John Ketteridge, Cheshire School of Agriculture, 1962 – 1963
I was first introduced to farming on a ‘ten-day schoolboy course’ at Reaseheath in July 1957, when the College was known as the Cheshire ‘School’ of Agriculture. I then left Reaseheath to gain further work experience on Cheshire farms and returned as a full-time student at the Cheshire School of Agriculture, Reaseheath, in October 1962, aged 21.
As full-time students we had lectures each morning after breakfast in a modern building just through the arch to the right of Reaseheath Hall. We were taught animal and crop husbandry with an occasional lecture in farm machinery. We got on very well with all of our lecturers and had some lively debates, as no doubt still happens today.
Every two weeks we did practical farm duties on campus – this meant getting up at 6am. If it was your turn to help with milking, you’d have to be up extra early as the Friesian cows were housed where the Reaseheath Equestrian Centre is now based on the opposite side of the campus to our accommodation.
During the summer term, we would be taken to visit a variety of farms – introducing us to different aspects of farming. We enjoyed these visits very much but, if I am honest it was often the large tea the farmer’s wife laid on for us with lots of homemade sandwiches, pies and cakes that drew most of our attention.
At the end of the summer term we had our exams and practical tests. The practical tests were conducted by the various farmers whose farms we had visited that term.
I managed to gain a credit in the National Certificate of Agriculture (NCA). This, along with my years of working on farms, gained me a place at Brooksby Hall School of Agriculture, where I went on to achieve my City and Guilds full Technological Certificate in Agriculture Management.
I would like to end by telling you a little about life at Reaseheath in 1962 – 63. We were only allowed out on a Thursday and Saturday night, with a 10.30pm curfew (we did however, sneak out on Sunday night to go to The Crewe Arms Hotel where we drank and listened to Jazz bands such as Kenny Ball, Monty Sunshine, Acker Bilk and Johnny Dankworth…).
Students could not bring cars to college, although they did build a gravel car park just inside the new entrance to the College in the summer of 1963. Just before Christmas we decided to have an end of term dance. We tried to hire the Beatles who had just released ‘Please Please Me’ or ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, I forget which, however they wanted £300 to do two 40-minute sets. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford the £300 – with the average agricultural wage back then only about £11 to £15 a week.
Another highlight was the day Blaster Bates came to the college. Blaster Bates was well-known for blowing up chimney stacks and buildings as well as being a popular after dinner speaker with lots of stories about how various corners at Oulton Park were named.
There was an old tree next to the lake that had to be removed, so Blaster Bates came to blow it up. He asked us students if we would like him to blow the tree across the lake – of course we said yes not believing he could, but he could and did!
Yes, I look back on my days at Reaseheath with fond memories, little knowing that when I left in the summer of 1963, fifty years later I would be living in a flat only a short walk along the River Weaver from my old college.