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Pastimes and Diversions - over to you

Updated: Jun 24, 2020

In any other year in June, there would be a succession of regularly scheduled early summer activities for all age groups in and around Denham. Since March 23, 2020, the UK government has locked down most social activities so as to control the spread of the COVID-19 virus. So many of these activities are denied to us because of the social distancing requirements.

But, for followers of the Denham Community History Project, here’s an opportunity for a new “diversion” . You can spend a little lockdown time writing up your memories of pastimes enjoyed in and around the village. Let’s start with a list of organisations mentioned in a Parish Council document kept by Ann Collins. Who knows when this was published ? Who remembers any of these clubs and societies ? Were you a member ?

Here are a few recollections we have already collected to start you off together with a first Comment from John Hawkins. To add your contribution, login and use the “Comment” option or email it to us at

Sharp memories provide us with valuable insights into some favourite pastimes of more than 20 years ago, pastimes that will surely be returned to us once the epidemic is past. If you are one of the residents who lived within the Denham parish in the 1950s you may remember activities and days like these.

Not surprisingly, several ladies recall their special times past spent with their favourite toy: a doll. Hilary, who grew up in the Wembley/Harrow area remembers well, an incident at her infants/primary school, when she was probably about 5 years old and long before moving to Denham. She writes: “I had taken my favourite doll whom I had named Janet, to school with me one day and put her carefully in my desk…the kind where I could lift up the top of the hinged cover and see my books, etc. I had opened my desktop to play with her during class when the teacher called on me! I dropped the desktop on Janet’s leg and smashed it! Janet had lovely blonde hair and blue eyes and I loved her!”

“Belinda” was the name of Ann’s favourite doll. Even now, Ann remembers the day that she decided to bathe her. She writes: “But I did not realise that although her head was china, her body was of a composite material and fell to pieces. I was heartbroken! Not many dolls’ hospitals in those days.”

Some activities that were begun decades ago have become essential pastimes for many of us these days too. As a youngster in Priory Close, Jessie loved school, all subjects and playing. She remembers: “We had nature walks from New Denham up to Rush Green. Often, we would pick flowers to put into a jam jar on the Nature Table. My visits to the Uxbridge Library every Saturday morning were a must! To this day, I am an avid reader!”

Although mostly a solitary pastime, reading can now be listening as well through audio books and lively discussions through a book club. The Denham Ladies Book Club records go back to 2001 but the group may have been active even before that. Times have changed, so mobile libraries and next-day deliveries of books to a device are far more common than in-person library visits that Jessie remembers so well.

Jam jars may have been replaced by vases and wild-flowers added to those lovingly cared-for flowers by gardeners, some of whom may belong to the Denham Village Garden Club. Neighbours who enjoyed gardening and were living next to each other on the Pyghtle, organised the DVGC more than 26 years ago. Over the years, the group has grown considerably as have the visits to many outstanding gardens, nurseries, and manor houses. Home gardens have always been carefully tended by residents in Denham and a walk anywhere will show glimpses of colourful flowers and shrubs through gates and fences.

We have an image of the front page of the “Denham News” from January 1974 showing the team of bell ringers who rang in the new year, a year that began in a different crisis with the introduction of a three day working week as a measure to conserve electricity during the period of industrial action by coal miners. Who remembers spending time during those dark days ?

Of course, many of us are walkers, and if you are among the many who have a dog or two, the spaces in and around Denham provide many attractive areas for daily walks. Julie said: “My two little Westies Jack and Mickey are like my children! They love the outdoors; we especially enjoy walking together and their toys are often of the Disney variety.”

Twice daily walks are necessary for some walkers and their dogs. Most are friendly and seem to recognise each other as well as their companions. Occasionally walks are organised. There are organised walks for hikers, and some readers may remember a group enjoying Nordic Walking. Anyone who has memories of that please let us know.

Since its founding in 1986 by Ken McKay, the Denham Hospice Support Group has become one of the most active common-interest groups in our community and its annual walk of 5-8 miles raises funds for the Thames Hospice. This splendid annual event is always followed by a lunch hosted by Irene and Philip at The White House.

As most of our readers know, though the origins of the Hospice Support Group are now part of Denham’s historical record, the Group still thrives. But sadly the events for 2020 announced in a January by the Chairman Philip Courtenay-Luck with an aim to raise £70,000 to fund the Sanctuary garden at the new Thames-hospice at Bray Lake, have had to be put on hold. We can be confident they will return to continue this great local tradition with an important charity purpose.

Throughout the decades, St. Mary’s Parish Church and its subsidiaries St. Marks in Denham Green and St. Francis in New Denham have no doubt provided the most opportunities for participation in a variety of activities from the youngest to the oldest in our community; we will focus on those special church-sponsored activities as well in months to come.

Denham residents have always supported the variety of activities and organisations available, and for those willing to pursue new challenges, the options are wide open. So on this subject it’s over to you. We’re very eager to hear from you, dear readers, about your experiences of the pastimes and diversions you have enjoyed growing up and living in the village - starting with a story from avid childhood trainspotter John Hawkins.

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Jun 16, 2020

John Hawkins: I grew up in Courtfield Gardens in Denham. I have vivid memories of some very exciting times in the mid-1950s. We were a close-knit bunch of around 6-8 boys from Denham County School. We had known each other from the infants class and had stuck together from then on. We were all about the same age, some a little older and in the next class up, due to the few months difference in our birthdays.

Our lives were full of daily adventures. We would gather together our train spotters’ book, pad and pencil, not forgetting a bottle of Tizer or American Cream Soda, my favourite, bought from Smiths at the top of Oxford Gardens by the bus shelter.…

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