My personal tribute and memories of the great Med Snookes, who sadly lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.
As children my sister Anna and I grew up living opposite Med and Vivs house in Welland, we played with his children, Rory and Rebecca. This was not an ordinary house, Med played a guitar and their garden was not like any other garden in the 1970s. It had something called a wildlife pond, this pond contained wonderful things such as newts, frogs and in the spring frog spawn, we were even allowed to hold the baby frogs. However I wasn’t so keen on holding Rory’s strange pets which were some baby grass snakes!
My parents became close friends with Med and Viv. When we all moved houses the Snookes family now lived on the Common, a visit to Med and Vivs meant this became our extended playground, we would receive disapproving looks when we arrived back damp and muddy having been in the pond know as the Marley Hole.
We all went on holiday to a cottage in Hope Cove, when we arrived Med had given himself the task of cooking us all Macaroni Cheese (my eyes were opened I didn’t realise Dads did cooking!) there was some drama over the macaroni cheese, I can’t remember exactly what happened but it eventually was done and tasted good. It was an amazing holiday one of those when us 4 kids were left to our own devices to discover rock pools and caves, we made up adventures of Pirate and Triffid invasions.
Med would always drive really fast down the narrow Cornish lanes, his theory which has always made me chuckle, being the faster you drove the less chance you have of meeting anything, Med was so sharp to brake he never hit anyone. Luckily for us with their car full we would always be in our car behind. My terrified very safety conscious Dad doing his best to keep up, anxiously telling us Med’s theory was not a good one.
Med taught us at Hanley Castle High School in Art, he was an incredible teacher, his lessons were the best in the school, his class room was a treasure trove of art work, he would tell wonderful inspirational stories about past pupils, his enthusiasm inspired so many and not just in the Art that he taught.
When I was 16 and failed maths dismally with a level 5 CSE my Father was gutted as he was good at maths. I was told by the school that I would not be even allowed to retake it, as I spent too much time day dreaming and looking out of the window. Med had a word with my father. He said pay for her to take it yourself, Stella is a force to be reckoned with when she sets her mind to it. With those words in my ears I took extra lessons at lunchtime and knuckled down in class and I passed with a grade 2. I have never forgotten Meds words and they have been applied many times to anything that seems a tough task in my life.
My family now lived at Bakers Farm, which had an old cider mill and ancient orchard. Med liked Cider and it wasn’t long before he had gathered together a few friends and they were bagging up the Perry Pears and Cider Apples. Every year they would make Cider using the old Cider Mill and press, the group would all push the mill around by hand, these were wonderful evenings with Med being the driving force behind them, I remember there being much shouting, laughing and even possibly some swearing.
My Mum would take down chunky bread and cheese which was consumed with Cider, I often wondered why the cider was bought Cider and not last years crop!!
My Dad still has an audio tape of one such evening.
Med used to take groups of American students on educational tours around the local area. Included on their route was always a visit to see our working cider press at Bakers Farm, they were always fascinated. Meds great sense of humour was always near the surface, he would made sure the American Students arrived at Bakers Farm in the darkness, thick fog was even better! There is a nice gravel track up to the farm but Med ignored this, instead directing the driver over the rough and undulating Castlemorton Common. It amused Med that the Students would believe they were being driven across some mysterious dark moor!! As the mini bus bumped and swayed its way over the uneven ground in the darkness the lights of Bakers Farm would thankfully appear as they came over the brow of the hill.
Once the students had safely arrived I used to love listening to Med enthusing about the old cider making methods, especially the part when he told them a dead rat would be added to assist the fermenting process. On one occasion a student then asked in a very strong American Accent “So what do you do about Hygiene?” Med loved this and that story became added to his many tales.
One of the American students told me they had been over the Malvern Hills and Med’s knowledge was incredible, she said they had to keep stopping as Med would spot some unusual rock, plant or tree he wanted to tell them about. They had learnt the names of numerous different plants, trees, mosses and lichens just in one afternoon.
In my early twenties I managed to pass a selection weekend and was chosen to go to Chile for 3 months on an Operation Raleigh Expedition. An experience of a lifetime. I had to raise several thousand pounds for charity as part of my work. Immediately Med was there to help, he organised a folk music evening at Castlemorton Parish Hall. The evening sold out and he raised a large chunk of funds towards my charity contribution. All Med asked for in return was for me to bring him back a souvenir. Early on into the expedition I found something interesting, which meant for 3 months I carried a large lump of Patagonia wood from Chile and a piece of rock from Argentina in my ruck sack. Med was delighted with the unusual gifts and the effort it took to bring them home.
Med and Viv were one of the first of Mum and Dads friends who came to see our first house which Anthony and I bought in Morton Green they were so pleased for us. Many years later we started to renovate our next house, Eight Oaks Farm, they came round during the renovation for a tour. When it was finished we invited them round for tea and homemade scones, we were so proud to show it to them and it was an opportunity to ask Med loads questions about the history. His knowledge was just incredible. His last visit here was last year to advise us on our water leak which was not a burst pipe. Med said we have numerous natural springs here due to the bank behind the house almost certainly containing sandstone. The natural spring would have been why a house was built here in the first place, the bricks for our house would have been made from the clay on the common and the beams would have probably have come from the ships being put out of service at Gloucester docks., what a wealth of knowledge.
Med was the most wonderful man, an irreplaceable character he inspired so many with his enthusiasm. He remained one of my fathers closest friends and will be greatly missed by us all.