I ‘discovered’ Winifred Foley and the book about her childhood in the Forest of Dean about 25 years ago .I picked it up in a book shop attracted by the cover -bought it and once I had started it I couldn’t put it down.It was such a easy read in an engaging style.It is an autobiographical account of her childhood growing up in an area of Gloucestershire that I am familiar with from picnics ,school trips etc There is something special about the place .A Royal forest of deciduous trees oak,beech,sweet chestnut and evergreen conifers ,home to many wild flowers like fox glove and willowherb. It was a hunting forest in the times of Anglo Saxon and Norman kings. It is bordered by river Wye to the north west and river Severn to the south and has its own distinct dialect. Her book is full of characters so vividly described .Her style is funny,sad and uplifting in equal measures . It is a story about a family bringing up their children short on money but rich on love . I think children today should be given it to read as part of the National Curriculum ,it would highlight the fact that children did manage to have happy childhoods despite unremitting poverty and valued the things they did receive like homemade toys and the ‘Sunday School Outings provided by local chapel.
I have re read it many times and I wanted to let Mrs Foley know how much her book had meant to me I wrote a letter and telephoned a man at a Coleford book shop to see ,if I wrote to him with the letter ,he would forward it to her.This he obviously did because, shortly after ,I received a lovely, beautifully hand written reply !She thanked me for writing and commented on a lot of the things I had mentioned in the letter.I searched out and read ‘No pipe dreams for Father’ ‘Back to the Forest and I wrote again and sent a mug and coaster set as it was near Christmas again she replied thanking me for the gift.I was sad to hear that she had passed away the following year and was glad that I had a chance to tell this wonderful lady how much her book of her life story inspired me .