Posts Tagged ‘camp’

My brother at camp

July 13, 2016

My brother at camp

My brother was born in 1947 and in this photo he is aged 8. He is at ‘camp’, our regular holiday spot on the South Downs in the parish of Beddingham.


Robin, for that was his name, is engrossed in a comic and was snapped by my father who was inside one of the odd collection of tents we had as we can see in the whole photo.

image004Now straight away I can say this was an unusual day in that it must have been just about windless. Robin is surrounded by bits of comic or newspaper which do not seem to have blown away. Camp and breeze normally went together.

The comics almost certainly came from the home of Great Aunt Nellie, about a mile away at Firle. Nellie had become a widow in 1952 and she took over the role of ‘mother’ to her grandchildren, moving in with her widower son. So although in my eyes Nellie was ancient, she had a lively home with a sub teenage grandchild (Dougie) and a couple of older men grandchildren (one would actually have been 17 at this time and the other in his early 20s).

But back to Robin, absorbed in his choice of literature. Sadly, he died as a young man in 1980. By that time we had grown out of our childhood sibling rivalry and he was a good friend. I still miss him, of course, but I am lucky to have photographic and other memories.


On Fegla Fawr

May 8, 2016

This is a little hill just about on the west coast of Wales and just south of the Barmouth Estuary. For those who want to know a single F in Welsh is pronounced as a V so Fegla Fawr ends up pronounced more like Vegler Vower.

One year in the mid 80s we drove to the campsite we had been to before and it had shut. Somehow it was suggested we could find a pitch on nearby Fegla Fawr. Yes, there would be disadvantages for there was no toilet and no water. But these little inconveniences could be overcome. We had a fantastic camp and here’s our set up from a bit higher up the hill.


The tent was the one my sister and brother in law had bought second hand in 1965 so it was getting on a bit by then. And you can see that green structure which was a toilet tent. We had taken our chemical loo so the absence of a toilet was no problem. Sharp eyed viewers will spot the Cambrian Coast railway line curving round on the right and in the midground there is a station.

image003This station was called Morfa Mawddach  and it had a loo and water. We could easily carry what we needed from there. By the way, this single platform request stop had once been called Barmouth Junction and the line to Dolgellau had headed off to the left.

So, with problems solved we could enjoy a camp and trips out in the car.

image004The car at that time was an Austin Princess. I had had to replace my much loved Maxi and that was what we got. It wasn’t a ‘me’ car at all. How we crammed tents, toilets, tables, chairs, bedding, cooking facilities etc plus four people in the car I really don’t know. But I do recall that I found hollow spaces between two skins of metal and I put tinned food over the wheel arches. Some of it I was never able to find again! I reckon some tins of peas went to the scrap yard in that car!

Mum does the washing

March 30, 2016

Now to be honest, I can’t tell you just what was going on here. It was 1957 and we were at camp. Mum has gone to the local cattle trough and appears to be doing the washing.


I know it isn’t a brilliant photo but I still like it. There is mum and she is clearly rinsing something out in a cattle trough. The curious cows have come to watch whatever is going on and the one on the left certainly looks to be eyeing up mum – but rest assured, she came to no harm and we never found the local stock anything but docile.

There is another photo of the same event.


Happy days!

At Camp in 1959

September 26, 2015

Visitors came to see us regularly at camp. Our chosen site, near Lewes, was little more than 20 miles from home and car drivers could easily pop down to see us – and they did. I loved being at camp but it seems more staid friends and some who were more on the wild side, loved the atmosphere of our non-campsite camping where we had to be self-reliant in all ways.

Fred and Marjory Davies were visitors. My dad knew them through the WEA – the Worker’s Educational Association. I would put them in the more staid category. Fred drove what I thought was a swish Wolseley car with a walnut dashboard. But they enjoyed visiting and Fred took these photos.


The group of people there, seated between our two main tents, start with my mum and then Marjory. I’m afraid I don’t recognise the next lady. My dad is lounging in his chair and that’s my brother standing up by the telescope. The track going to the top of the hill can be seen on the hillside above the group, passing the scallop shaped chalk pit which was a feature of the site.


This picture looks in the opposite direction and that neat boy on the left is me. I don’t know the two people also on the ground except that the man looks a bit like Fred Davies so it might be him. I do note the poles which supported our electric fence which protected camp from the bullocks in the field. My mother sits outside the bell tent and, once again, my brother is by the telescope.

Happy memories!

Furlongs and the campsite

October 19, 2014

It was a couple of days after the funeral of my sister that we (my wife and I) visited Furlongs. It was an emotional visit for me because Furlongs was where we camped each year from 1954 for at least 15 years. A little ledge on the South Downs was, and remains, a very important place for me. I know I spent about 6 months of my life there, over those years. They were six summer months and six months which did a huge amount to form who I am. In fact it did much to form who we were as a family of which I am now the sole survivor. Actually, there are a couple of other family members who ‘camped’. One is my wife although she was a mere girlfriend back then. The other is my dad’s second wife. I won’t say that camp had quite such an impact on them but at least I can still share experiences with them.

