Continuing, in fits and starts, my transcription of Granny’s 1938 diary, I had been pleased to see that they had managed a week’s holiday in Worthing at the end of August.  Granny had writtten to Mrs Wenham, who kept the Guest House, back in June and received a reply a few days later.  On Saturday 27 August they set off early for Worthing.  I very much enjoyed reading of the holiday:  buying sea shoes, walks on the prom, afternoons spent in various parks, and the children digging in the sand and having pony rides.  Then on the day before departure there had been a bus trip to Salvington, to the Downs, “picking winterpicks”.

‘Winterpicks’ did not mean anything to me and a quick Google search did nothing to enlighten me.  “I bet it’s a Sussex dialect word for something else” I thought to myself.  The family history community is amazingly helpful to fellow enthusiasts:  I had a sudden idea to post the query on the Sussex Family History Group facebook page.

10 minutes later there was a reply to my post from a fellow member in Australia! She had found a reference in Google Books referring to Blackthorn fruit.  Ah!  The fruits of the blackthorn are commonly known as sloes!  Within half an hour someone else had contributed that sloes make good wine, as well as being useful for flavouring gin, and someone else had commented that there is a Winterpick Farm near Horsham.  And then someone else shared a link to another online book.  How amazing!  As with other discussion threads on the site, people are so happy and willing to share their knowledge with one another.

Well the holiday came to an end and the family returned to Croydon.  Two weeks later in the diary I read the entry “Corked the winterpick wine up”.  There we are: sloe-picking ready for wine-making.

Of course I should have asked Mum first.  As soon as I mentioned it she said that she grew up knowing about winterpicks and that it was years before she knew there was another name for them.

A few days later it occurred to her to dig out a notebook of Granny’s containing all kinds of recipes and tips.  There she found the recipe for Winterpick wine, sandwiched between those for Elderberry wine and Dandelion wine!  Amazing.

This summer when we hopefully have our habitual few days in Worthing, I think we should look for winterpicks and maybe even give Granny’s recipe a go.  I’ll let you know how we get on!

Extracts from ‘Woodlands, heaths and hedges’ by William Coleman



Winterpick wime
Granny’s Winterpick wine recipe

The Beast from the East

It was while I was driving home from work that the idea came to me.  The local news was full of weather-related stories and the presenter referred to the ‘beast from the east’, since this very cold spell and snowy weather is due to the winds from the continent.  A climate expert was asked if our weather is changing and whether snow in March is unusual.  Whilst the last few years have been warm, he said, broadly speaking, it is not unheard of to have snow in March in the south of England.

It was then that the idea occurred to me to spend the evening going through all of Granny’s 39 diaries to check the weather on the 1st March, since every diary entry without fail starts with a note of the weather.

So that’s what I have done, trying hard not to get too distracted by other entries en route.  And the result of my analysis is that between 1937 and 1983 (with 3 missing years in the 40s and 4 in the 70s) there is only mention of snow on the 1st March in three years:  1954, 1962 and 1965. I do remember that it snowed the April that my brother and I had chicken pox – that might have been 1975 I think.

We are probably altogether less hardy these days.  There was no central heating in the house where I grew up, just a coal fire in the dining room, a gas fire in the front room and electric heaters in the bedrooms and bathroom which were used sparingly.  When my mum was a small child there was no electricity where she lived, so heat came purely from the coal fires. Now we expect to be able to set a timer and have a heated house when we get in, and don’t we notice it when the thermostat goes wrong, as happened to us a couple of weeks ago, leaving us without heat for a couple of days!

I was most amused by Granny’s entry for the 1st March 1982:  “March came in like a lion with gale winds, frequent showers and thunder 11am”.  The proverb “If March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb” seems to stem from the idea that there should be a balance in the weather as in life.  Well the last day of this month is Easter Saturday, and as lambs seem to fit pretty well for Easter, let’s hope the proverb is accurate for this year at least!