BACK in the day, there was no need to head for Weston-super-Mare or Barry Island when Hereford had its own beach, writes Marsha O'Mahony.

There isn’t much left of it now, but it was there: a sweeping stretch of shingle, opposite the old general hospital. Today, all that’s left is a thicket of withy trees. But on a summer’s day this was the place to be and, of course, it was where photographer Derek Evans would go too.

Many of his images of a time gone by evoke strong memories for Herefordians and feature in a new film by Catcher Media, Carousel, a gorgeous chronicle of Herefordshire life.

He captured the post-war period on Hereford beach perfectly, with families of harassed mums in cotton frocks, dads, braces pulled down, open neck shirts, ciggie in mouth, pulling along excitable children, all flocking to the ‘beach’, claiming their spots on the bank for the afternoon.

Laid out on plaid rugs were wicker baskets of greaseproof-wrapped sandwiches of egg, ham or cucumber, pork pies, squash, and flasked tea, stewed to within an inch of its life.

Stretchy neoprene swimsuits were still decades away. Many reported having woollen bathing costumes (patterns can be seen at Herefordshire Archive and Records Centre), often knitted by granny.

These most unsuitable bathing garments caused acute and maximum embarrassment and lasting psychological harm! Della, 93, recalled her woollen onesie "stretching and drooping beyond belief after one dipping and I never wore it again", while Tom, 80, improvised: ‘I got an old pullover, tied it up with a piece of string, and sewed up the middle! It did the job."

Another interviewee for River Voices: Extraordinary Stories from the Wye remembers, it as a childhood utopia: "We had jam jars of minnows, with a piece of string round the top as handles, which we took hours trying to get the knots right on before we headed off.

"And off we’d go, with a net. Our parents didn’t worry, nobody worried, and, going away from the river, we used to cycle to the top of Dinedor Hill on three-wheel bikes and we’d take cold tea in a bottle and off we’d go, and we had a drink and came back down eventually.

"We would take toast down to the river as well. I couldn’t swim initially when I first went down there. We were all about the same age the boys, and there was one older boy, who could swim and I suppose he was nominally in charge. We all survived.

"There were about six or seven of us lived in the road, and we were friends and a lot of these friendships went on for decades.

"We used to walk down to the river through the Hinton estate. At that time, where the King George’s playing fields used to be, there was a farm and there were cows in the field. We used to climb over a style and walk down to the beach opposite the old general hospital. We went there and caught minnows and got wet and had a really good time. The river was our life really."

It is fortunate that the county had a photographer documenting such events that may at times appear ordinary.

With the passage of time, they have become an important part of the social history record of Herefordshire.

To see more from Derek’s vast collection visit

Catcher Media’s Carousel film can be seen at Hellens Garden Festival on Saturday (June 8) or at The Gateway, Labels, Ross-on-Wye, on Sunday, June 23.