For a few years now, some of the remnants of ex-Cheltenham YHA Group members have organised reunion events. The Churchdown Mob started this off with an "at home" at the Wake's house in 1995. Spurred on by this, Ed Skinner organised a weekend at Bryn Poeth Uchaf in 1996, followed by a day's walk in the Forest of Dean in 1997, another weekend at BPU in 1998, a walk on Cleeve Hill in 1999 and a weekend at Pwll Du in 2000. We've also competed in the Cadbury Cup at Malvern in 1999 and Stow on the Wold in 2000.
The events have all been highly enjoyable and we are keen to organise more. This year we planned a walk around Bredon Hill in June (casualty of Foot & Mouth) and in 2002 we want to go to Pwll Du again (if it's still open) on April 19th -21st. One of the problems we've had is communications with all of you out there and for some time now we have thinking about better ways to keep in touch. The result is this Newsletter. It may be the first of many or it may be the only one - it all depends on the response it generates.
The (slave) driver behind this is Ed Skinner. At irregular intervals, he summons "the Committee" to the Cheese Rollers or the Bell at Shurdington and badgers us until we start something moving. The Committee is a self-appointed body, autocratic, self-important, totally undemocratic and answerable to no-one. It consists of:
Ed Skinner (in Group 1968 to late 70s)
John Boucher (1963 to mid 70s)
Barry Roberts (1969 to mid 70s)
Colin Maher (1965 to mid 70s)
Ed Wragg (1969 to mid 70s)
We don't necessarily know all of you who receive this Newsletter, but we know someone who does!
The Newsletter will be written and distributed on a very casual basis, because we have no funds to do it properly. We don't want to start any sort of formal organisation but if we generate the interest amongst you to carry on with it, we might need to come back and say "Giz' a quid, mate" so that we can cover our costs.
We have a list of about seventy ex-members. Some have been along to the walks/weekends/at home and some haven't. If you want to get back in touch, then write or call one of us. We will NOT release your address or telephone number unless you specifically instruct us to.
At the May Day bank holiday last year, we spent a weekend at the Gloucestershire County Council's Outdoor Centre at Pwll Du, near Blaenavon. Pwll Du is similar to a basic hostel with no warden. There's a beautiful view from the kitchen window and a very good pub 200 yards up the hill. It takes about 30 people. You may have seen it if you watched the absolutely awful series "Border Café" on BBC last summer. The Border Café was built just up the road especially for the series. Pwll Du could become Son of BPU but unfortunately, there is a possibility that Glos CC might decide to close it if it isn't used enough.
Ed S went down with an advance party on Friday afternoon to prepare the way and the weather turned evil that evening. Bob, Rose, Ros and Ed W staggered through the hurricane to the pub and returned about midnight (the pub was still open). The next day proved fine and we chose our leisurely walk to include visits to all the rubbish tips and burnt-out cars we could find. Ros's son Dan was instructed in the finer points of throwing rocks in streams and in gleaning the best items from tips. Heather was delighted to find a collection of silk flowers. Apparently two old ladies nearly came to blows over them at the Scouts' jumble sale the following week! Brian, who looked a bit like a tomato by the end of the day, grumbled that he had caught the sun more in six hours in Wales than during the previous fortnight he'd spent in Florida.
On the Sunday John and Sue joined us for the day and we split into two groups for a "hard" walk (4 miles with a bit of down before the up) or an "easy" walk (3 miles without the initial down bit). Young Dan was quite taken by the macho image of chucking rocks in rivers and caving, so he and Ros opted for the hard walk. We rendezvoused near the summit of Blorenge and watched the hang gliders while lunching.
That evening, some had to return home while others were able to stay on till Monday. We supped at Ed's mate's café in Abergavenny (good grub, reasonably priced). The countryside can only be described as unusual. It is a mixture of bleak upland, pretty valleys, caves and industrial archaeology. While we were there, Channel 4's Time Team were digging just up the road, though we didn't see any of it. It's an interesting place to visit.
Bryn Poeth Uchaf - R.I.P.
Many of you will have fond memories of BPU. It opened in 1970 and the first visitors from the Group were Ed S, Bob Wilson, Colin Maher and Robin Beiton. Many trips were made there both by the Group and by individuals. There were various parties at the hostel and many a long drag back over the hill from the pub at Randirmwyn. Ed S made the hostel his second home and by 1999 had recorded nearly 200 bednights there! He did a lot of work to maintain BPU and the paths to it and he's still got one or two souvenirs - including the plough! (How do you push a plough from BPU to Gloucester without anyone noticing?)
It had deteriorated significantly in recent years and now it's gone. The local area decided that they couldn't afford to maintain it and it was sold last year. Ed has been to see the place and talked to the new owner, who will need lots of cash for repairs.
BPU was ideal for the sort of weekend that the Committee wants to organise. It was quiet, free from resident wardens and cheap. We briefly considered the possibility of setting up a fund to buy BPU but the idea was a bit impractical, unfortunately. Now we're looking for Son of BPU but probably won't find it in the modern, thrusting, expensive YHA.