Bolton School Former Pupils

Martin Wadsworth's Saundersfoot Souvenirs

As we stand at the halfway point of 2020, it goes almost without saying, this has been the oddest and most unusual of years. Lockdown has been a time for reminiscing and this combination of influences has turned my thoughts to Saundersfoot. This was mirrored by one of the Headmaster’s tweets and Throwback Thursday pictures from Development Department’s social media posts.

Like so many other events, this will be the first year without a Bolton School trip to magnificent Pembrokeshire for those finishing their second senior year in some sixty years. I say end of their second year as the trip is so ancient that at least three different nomenclatures have applied...Year 8; Second Forms; Third Forms even! …as well as at least three different venues on David James’ fields at Old Mill Farm or Trevayne.

I only joined the staff entourage in 1975 -the trip already well into its teens, when I was recruited to join the trip which, in those days, lasted just short of two weeks in Bolton Holidays. By the time of my last visit in 2016, a year after my retirement as a Bolton School employee, amongst other things, in some 42 trips, I had had years i/c and resurrected the principle of School Sergeants going on school trips!

In those early days, this was one of the first times these nascent teenagers had been away from their homes without parents for such a period - Cautley had provided weekends and later Paris for the First Years and much more organised outdoor pursuiting would make us less unique but as trips became more sophisticated, the unique traditional camping actual and in spirit made it all the more special!

Rather than a formal memoir, I thought I would list 42 events I do recall, one for each year as it were, be they regular or specific that epitomise this seminal school trip for me.

  • Getting there & back be it on a lorry, a coach, a minibus, a train or a private car with so many minibus hassles be they flat tyres, trailer troubles, fuel running out.
  • Erecting tents with various levels of competence and potential and actual injury – whose finger end was it that was smashed by an errant sledgehammer?
  • A myriad of washing modes – from washing up bowls on tables through to ever improving shower blocks -always check your wing mirrors as boys used them to make sure they looked just right!
  • Toilet facilities - lats, mobile loos, hedges
  • Weather - boiling hot (it did not rain until the last night of my second trip) with concomitant sunburn
  • Weather – torrential rain with flooded tents, wet sleeping bags and kit, shorts & wellies, sticky mud in the marquee and the Cooks Tent, ever more inventive staff ideas to amuse damp thirteen-year olds
  • Health - Home sickness, Physical illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting etc., injuries from fingers to ankles
  • Counselling -improvised in tents, the open air, dodging rain in the back of minibuses
  • An intimate knowledge of West Wales Health Service “outlets” from Saundersfoot drop-in centre through Tenby health Centre to Withy Bush Hospital (using the night shift on at least one occasion
  • The cavernous olive and beige leaky Cooks Tent where some quite astonishing food was produced by generation after generation of senior boys... true leadership education going on before it was on trend!
  • Pythonesque Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam
  • Staff specialities such as Cheese-ons once the masses were “safely tucked up” or whatever plus cherries or berries on the staff table
  • Porridge in its various manifestations from runny to stodgy, from burnt to DA perfect
  • Roast pork and crackling for 80 on the last night
  • Fruit Salad
  • Late evening chats with staff
  • Later evening chats & drinks with senior boys
  • Duty tents
  • Water fights in the scorching weather
  • Staff punishments – some that would no longer be allowed such as stakeouts for duty tent sinners and running through the cow pat splattered field for after lights out serial chatterers
  • Listening in on talking after lights out, almost all conversations not meant for staff ears
  • IAKO & IDI, It’s a Knockout Saundersfoot style and The initiative diligence intelligence game improvised when weather was against us, or whatever IDI stood for!
  • Regular trips into Saundersfoot itself... the arcade, the chippy, the harbour, for staff and seniors, the occasional freedom of the pubs, the nightclub just once a trip for seniors and even an occasion young buck staff member
  • Heatherton
  • The coastal path walk to or from Tenby
  • Oakwood
  • Staff showing their inner child on water slides and go karts
  • Carew Castle and clambering the crumbling walls pre-H&S constraints
  • Illegal purchases -BB guns, naughty packs of cards confiscated as well as a wondrous array of family presents that we looked after.
  • Monkstone Point walks especially when tide times misjudged!
  • The masses of beautiful bays and beaches – Coppett Hall, Monkstone, Barafundle and so on
  • Bosherston Lily Ponds on the way to Broad Haven beach but always after a visit to Aunty Vi in the shop
  • Boys buried in the sand with sculptured bits predictably rude from young teenagers – magnificent sand sculptures from artistic staff
  • Days out to RAF Brawdy; Pembroke Power Station; Caldey Island; St Davids
  • Inter tent competitions…football, rugby, cricket, sports, duty, etc.
  • Sunday morning worship in the field -young voices singing hymns in the sun
  • Campfire -building it, organising it, finishing off around the embers in the early hours
  • KGB ghost stories & DA monologues
  • MPW DES CAS The Nominal story -every boy’s surname worked into a saga of perverse content and indeterminate length but we never failed to get every boy in!
  • The staff songs
  • In latter years, the improvised use of technology to watch World Cup & Euros -white sheets or marquee panels can be used to fair to good effect!
  • Staff and boys lost, escaping, coming and going – to fit in with family holidays; being collected as they simply refused and could not be persuaded to complete the trip; Ernie Ryder, senior boy then returning as an Old Boy, now, forty years on, Lord of Appeal and Senior President of Tribunals, then off to cox his college boat at the Henley Regatta; Tim Shaw, with us prior to marrying an Italian, unexpectedly having to fly off to Italy for the equivalent of Banns being read in person; me, regularly arriving late after LSCA cricket -famously one year after midnight to be greeted by words of frantic staff & seniors to the effect “Martin they are awful turn round go back!”…that lot must be approaching fifty!

This list ends here for I never did turn round and go back – why would I? – this trip was the perfect archetypical arcane example of what Bolton School was all about!

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