And there are other survivors too. There’s a past boyfriend of my sister who spent some time with us one year and there are day visitors some of whom remain good friends of mine.

Anyway, this post is about my rather emotional return to the camp site we loved just those couple of days after that funeral.

We found a spot from where we could look down on ‘our’ ledge.


Sheep used to graze the field by day and that meant it was a smoother shorter grass sward generally with less shrubbery on the hillside beyond.

I, of course, made my way to the ledge.


And that’s me with our ‘classic’ view of Mount Caburn across the valley made by Glynde Reach. That view can just take me to a state of happiness as enjoyed by me as a child up to 60 years ago. I can point out changes but essentially, it looks very much the same.


I think my sister must have taken this 1954 picture. The four people I see in it are me, my mum, my dad and my brother.


There are no tents, of course, in 2014.

A zoom in on a passing train (a mile away in Glynde) reveals differences.


The most notable one would be the streetlamps along the main road. Back in the 50s and 60s it was a dark world at night. There was a spot where cars (occasional of course) came over Ranscombe Hill on the road where the headlights pointed straight at us at camp. For an instant it was possible to read a book by that light from a couple of miles away.

By the way, my dad attempted a photo of a train back in 1954.


Interestingly, 60 years on I can tell you this was a train going from London to Hastings without going in to Eastbourne. The make up of the carriages makes it clear to me.

This, then, was our ledge, where we camped each year and where I spent 6 months of my life.


I was pleased to find a September flowering scabious.


Another view of our camp ledge, this time from one of the arable fields.


Now Eric Ravilious produced a picture (Downs in Winter) from a similar spot which shows our ledge


I decided I’d match his 1934 picture with a 2014 Cambridge roller which was actually elsewhere in the same field. So the picture below is edited and has the roller added.


Well, the rollers have certainly got bigger in 80 years!


Classic Camp

June 27, 2014

Classic Camp

It is 1958. We are camping at the spot we always camped at. It is not a camp site. It is merely a ledge on the South Downs, not far from a water supply and with a friendly farmer. For the first time my dad is trying out colour photography. He has borrowed a suitable 35 mm camera. The scene, as you can see, was beautiful and we have our classic camp set up.


Let’s start with the tents. The pyramid at the left hand end was our toilet tent. I suspect that by this time we had a chemical loo which, when full, was emptied down a rabbit hole! The tent had been a polar tent and originally it would have been held in place by snow piled on large horizontal flaps on the outside. Dad had equipped it with guy ropes and peg downs.

The little brown tent was used as a store. That had been a US Army bivouac tent.

The square tent coloured green was a hefty wooden frame tent. It served as living room and parents’ bedroom. By this time it sported a lean-to extension for further storage space. The square bell tent in brown, with a fetching green top was home for us children.

And of course, we had no car. We had been driven there in a lorry and there was a return date fixed, some three weeks ahead.


The backdrop of our view was the wonderful Mount Caburn – the highpoint on a little break-away section of South Downs. Being children, we saw shapes in things, so that chalk pit had green areas which were a galloping horse and a duck. Further round and on the extreme left of this photo there’s an area of woodland which appeared to be a letter P to us. These features all still exist but shapes change and the horse and duck probably aren’t recognisable as such any more.

At the left end of the photo and below Mount Caburn there’s a line of seven elm trees and these have gone. Actually, they weren’t a line for five of them were on the nearside of the A27 road and two were on the far side. Being of simple pleasures, we liked watching the Eastbourne bus threading its way between those trees.

Also between us and Caburn there was the railway line and it happened that every hour the up and down London to Eastbourne trains passed each other in that view. That was always a sight to enjoy.

Of course, this was a part of the Southern Electric railway system so even back in the late 1950s most trains were electric. But there were still steam hauled goods trains and also some cross country trains which were steam hauled. There was a daily train we called the Birkenhead Express for it was heading for that Merseyside town. Bits from various Sussex and Kent towns were joined up at Redhill and made their way up to the Wirral in Cheshire. This train caused me to think Birkenhead must be a wonderful place.

Ah! Happy memories!

Robin at Camp again

February 1, 2014

It was only a few days ago that I showed a picture of my brother Robin, reading at camp. That was taken in 1954. Today we have another picture of Robin reading at camp. This one dates from 1959.


Robin is sitting on one of my dad’s much favoured director’s chairs.Robin would have been 12 years old at this time.

Behind Robin is the elderly bell tent which was the bedroom for the children. It had no windows so was a bit dark and gloomy inside. Like children of old, we had a candle to light our way to bed.

Behind the tent we can see a bit of woodland, planted on a steep slope. My dad called this bit of wood, ‘The Spinney’. The word means ‘small wood’ so it was well named. I suspect that when this photo was taken, our cat would have been in the Spinney. Blackett the cat used to have to come camping with us and he didn’t care much for the open downs. The Spinney provided him with cover and a good hunting zone. He turned up once or twice a day for provided food, and often brought a catch back to camp at night. People thought we were mad for we all know that cats are fixed on places and not people. But Blackett never wondered off and was still with us into the 1970s.

Happy days! Happy memories too!

