Manor Farm

Kate and Colin Atherton have lived in Thurlow for the past twenty years, first at Trudgetts and then at Manor Farm. Their sons Richard and Peter were brought up here. Richard is now working in London and Peter is at Warwick University. Colin works as a design engineer in Duxford for “Hexcel” and Kate is a principal lecturer at Anglia Polytechnic University.

Colin was born in Royal Leamington Spa but moved every few years, eventually settling in the Birmingham area where his father was a policeman. Kate was born in Sprowston, Norwich, and Richard and Peter were born at Mill Road Maternity unit in Cambridge.

Richard and Peter both went to Thurlow school and Parkway, Richard moving on to Castle Manor and Long Road Sixth Form College and Peter to County Upper School, Bury St. Edmunds. Thurlow school was so near home that their labrador dog used to join the children at break and Kate often received phone calls to come to collect her dog. The school and community were very well integrated; the school benefited from any surplus local produce, and strawberries, rhubarb and fresh vegetables often appeared on the lunch menu.

Sailing is Colin’s favourite leisure pursuit. He teaches children dinghy sailing at Lackford and in Norfolk, and two years ago they bought a boat which they themselves sail on The Broads in the summer. Gardening and reading are Kate’s leisure pursuits. They keep a very large garden and vegetable plot with the help of Brian Rooks.

When they were first here Kate started the luncheon club and meals on wheels for the elderly. Both were very popular at the time when the majority of the elderly couldn’t drive and had never owned a car. Many in the present population in this age group own cars and do not see themselves as elderly.

House renovation has played a large part in their lives. They first renovated Trudgetts and now Manor Farm. They had the uncanny feeling that Trudgetts was meant to be theirs as the estate agents always behaved as though they were expected. When Manor Farm came on the market they felt it was ideal for the boys to grow up in. Now it is too big, but they cannot think of anywhere else they would like to live.

They both prefer village to city life and the immediate access to fields from the garden means a lot to them. It gave the boys freedom to go oV on adventures without restriction, so that they enjoyed the sort of idyllic childhood many families only get by buying property abroad. The boys spent hours on the river with rafts they had built themselves. If they ever misbehaved the news arrived home before they did! Everyone working in the area knew who they were.

The village school is friendly and positive, and within easy walking distance. “Local children are easy to talk to as they look you straight in the eye.” When the boys were very young, groups of children going to the school swimming pool in the evening would stop outside Trudgetts and talk to the boys through the bedroom window. The people who kept the village shop were also exceptionally thoughtful. The boys’ first expedition to the shop was monitored all the way: Kate rang Joyce (Fuller) warning her they were on their way; Joyce crossed the road to meet them, then saw them back across again to go home.

Negative aspects of living in Thurlow include traffic noise which at certain times of day (6.30­9.00 a.m. and 4.30­ 7.00 p.m.) is annoying, but it can be totally quiet at other times. The lack of public transport was particularly difficult when the boys wanted to be independent. Richard couldn’t get to Long Road sixth form college without a lift, or Peter to the bus stop for Bury without being taken the first five miles by car. For cultural activities and night-life teenagers have to find some way of getting to Bury or Cambridge.

Diminishing public services are another negative aspect. At one time there were several travelling shops ­ fishmonger, chip van, bakers, greengrocers and two butchers, but all of these began to disappear as the supermarkets got bigger. Public services have also diminished ­ both boys had to wait over half an hour when on two separate occasions each was involved in a road accident.

One of the greatest changes Kate and Colin have seen is the change in attitudes in estate management. It is now run much more as a business and there is an increase in transitory population; house staff and grooms seem to change more frequently. There is also an increase in high-income house owners, who do not mix with local villagers or send their children to local schools. As the number of tied houses has reduced, these houses are rented for large sums which villagers can’t afford. There was a period when a housing association was formed to build low-cost dwellings but no land was available. Some buildings have disappeared, for example two farm houses, but by and large the fabric of the village hasn’t changed that much.

Although some public services have disappeared, the doctor still holds a surgery in the village hall, and milk and papers are still delivered; the mobile library still comes. “One wonders for how long?” Another change is the move of the pre-school playgroup from the village hall to the new premises at the school.

Soon after the family came to Thurlow, when Richard was about five, they were watching the hunt. A fox lived under the barn next door to Doris and Jack Rowlinson and the fox went through their garden and back under the barn, shortly followed by the huntsmen. “Which way did the fox go?”, they enquired. In spite of being keen hunt followers, Doris and Jack pointed in the opposite direction. Kate feels this typifies the ambivalent attitude of many in the village: they like to see the hunt, but are also relieved at the fox getting away.