North Staffordshire bygones: Tickled pink to have trout on camping menu
Reg Ferneyhough recalls his blissful teenage years of cycling and fishing before he was called up for the Second World War. He talks to Jenny Amphlett.
Setting off from North Staffordshire to the Welsh seaside on a bicycle with just £3 in his pocket is a teenage adventure Reg Ferneyhough will never forget.
Now aged 89 and living in Garfield Crescent, Hanford, the retired Michelin worker enjoyed years of cycling and fishing before being called up to the Royal Navy in 1939.
He says: "In 1937, at the age of 14, I purchased my first bicycle, a Raleigh Golden arrow, from Hewitts cycle shop in Trent Vale.
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"I had promised to pay one shilling a week until the debt was settled.
"At the same time my best friend also had his first bicycle, a Sun.
"We were both keen map readers, having learned to read maps to gain proficiency badges in the Scouts.
"We could not wait to explore the countryside around Stoke-on-Trent and beyond."
The boys had picked up camping tips in the Scouts, and soon fitted their bikes with panniers to carry their camping equipment.
"We were both keen on fishing and during our first camp, at Kibblestone, we had our first contact with rainbow trout.
"There was a freshwater stream running through the camp, but fishing was forbidden like everything else at Kibblestone.
"We set night lines in the stream and by the next morning we had caught our first rainbow trout.
"We were the only Scouts at Kibblestone who had trout on the menu for lunch."
On another occasion the duo set off for a week's holiday at Fairy Glen, in North Wales.
"We set out on our bicycles loaded up with all our equipment and food for a week," he says.
"With only £3 each to spend we were hoping and praying we didn't get a puncture on the 90 mile journey."
On other occasions the friends went to Coombe Valley, near Ipstones, where they camped on farmland belonging to the Goldstraw family.
It was here they decided to try their hand at trout tickling.
"We tried and tried again over two weekends but all in vain.
"Mr Goldstraw had a good laugh when he heard what we were trying to do.
"On the third weekend we were talking to him in the farmhouse as by this time we were part of the family.
"He boasted he could get out of the chair and tickle trout in two minutes."
Sure enough, the farmer demonstrated his technique. They soon picked up the art themselves.
"We camped in Coombe Valley every free week we had right up to when we were call up into the forces," he says.
"Each time we camped we returned home with a dozen eggs each and at least a dozen rainbow trout.
"When the war started they were a very welcome addition to our family rations.
"In 1939 my friend joined the Merchant Navy and I joined the Royal Navy."
After the war the pals dug out their bikes and cycled over to Coombe Valley to see the Goldstraws.
"They had gone and the farmhouse was deserted," he adds.
"Coombe Valley is now a bird sanctuary, open to the public.
"I have taken walking parties on two occasions along the pathway by the side of the farmhouse where the Goldstraws lived.
"If any of your readers know anything about the Goldstraw family I would be delighted to hear from them."
Reg is married to Irene. They have five daughters, one son, 12 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.
Did you know the Goldstraw family from Coombes Valley? Write to Jenny Amphlett, including your full name, address and telephone number, at: Features Desk, The Sentinel, Forge Lane, Etruria, Stoke-on-Trent ST1 5SS, or email firstname.lastname@example.org