building went on over the Wates Estate.  They had great plastic bubble tents and they built underneath so they could carry on building through the winter. I reckon that’s why some of them are beginning to disintegrate underneath because you can’t mix concrete properly in frosty weather even if you have got a bubble. It started way over there, opposite Simpson Road. That’s where they put the first buildings and then they gradually crept this way.  Then the lake–that started virtually fifty yards from the end of the road–was filled […]

Park Keeper on Ham Common – by CL

I’ve just remembered a friend, we all had bits of old bikes we used to build up from war damaged bits down in the gravel pits, there was all bits of stuff about and you all made up bikes without brakes you know you put your foot on the front tyre to stop it.  But my mate and he normally had my brother on the handle bars one sitting on the handle bars and Mick was on the handle bars and my brother was riding it and they went up the Common towards the Inn direction, up that way, and […]

Ham Lands, plant life and threats to its existance – by GH

Well, it was a builder’s rubbish dump in those days and the local population used to refer to it as the Wastelands.  It was a thoroughly unpleasant, untidy heap of old plaster, bricks, baths and general debris and only slowly did it start to get cleared. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the then newly appointed Liberal council, for the European Year of the Environment, cleared it completely and skimmed it with topsoil, which absolutely transformed it from an eyesore into an area of considerable interest and significance for botanists, dog walkers and the population generally. Tell me more about […]

Filling in Ham Lands – by MW

You used to get the Ham River Grit Company, they must have been filling it up then.  They used to come past 24 hours a day down our road and I can also remember my sister and I, when the lakes were there, we used to go tadpoling over there.   Well, I suppose, when you’re small, it seems much bigger, doesn’t it?  It covered a good area, like it still does, really; it’s still interesting over there, though, isn’t it, with all the wildflowers.  I think there used to be pigs over there, didn’t there, on Ham Lands at some […]

Fighting to save Ham Lands – by David Williams

The biggest campaign that I was fighting in the 1970s was stopping building on Ham Lands. What had happened with Ham Lands is they were former gravel pits, disregarded and looked upon as ‘the wasteland’, one of the names for it used on the Wates Estate in the 1960s.  But the planning history of it was that Wates got permission to build on the 70 acres which is the Wates Estate now, but were then refused permission to build nearer to the river on the river side of Riverside Drive and in the typical local government way after Wates had […]

Ham Lands, dangerous playground – by GH

One incident was a lady approached me after the talk and said her father had received the Royal Humane Society’s Gold Medal for rescuing a drowning child from the Ham Pits. The pits were extremely deep with vertical sides, so if you were to fall into them, getting out would be extremely difficult and for this reason, mothers would insist that their children did not go to play at the Ham Pits, as they were known, which, of course, children always did, sometimes with near-fatal consequences. The depth of the pits is such that Nigel Hepper used to relate a […]

Ham River Grit, Ham Lands – by HS

This area where we’re talking now was very much out of bounds because it was all gravel pits – a company called Ham River Grit Company operated here and their lorries were always going up and down the road spilling water and gravel, a daily sight but we weren’t allowed to come over here because the gravel pits were very deep.

Invasion barges and an adventure playground, Ham Lands – by KS

Yes, and I think our favourite place was the pits. There were invasion barges moored there and I can always remember..  I ‘ve got a brother that’s a few years younger than me and I used to take him everywhere with us and we were trying to climb onto one of these barges – I got up there, my kid brother who was four years younger than me and he fell off the tree into the water and it was only by a local lad going in after him otherwise I wouldn’t have a brother. Yeh ..proper kid’s paradise, we […]

Drowning on Ham Lands – by PP

You only had to walk past these four houses next door and there was an enormous gravel pit, which was quite a dangerous lake. It was very deep and there had been a local boy drowned in it – I am not quite sure which year – sort of 1950 something. And one was always nervous about children going down there.