Towards 2001

I became a member of the group in November 1967, for that you have to blame my brother Bob. From that time forward, Thursday has been club night, and will, I hope, continue to be, for some time yet.

Early the following year, I went on my first weekend, to Milford hostel, sadly now closed. I always thought that walkers used footpaths, but at that time 'foot and mouth' was widespread, and so we were confined to the country lanes for the day, which was a Saturday.

On the Sunday there was a football match between ourselves and the 3B's local group, we lost 4-5. Not a very promising start to a pastime, but as with the foot and mouth, I soon became infected, and my parents started asking me if I was at home for the weekend, instead of if I was away.

Seventeen bed nights were achieved that year, but sadly I lost my membership card whilst walking near Jordans Youth Hostel. On that same walk we had for company, a young boy of 13 named Eddy, who revealed to us that he had acquired, from the hostel, one sheet sleeping bag and a can opener, these were duly returned to the warden, and the youngster never returned to the group. His brother did though to see if Eddy had sold HIS guitar to anyone in the group.

The following year I turned to cycling instead of walking and with the company of such members as Reg Dean, Terry Williams, Richard Wakefield, Mike Barton, Rob Hitchenor and Trevor Key, the number of hostel weekends shot up. One particular weekend comes to mind.

We cycled to Windsor on the Friday evening and then to Winchester on the Saturday morning as the sun shone. Part of the ride involved crossing a ford, there had been a fair amount of rain the previous week, so it had become fairly deep in the middle, about 2 feet in fact. This was obviously the time for Reg to take some photographs, so he cycled through first, reaching the other side safely. The rest of us, Mike, Terry and myself, followed all getting wet feet but staying upright.

While all this was happening Richard was doing a striptease, taking off his jacket, shirt, vest and trousers, and putting on a pair of shorts, his clothing being tied to his saddlebag. He mounted his bike and rode into the river. Richard never was very steady on a bike at the best of times and on reaching the middle of the ford his wheel slipped, so he put his foot down, sadly that slipped as well, so did several loud oaths when he came to the surface along with his clothing, as it fell from his saddle bag and floated downstream. The sight of Terry running down the river bank trying to catch the clothing and of Reg later peeling apart soaking wet pound notes and laying them on the grass is one I will always remember.

There were many weekends like that and thankfully there will always be.

With the end of the sixties came hard times for the group, with its membership down to less than 30 and Thursday's attendance down to less than 10 but due to the effort of such people as Robin Maisey, Reg Dean, Rob Hitchenor, Dave Harris and others, who formed the new committee in October 1970 the tide turned and the group grew again.

The group at the end of 1975 was still the most active hostelling group in South-East England. For it to continue with its future secured we must all make sure it remains so. Should the membership go down to 5, providing they are all hostellers, then the group will survive.

If I had my 23 years again there is only one thing I would do differently and that is to join the group.

Account by Dave Ford