Hello Tom and are you sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin. Once upon a time in days gone by, about the time I was your age, Grampy Colin decided he would take Vieve ( 12 ), Grug ( 6 ) and Divad ( 9 ) on holiday to the Dorset coast to a place called Studland.
Studland is a long wide beach that is shallow for a mile out to sea and is not far from Swanage, a small seaside town with it’s own railway station, and in those days it had steam trains.
Colin had very little money, so he made a wooden trailer with pram wheels to be pulled behind his bicycle, on which he would carry a tent and all the camping equipment for the four of us and we were to follow on our second hand bicycles.
Colin made the trailer using old pennies as washers drilling holes through them as it was cheaper than buying steel washers. The construction was done on the front grass over several days, while we practised putting up and taking down the tent we had borrowed from the local Boy Scouts.
The journey from Hobbes Close to Studland took five days. We set off towards Foxley as we were to take the back roads to avoid the traffic. At the end of the first day we had reached the edge of Salisbury Plain.
Here we set up camp on the edge of a ‘Danger Area’ used by the army for a firing zone, about three miles from a small village called Upton Scudamore.
The next day we awoke to find the beautiful warm sunshine of the day before had been replaced with very heavy rain. Too heavy for cycling so we spent the next three days in the tent waiting for it to stop.
I can’t remember what we did all day long but I do remember we lived on white sliced bread with bramble jelly jam and bacon sandwiches cooked on a GAZ stove.
Each day we would wait for a brief break in the weather and dash into Upton Scudamore to buy more bread, jam, bacon and I think the others also ate baked beans.
On the fifth day the summer sun returned and we set off across the Plain towards a village called Hammoon. We had to wade through waist deep flooded roads with strong currents trying to wash us into the fields, as the previous days it had rained so heavily and continuously it had caused all the local streams and rivers to break their banks.
Late afternoon we were close to Studland and got very excited as we could see the sea in the distance. So we put on extra speed and soon left Colin behind, as with his heavy trailer to pull he could not go fast. We got to the beach dropped every thing and with our trousers still on rushed into the sea up to our waists. It was now beginning to get dark and we looked around to see if Colin had arrived.
Soaking wet we decided to cycle back the way we had come, looking for Colin. Three miles up the hill we found the trailer and all of our equipment in a lay-by with a large area of grass but no sign of Colin. Not at all worried we set up the tent and waited.
Mean while Colin was at the local police station setting up a search party as he couldn’t believe we could have gone so fast as to have reached the sea. Shortly a Police car arrived and out stepped a Policeman who said, “Is this the Forward family all but father”. After a call to base on his radio the Policeman soon had Colin joining us for our first night in the “one tent” lay-by camp site.
The next day we spent on the beach and Colin returned to the tent to cook dinner and wash our clothes in a plastic bowl by the road side. A piece of string from a pole stuck in the ground to the tent became a washing line. The sides of the tent were tied up so it looked more like a giant umbrella. This was to air it out said Colin.
The days were very hot and sunny and many flies gathered in our tent for shade. This was so intolerable we moved half a mile down hill but returned the next day as the flies in that field were even more in number.
Colin would write letters home and we would receive replies addressed to The Tent, Grass Verge, Nr. Agglestone Cottage, B3351 Road, Nr. Studland, Dorset. The novelty of the beach was wearing off so Colin took us into Swanage for a sight seeing visit of the town and to see the Steam Engines at the station afterwards.
The train driver and fireman on one train soon got to know us as we kept coming back. The driver had two silver stars on his hat so he became known to us as ” Two Star Fred “. We soon progressed to being invited onto the foot plate and towards the end of our visits Two Star Fred and his fireman, known as “Pug”, would let us pull a very large lever up and down to make the engine move. So we had all become train drivers.
The thought of cycling about a hundred miles around the back roads home was not looked forward to by any of us so Colin decided we had just enough money left to stay an extra couple of days and get the train back to Chippenham instead.
From Chippenham we again took to the back roads and when we got to Foxley we again made a last minute dash for home leaving Colin to his struggle with the trailer arriving home fifteen minutes later, this time without the local police looking for us.