Posts Tagged ‘camping’

The Summer of 1962

May 1, 2019

By Eddie Blackwell
I’d just finished National Service in February of ’62, it was the annual Summer Holiday Weekend, and the weather was reasonable for the time of year, I was living at home with my Mum and Dad, I had nothing planned for the weekend. My Sister Sheila and my brother in law Roy had gone camping with Hazel their daughter who was two years old, to a place called Betws y Coed in North Wales.
Well Mum was fretting they’d been away almost a week, and there were no communications that we could afford, other than a letter or a card through the post. We’d received a post card saying they’d arrived OK and everything was fine, they were camping at a farm just off the main road, they had fantastic scenery all around, and they were having a good time. It was a sunny afternoon and we were sittinging in the front garden, I said to Mum and Dad why don’t we go down there and find them it’s a Bank Holiday Weekend we can stay over and come back on the Monday, ready for work on Tuesday morning. Without hesitation Mum said yes, I’ll get some things together. We had a Black 1953 Ford Consul with a I.5 litre engine, it was in reasonable condition apart from a couple of worn tyres. Mum was ready in about an hour, I had filled with petrol checked oil and water lights and tyre pressures, brake light and brakes and hand brake, windscreen wipers, a full first parade. I’d learnt to drive in the Army and followed the way I’d been instructed, be prepared and check everything (famous last words). I think dad was a bit apprehensive, he didn’t drive and either walked or used public transport to travel about, this was a new venture for him, yet he did seem excited to be going to North Wales a place he’d never been.
I’d worked out a route, which may not have been the shortest distance, but it followed the main roads and guaranteed that driving conditions would be reasonable, I estimated about 135 miles and it would take approximately three hours with a pit stop for refreshment. Huddersfield, Manchester, Chester, Mould, Ruthin, then turn right onto the A5 at Corwen past the Fairy Glen Gorge and we’re there. All was going well the traffic was light and we made excellent progress, just one stop for toilets at a garage, and we were turning on to the A5 two and a half hours, well on schedule, and then it happened, as we were going through the forest, the back end went funny, a puncture oh the joys of motoring. No problem I said we have a spare that I checked before we started, I was well trained at wheel changing, part of you driving test in the Army changing a wheel out with the spare wheel unscrewed the nuts with the wheel brace, pass the jack Dad……No jack what, can’t see the jack, oh no, I wonder how far away the nearest garage is, nothing shown on the map, the road was clear, what to do for the best. Then a car came slowly into view travelling at a reasonable speed, obviously the driver saw us and slowed down, wound down his window and said do you need any help (can you imagine that happening today, foot down and off), I explained the problem and within ten minutes we were fixed wheel changed nuts tightened and off we went.
Betws-y-Coed was a strange layout just a main road with small streets running off from side to side, there was a Big Hotel as I remember and then we saw a sign for a farm. We’ll try this one I said, no they didn’t do camping, but directed us to one that did at the other end of town. Spot on we’d found them, with a 6 ft 6 in white ridge tent, there was plenty of room alongside and I pulled the car in. We didn’t have a tent, but it was only for a couple of nights and we’d manage. Mum would sleep in the tent with Sheila and Hazel and Dad, Roy and I would manage in the cars, we called to see the farmer to explain that we were only there for two nights, and didn’t have a tent, that’s OK he said no tent no charge.
Dad had been a Cook in the RAF during WW2 and soon had the kitchen sorted, Mum Had brought food from home, and it was sausage mash and baked beans for tea, I couldn’t wait I was starving,
I could have eaten a Scabby Donkey between two slices of bread.
I think Sheila, Roy and Hazel were pleased to see us, Hazel was over the moon Mum had her on her knee and was reluctant to put her down, well she’d not seen her for a week, things were working out well. After we’d had tea and done the washing up. Dad Roy and I went to the local had a pint and got a few cans of beer to take back.
The following day was a Sunday, Dad had bacon and eggs on the go with tomato’s bread and butter and pots of tea, the sun was shining it was a good day. Greenery all around and the hills formed protection from the wind, Roy and I took off for a walk for an hour to get rid of the cobwebs from the night before, everyone was happy, and Dad was a good cook, and very well organised in the kitchen. That afternoon we decided to go for a walk in the village, and then came the shock in Wales they followed a religious Sunday, and the shops, and the Pubs were closed. A silly idea if you ask me Dad said, they’ll only serve you at the Hotel if you’re staying there, Dad liked a pint on Sunday lunchtime and played snooker in the Working Men’s Club, surely you can go without a pint for one day Mum said, look at the lovely scenery. Roy changed the subject quickly, I know we’ll go to the Fairy Glen Joe, there’s a waterfall there and it’s very picturesque, that sounds fine Roy Dad said is it very far, it’s near where we had the puncture Dad I said, and off we went. We parked in the Fairy glen hotel car park and it took about 20 mins along the path to reach the Glen itself it the Conway river that wanders down then a combination of rapids and cascades that are channelled through a narrow ravine it’s a very impressive sight. It’s one of the principle attractions of the village and where Wuhelmina Stitch waits to see the Fairy Men on Beaver Bridge. It turned out to be a very satisfying experience and you could imagine how it got its name there was a magical feel about the place, suddenly Dads craving for a pint disappeared he was enthralled with the place. When we got back to camp, Roy said you’ll be all right tonight Joe, this Sunday thing happened to us last week, and I decided to but some cans in the boot of the car we can share those between us later. Dads face broke out into a smile and he started whistling, Whistle whilst you work, da dee da ’da-da dee, the primus was being primed and the big frying pan was out. Pork chops with the big ones with a piece of the kidney in, chips and peas, Apple pie with cream, for afters if you could manage it the cream was fresh from the farm life didn’t get much better than this, fresh air sunshine good food and the company of your closest family, but reality was just around the corner work on Tuesday morning.
The following day was Bank Holiday Monday which was also classed as a Sunday in Wales, but to be fair we’d had a good couple of days, we had some fun, and a lot of laughs and Mum had seen Hazel. I was at work on the Tuesday morning, and it was decided that we would leave on Monday morning to avoid the holiday traffic rush, if we left at 10 am we’d be home for about 1pm and Dad could get his pint at the Club, he also pointed out that if his lucky numbers were drawn out and he wasn’t there, he would lose the prize money. The number of years he used that as an excuse for being at the Club on Sunday Lunchtime you would not believe bless him. Sheila and Roy and Hazel were staying on until the Friday to complete their holiday. That evening Roy broke out the cans of beer we had a couple of cans and decided it was time for bed.
The following morning we awoke refreshed, Dad was preparing breakfast, Mum was packing her bits and pieces, Sheila was bathing Hazel in a large plastic tub the kettle was merrily boiling and I was feeling a bit sad at having to leave that morning. Still we all had to work, you need money to do these things, and I did enjoy the work that I did. I was a draughtsman in the building industry and there was never a dull moment in a drawing office, with all the banter, and hilarity you never felt down. The homeward journey was uneventful we arrive home in time for to drop Dad off for his pint at the club. You’ve guessed Dads numbers didn’t come out but there was always next week, in over 25 years I never remember Dad’s numbers coming out, but that’s another story for another time. We’d had a good weekend and there were many more to come. Although I must say it was a joy to climb into bed that night, the car seats were bench type seats you were laid down, but nothing equals the comfort of your own bed, particularly when it’s work the following morning. Although it’s almost 57 years ago the memories are still very vivid, and it seems but a flash of time since we were sitting in the front garden of our old house in Osmondthorpe discussing what we should do for the Bank holiday weekend.
Just a short poem about the Fairy Glen to finish off, hope you enjoy it I