Robin at Camp

January 27, 2014

From time to time I return to the theme of ‘camp’. It represents both an activity and a place. The place was our little ledge on the South Downs between Lewes and Eastbourne. The activity was – well – just life really.

I camped on that ledge for some period of every year from 1954 to 1968.  In the first year I was, as A A Milne might have said, ‘very young’. In the last year I went with my girlfriend, as well as my dad and his second wife who was also a girlfriend at the time. The approximately 6 months of my life spent living under canvas on that remote ledge had an enormous impact on me – more perhaps than the 19 years or so that I had spent by then living in a house.

When I think of childhood, I think of camp. One reason may have been that at camp, my brother was a good companion. Away from camp we were poles apart although we grew close in adulthood. His adulthood, though, was cut far too short when he died of cancer in his early thirties. Photos of camp remind me of those happy times and here is my brother – his name was Robin – back in 1954.


There are some amazing things about this picture. My dad (a case of like son like father) was not the most artistic of photographers but this time he must have seen an opportunity to frame Robin using the entrance to the tent he was in. He has clearly caught Robin deeply engrossed in some reading.

But perhaps the most amazing thing is that the pages on the ground have not blown away. Wind was almost always with us on the downs, but that day must have been an exception.

I think it’s a lovely photo, albeit a little soft in focus. Well done Dad!


November 27, 2013

Every summer for fifteen years during my childhood and youth, some time was spent at camp. Camp indicated not just living under canvas, but also a location. Camp was on a ledge on the South Downs between Beddingham, Firle and Glynde. So much time was spent there, that it felt like a real home but also like a place to raise the spirits and spread happiness and joy.

The life style was simple. These days people might call it mere existence. For my mum, coping with restricted cooking facilities must have been a bit of a problem. For all of us, there were daily tasks like fetching water. Obviously we had no luxury like a fridge so food needed purchasing regularly – items like bread and milk. We had no car so we either cycled or walked to Glynde or Firle for these items. On a regular basis we cycled down to Newhaven to enjoy the delights of the seaside. It was about seven miles each way and at other times we played games, using our imaginations a great deal.

But we also helped on the farm. Dick, the farmer/shepherd worked to a time honoured system. Each day, the sheep were out at large in the huge field in which we camped. Every evening, he went off to find the sheep and bring them down to a pen. This was on a potential arable field and something would tempt the sheep to want to be there – no doubt a bit of lush summer growth. The sheep already had full bellies from a day grazing on the downs and during the night they emptied the contents of their gut onto this section of arable land, fertilising it and ensuring a good crop the next year. Once the sheep were out on the downs again, Dick would move the pen, ready for the next night. These days, the pen would be electric fencing – light and manageable. Back then it was sheep hurdles – heavy and cumbersome by comparison.

Two young lads reckoned they could help out a bit, by finding and fetching the sheep. These lads were, of course, my brother and I. Now I reckon the perimeter of our field measured some three and a half miles and it went from more or less sea level up to a height of close on 650 feet. Dick, to our eyes, was ancient. We took it on ourselves to get the sheep in and save him the bother of it.

And here we are.


I’m on the left and my brother is on the right. We both have sticks. Dick always carried one, so it seemed right. Some of the sheep seem to be looking at us as though they don’t quite believe that two little lads will take them to better things. I have to say we look a right pair of scruffy little urchins.

I have no idea who took this photo. It is not one of my dad’s but I thank whoever it was.

Visitors at Camp

November 16, 2013

For much of the year, visitors were a rarity when I was a child. But for three weeks of the year, when we were camping, visitors came in droves. They must have found something a bit special about this slightly eccentric family who got themselves dumped on a remote ledge on the South Downs, way away from anything in the way of services or facilities.

When I look at photos from 1954, I see we had visitors from near and far and today I shall show you near ones.


Here we see the main living tent. Outside it is a canvas wash basin and I assume my dad has hung up a shaving mirror above it. Next to the bowl is a 2 gallon water bottle which we could take a couple of hundred yards to a tap. That bottle was a favourite of mine for it had a comfy handle. Others had little more than a wire handle and it cut into hands. I wrapped grass around them to make them more comfortable.

But what about the people? The shadowy figure, sitting at the table in the tent is my mum and I’m the little lad at the left. Behind me is my Great Aunt Nellie who lived about a mile from where we camped. She appears to have a little bunch of wild flowers. Surely she didn’t bring them as a gift for us? She was such a cheerful old soul, with much not to be cheerful about. Her own husband, Frank, had died not much more than a year previously. Her daughter in law had died in 1951 and old Nellie became surrogate mum for a couple of teenage lads and a younger grandson. It’s that younger grandson, Dougie, who is (I think) the middle lad. I’m sorry to have lost touch with Dougie, my second cousin, but I believe he lives in the Hailsham area of East Sussex. And I’m not certain he is the lad in the middle because he doesn’t look to be five years older than the third boy. The one on the right, is my brother, Robin. I’m really sorry to have lost touch with him, but that’s because he died, far too young, back in 1980. He’s now been dead for longer than he was ever alive.

My dad did manage some quite charming photos.