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January 2021, on Snow in Ashmansworth

At Christmas time in 1927, there was the deepest snow imaginable - as high as horses' heads - across the whole area. Ashmansworth and Crux Easton were cut off! Wilf Cooper ran Lower Manor Farm and harnessed his horses to clear the snow, right through the village and across to Crux Easton. In recognition of his sterling efforts, the village made a collection and presented him with a silver-plated tea pot in January 1928. The tea pot has passed down the generations of his family and was presented back to the people of Ashmansworth by Wilf's daughter-in-law Mary Cooper in June 2021.

We were reminded of this story by the article in our parish magazine in January 2021. Wilf's family tell the story in the other article, alongside a photo of Wilf and the list of those who subscribed to buy the tea pot!

TALES FROM THE HILLS

(Ashmansworth and Crux Easton)

‘The worst piece of road in the world" William Cobbett called it. So sticky was the clay along the lanes of Ashmansworth during much of the year that he gave us that unenviable title of owning the “Worst Piece of Road in the World.” And he of all people should know, from his constant travel on the roads in England, Europe and the USA.

We eventually lost our title on 24th November 1822 when, after one of his famous Rural Rides, Cobbett made the following adjudication after struggling down an exceptionally muddy lane near Hindhead in Surrey:
“When we got to the bottom, I bid my man, when he should go back to Hurstbourne Tarrant, tell the people there, that Ashmansworth Lane is not the worst piece of road in the world.”

So we must content ourselves with being second worst.

Should anyone care for a reminder of those days, then the mud of our prehistoric Ox Drove (or Wayfarers' Walk) after a week or two of rain can still offer a taste of how things were. But even that's not as muddy as it was before they banned the traffic, when tractors and four-wheel drives used to dig troughs in it two feet deep Mud is one thing. Snow is another. Wilf Cooper of Lower Manor Farm used to
recall the winter of 1928 when the snow was as deep as the height of a horse's head, and the village of Ashmansworth was cut off from the outside world! His obituary reads: “With his men, Mr Cooper opened up the road and was able to obtain emergency rations, using his horses and wagons, He always treasured the engraved silver teapot presented to him by the villagers for his efforts.”
Wilf now lies in the churchyard at Ashmansworth with his wife Elizabeth.

Agricola, January 2021