Fairy Glen Betws-y-coed.
As the river Conway flows steadily towards the sea.
It passes by Fairy Glen a place you’d want to see,
Fast rapids and waterfalls are cascading along,
Down through the ravine the current is strong,
Then the river spreads and the waters are calmed,
With moss covered rocks the banks are adorned,
The woodland surrounds with a blanket of trees,
Light scent fills the air as if wanting to please,
A soothing ambience and you’re feeling at rest,
You were tired and weary now you’re at your best,
A magical place seeped in folk-law from long ago,
Wuhelmina Stitch “waits and Waits” to see the fairy men you know,
It’s a spiritual place filled with superstition spells and whims,
Where you want to say your prayers and sing a few hymns,
Toadstools moss with knurled and knotted roots litter the ground,
And you’ll search for the fairy men but their nowhere to be found,
Beavers bridge is there which allows you to across the river,
But when you reach the other side you’ll find your all a shiver,
Beautifully magical but spooky at times is how I’d describe it,
You’ll need good strong shoes and a waterproof cagoule,
It can be slippy underfoot don’t go acting like a fool,
There is a small charge for the upkeep of the paths,
Don’t know now how much it is I was never good at Maths
Stop off if your passing it’s a visit that you’ll treasure,
You’ll really enjoy and it will bring you lasting pleasure.