|The Rushden Echo, 31st March 1967, transcribed by Jim Hollis
Boy’s escape highlights gravel pit danger
Last week a 12 year-old Rushden Boy was trapped helpless up to his waist in slimy mud at the disused gravel pits at the rear of St. Mary's Avenue and the Home Farm Estate, he could have died. In fact a smaller child would have had little chance of survival.
A dramatic 90 minute rescue operation saved Christopher Howsen, Ashridge Close, and at the same time brought to light other narrow escapes by children and adults.
Now parents are demanding that the area should be fenced off. The boy sank to his waist in the bog like soft clay at the bottom of one of the many deep ravines. The mud was a thick slime and he might just as well have been stuck to a giant suction pad. The more he struggled the more he sank.
His father Mr. Arnold Howsen, and another man, Mr. T. Roberts, 6 Hall Avenue, Rushden, struggled unsuccessfully for almost thirty minutes to free the boy. They could not budge him. Eventually three firemen were able to pull him out. He was a lucky boy. Christopher is quite tall for his age and he had a friend with him who was able to run for help.
A reporter went to the very spot where he was dragged out and was able to push a pole measuring between five and six feet into the mud with ease.
Two good dry days and the top surface hardens over to all outward appearances safe, the thin layer on top cracks and gives way to filthy, sucking mud. But it is not only the bog areas that are dangerous; there are two quite large pools of water in the pit.
There is a gateway leading off Hall Avenue which is kept locked, but that is not to keep children out it is to stop people tipping in the pit. It has not even stopped that, judging by the amount of rubbish that is scattered about.
The pit is owned by Rushden Sand and Gravel Ltd. and it is understood that it is in the process of being filled in the sooner the better.
The strong feeling about the obvious danger to children among mothers on the adjacent Home Farm Estate was expressed to an "Echo" reporter when he visited the estate earlier this week. Mrs. J. Hadaway, a mother of three children under seven who lives at nearby Haddon Close, said: "It’s a scandal that a place like this is accessible to so many young children on the estate. I have told my children never to go near the pit but I know for a fact that on a number of occasions people from the corner houses have been asked to help people in trouble."
Another housewife and mother of two young children, living at 12 Haddon Close, Mrs. B. Dixon, had this to say.
“Something should be done about it. The children just have to go to the end of the road to get to the pit. Although my children are too young to go down there it is obvious that they will soon come of an age when it will be of great interest to them.”
A woman who has actually had the frightening experience of being stuck in the muddy morass is Mrs. G. K. Folder who said: “These pits are a source of constant danger. About ten years ago I myself was walking round the pits and fell in up to my knees,
“I know at least one other person who has had the same experience. It is possible that many children have fallen in but not in too dangerous a part of the area but have been afraid to tell their parents due to the fact that they were warned not to be down there.”