The Maltonian Web


Keith Williams

Memories of camping trips in the 1970s and 1980s

I asked Keith for a few recollections of the camping trips and watersports trips that he instigated, when I was writing the History of Malton School. He was good enough to reply:

The first camping trips started when John Gresswell let me have enough money to buy Black's Good Companion tents, sleeping bags and cooking kit including Primus stoves sufficient to take 12 kids and 2 staff camping. Transport in the early days was my car and whoever else we could persuade to take us across, and a trailer made by Pete Eggleston and some of the lads in metalwork (not allowed to use home - made gear now!)

Early cooking was very experimental, including the use of dehydrated food - not popular, as Robbo [I assume Alan Robinson] will testify. I think that's when the "reward" trip to the chip shop was probably inaugurated. I recall on one of the trips Baz [Barry Miller] accompanied, some lads complained that their bacon was either raw or burned black; we hadn't told them that you had to separate the slices from each other before frying...

Our itinerary would include high or low level walks depending on weather, swimming in tarns or lake (until a requirement for Lifesaving in natural waters certificates came along, when we quietly said "b...ocks" and started going to the nearest swimming baths so that the kids had at least one wash during the week). If the weather was really dire we might have a trip to eg. Windscale or the Ravenglass railway to cheer up the troops.

Once Baz arrived we started to do rock climbing on various easy crags, or abseiling at Hodge Close quarry - always very popular.

 Langdale was a favourite destination for many years until it got too popular with noisy college groups, whereupon we moved to Park Foot at Pooley Bridge, where our trip seemed to coincide with an annual convention of approved schools; but they were mostly either escaping or under arrest, and no bother to us.

Watersports trips were initially to a permanent campsite right by a beach on the Mediterranean, not far from a little fishing village called Grau d'Agde. Getting there involved a 24hr bus trip down the Autoroute du Soleil, which fortunately usually lived up to its name, and also involved about 8 million French families with similar ideas of heading south for some sun. Itineraries included Topper dinghy sailing, which the kids picked up very quickly; catamaran and longboat sailing, windsurfing, canoeing and lots of swimming and snorkelling, plus daft beach games and visits to the watersports theme park at Agde. Funny how the 2 francs a litre red wine tasted fine at a beach barbeque, but like vinegar by the time it got to Yorkshire!

Later trips included 3 or 4 days canoeing down the Ardeche gorge before the beach part; very scenic and great fun, but strenuous when the wind was blowing hard up the river.