Friday, 16 June 2017

Going Back 55 Years........

I mentioned on this blog a few years back that when I was 14 years old I set off on a touring bike ride around East Anglia.....
My family were living in Feltham near Heathrow airport at that time and I talked a friend into doing the trip with me..... I have to say that I am amazed that my parents allowed me to set off on that mini adventure but it does highlight the difference between attitudes then and now....

At that time it was still the golden age of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA)... 
In those days you could link up a number of Youth Hostels in order to complete a walk or a cycle ride...nowadays it would be impossible to do those trips and rely on a Youth Hostel for an overnight stop.. So many hostels in the YHA network have now been closed and those that do remain seem to aim at families, students and school parties as their core customers....

Back in 1962 when I did that trip the objective of the YHA was to "help all, especially young people of limited means, to a greater knowledge, love and care of the countryside, particularly by providing hostels or other simple accommodation for them in their travels and thus to promote their health, rest and education."

Sadly the needs and expectations of young travellers has changed over the years and the YHA has struggled at times to adjust..... I ended my membership a number of years ago when I felt that the changes to the organisation had altered it beyond recognition and it no longer suited my needs....

Having said that the YHA (along with the Scout movement) was fundamental in helping to foster my desire for travel and adventure and is probably one of the reasons why I am currently doing what I am doing....

Going back those 55 years.... the Youth Hostel that had the biggest impact on me during that trip was Houghton Mill near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire....
This was our second nights stop....our first night had been at St Albans....

I've always remembered the smell of the interior of the mill ....... beauty of the location.... the sound of the water.... 
For the 14 year old Trevor the place was just magic and I have always wanted to revisit Houghton..... 

Well the other day after 55 years I went back.....

Anne and I visited the mill for a day out and it was everything that I had remembered....
It is no longer a Youth Hostel (that closed back in 1984) and is now maintained by the National Trust but I was so surprised to see a corner of the mill had been dedicated to it's YHA history with a display of membership cards, badges and hostelling magazines... also they even had a bunk bed exactly as it would have been back when I visited all those years ago.... there was even a classic Roberts style radio playing music from the 1960s.....

It's not often that you can revisit somewhere without feeling a little let down but this was total magic.....it was a magic carpet ride whisking me back to when I was 14...... Perfect.


Houghton Mill
Bunk Bed straight from the 1960s

YHA Membership Items

A View From a Lower Floor of Houghton Mill
Entrance to the Mill

6 comments:

Gideon Howe said...

Yes I too spent a few happy nights in YHA bunk beds. I believe we spent one on one of our walks Trevor but I can't remember which. Glad you enjoyed your trip down memory lane.

Peter Roberts said...

Memories are made of things like this :-)

Trevor Woodford said...

*Gideon Howe*
I'm sure we did Gids.... Would it have been along the South Downs Way somewhere.... Or that route we did from Guildford to the coast. ???

*Peter Roberts*
They certainly are Peter... A lot of my summer tour this year will be going back to places from the past...

GreenComotion said...

What a beautiful memory, Trevor.
These days, one could use the Warm Showers network for such tours, I believe, though I have personally not used it.
I look forward to your summer tour and places from your past with gorgeous photos as always.
Have a Happy Day!
Peace :)

Steve A said...

And God Bless Sir Robert Baden-Powell!

Trevor Woodford said...

*GreenComotion*
It's probably the growth of the internet that helps the 'Warm Showers' network to function as it does, although these days when cycle touring I would always prefer to take ultra light camping kit and sleep in the great outdoors.

*Steve A*
I agree Steve...he started a great organization that changed a lot of young peoples lives....I loved being a Scout....