The Wessy

When I was a child my parents allowed me to play. There were rules imposed on my playing time away from our house. One must respect other people’s property, privacy and the law. Not to be too noisy. Respect ones elders. “Empty vessels make the most noise”, my mother used to say. Off I’d trot in my short trousers, long grey socks, sandals and a short sleeved shirt. My favourite haunts were Corby’s Thoroughsale woods and the legendary ‘Wessy’, or West Glebe Park. They approved of the former but certainly not the latter. For it was there, the Wessy, that the town’s huge quarry-like landfill site was located. It was enormous. A festering mass of everything that every Corby household threw away: and I mean everything! From rotting food to old prams. Used nappies to garden waste. At the base of this stench filled ‘volcanic’ hole were two or three huge, still lakes of deep murky water. This was a place that was protected by a man in a caravan. Every child referred to him as ‘Dumpy’ often making his life hell with taunts. His futile attempts to catch us would be met with howls of childish laughter. You see, that’s what this place was, a rubbish dump, where the bin lorries dumped their rubbish from lorries driven by bin men. Yet this was the place that I would frequent in the sixties accompanied by a variety of friends. We would carry nets and jam jars for catching Newts, frogs or sticklebacks. The steel works and the sound of shunting loco’s as they headed for the furnaces hid the screams of delight at the sight of another newt being plopped into a water filled jar for the journey home. There were more seagulls down that hole than on Bournemouth beach. More rats than in a London sewer. How our lives have changed. There was no mention of recycling. There were no laws to protect me from the iron filings that filled the air and made my magnet so ‘hairy’ as I ran it across the pavements of Corby. No one had done a health and safety study on the dump for the protection of children: adults: anyone! No risk assessments or good practice here. God knows, we must have been surrounded by every virus and disease known to man in that huge smelly crater. Common newts are now given partial protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and short trousers are the reserve of white legged men in Benidorm. The West Glebe Park today is a credit to the local authority and the community that helped improve its lot. I’m amazed to still be alive. My immune system, along with those of my contemporaries, must be fantastic having been exposed to all that the dump could throw at me. Yet, given all of this, it is with fondness and a smile that I remember my friends, my family and my childhood. None of my Newts ever survived.


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One response to “The Wessy

  1. Peter Chisholm

    I loved it there too. There used to be a minature railway that lived in a shed up the top end and ran on elevated tracks. I used to go from the Wessey onto Rocky Road and watch my uncle shunting the red hot crucible trucks full of molten steel. If he saw me he used to bang on the brakes hard and the crust would break so you could see the red hot “lava”. All this was done hanging off a bridge 30 feet up when I was 10 or 12!

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