The following article first appeared - about 10 years after the formation of the group - in the Vol. VII No. 1 issue of ‘The Bummel’ (That was the first issue of 1961/62, there having been at least eleven issues in Vol VI during 1960/61!)
It was a dark, wet and windy night, the rain was coming down in torrents when I arrived at Cleeve Hill Hostel at about 7 o'clock on the night of 9th November 1951. There I sat in the Common Room wondering whether in response to the posters, which I’d dotted around the town, any brave sole from Cheltenham would turn up to the first night of the new social group.
I was not, however, prepared for the shock I got, when not only a bunch of very keen members from Cheltenham turned up, but also a party from the Gloucester Group, together with one or two regional officials, came to wish us luck. The first evening was spent getting to know one another and generally making plans.
If my memory serves me correctly our first hostelling weekend as a group was attending one of Bill Ormanroyd’s famous parties at Duntisbourne Abbots. This was very near disastrous for the group as we had decided to make it a walking weekend and walked into one of the worst storms of the winter. ‘Never again’ was the general comment. But before the night was out new plans were being hatched.
Our first cycling weekend was to Mitcheldean Youth Hostel. We mainly made our way to the hostel individually since several of the members had to work on the Saturday morning and some of the slower members thought they would require all day for the journey. On the Sunday morning, however, we set out together to have a pleasant Sunday run through part of the Forest of Dean before returning to Cheltenham. We had not gone far when a member of the party pointed out that it was possible to cross the Severn by a ferry at Newnham and then make our way to Gloucester and so on to home.
When we arrived at the ferry we were staggered to find out that it consisted of a rather large rowing boat with one ferry man to do the rowing. We were just wondering whether it would be possible to cross when the ferry man called up to us and asked us to hurry and get the bikes down to the boat. We had to pile the bikes flat in the bow of the boat and go over in two parties; so we all got across safely and being near lunch time, retired to a nearby pub for the usual form of refreshment. This done we made our way inland to the Bristol/Gloucester road and so on to Cheltenham after a very pleasant day out.
While we were in our infancy as a group, of course, one or two rather crazy things did happen, two of which spring instantly to mind.
The first one being when we decided we would like to see the Severn Bore. We hired a coach and left Cheltenham about 7 o’clock in the evening to go down to Newnham, having ascertained the approximate time of the Bore at Newnham and consulted the coach company as to the time we should leave. Unfortunately something went wrong with our calculations for on arrival at Newnham we were unfortunately told that the Bore had gone by a quarter of an hour before. Since to make up the members we had been forced to sell tickets to non group members this placed us in a rather ticklish predicament, having brought them to see the Bore and arriving too late. Fortunately, however, the Severn does make a rather large bend up stream from Newnham coming back to touch the road again near Minsterworth. So we decided the only thing to do was to pile back into the coach and hare back in the hope of catching the Bore. The thought of this seemed to catch everybody's fancy and before long the group and its guests were heading back as fast as the coach driver was prepared to go. Luckily we managed to beat the bore and were able to see it go past as we stood on the road near Minsterworth. Fortunately everyone had enjoyed their evening out despite the mixup.
The second occasion to which I refer was a rather "ill fated" fete to the planning of which went a considerable amount of energy on the parts of several members of the group. This fete was to take place in the late spring/early summer of 1952 on the hostel lawn and we decided that it would be a good idea to have ice cream on sale as an added attraction. I obtained 30/- worth of ice cream from a well known firm and took it up to the hostel. Unfortunately our total attendance was about 3 or 4 people and were left with a rather large quantity of ice cream, lemonade etc, on our hands. The hostellers spending that night at the hostel were very complementary about the sweet instead of the more usual custard.
In conclusion I should like to say how pleasant a surprise it was to find that even after all this time I am still remembered at Cheltenham. I trust that the next ten years of life of this group will be as rewarding to those participating as the first ten years and wish you all good hostelling for the years to come.
Alan G. Stickings.