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The story of CLOG – after the War part 2


The story of CLOG – after the War part 2
By Bob C

The outdoor programme
After the war the group was very active. There were many weekends away staying in hostels close to London including Tillingbourne in Surrey, Bracknell in Berkshire, Puckeridge in Hertfordshire, Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire, Kemsing in Kent, Chaldon and Holmbury St Mary in Surrey. Only the last of these still exists. Weekends away were a bit different to today and hostels were not just places to stay but had a social side as well. Apart from walking the weekends involved treasure hunts, telling stories in front of the fire, having a sing-song accompanied by a member on the accordion and listening to classical music on a record player.

Clothes were still rationed and outdoor gear didn’t exist. Members wore ex-army breeches, surplus gear and hob nailed boots. There were no waterproof jackets in those days so members wore army ground sheets and gas capes down to their ankles. Most walks stopped at tea shops (some members complained there were too many stops). In later years many tea shops closed down and walks stopped at pubs instead. Ironic that we have now come full circle and many members prefer visiting tea shops to pubs!

Until the early 60s many members still worked on Saturday mornings so walking weekends usually began on Saturday afternoon (though cycling trips managed to get away on Friday evenings). After the war London buses, country buses and Green Line coach were used to reach the countryside near London and then members walked to the hostels. By the mid-50s most trips were using trains rather than buses. Cars were not used till the 70s and the YHA did not allow people to arrive by car till then either. Some members tried to hitch lifts from car drivers to get to places further afield such as Shropshire and Dorset but often found themselves stranded. A couple of female members had to be rescued by a coach picking up sailors from Weymouth!

There were also mid-summer moonlight rambles. Unlike today’s evening walks, these involved getting the last train and walking all night ending with breakfast. One moonlight ramble from Leatherhead ended with cooking breakfast on top of Leith Hill, the highest point in the South East. There were many other groups doing the same sort of thing.
The group hired coaches for party weekends and longer trips. In 1949 there were coach trips to Ilam Hall and Hartington in the Peak District.  Later coach trips included the Isle of Wight, Stow-on-the-Wold and Charlbury in the Cotswolds. Sometimes the organisers made mistakes; for example one coach trip ended up at the wrong hostel!

In the mid-50s coach trips were going to Wales and the Lake District and in the 60s they were going to the Yorkshire Dales and Moors. Most coach trips were longer trips such as over bank holidays or Easter. In the 50s the Easter trip used to sell out before Xmas. Roads were much slower before motorways so the coaches left London late on a Friday evening, travelled overnight with breakfast at a hostel or café before starting a day walk. In 1957 this included climbing Snowdon by Crib Goch straight after travelling overnight. 

Party weekends included Xmas/New Year, Halloween/Bonfire Night and the group’s birthday in March. Early parties were held at Hemel Hempstead hostel in Hertfordshire. It closed in 1951 when the new town was being built and the parties switched to Chaldon on the North Downs. At least one party in the 50s went on till 3am but ironically the 60s were more sober with parties in the Cotswolds and South Downs. It was not unknown for the group to set fire to hostel camping stoves.

There were other outdoor activities as well with thriving sections of the group for cycling (often led by Dick Parker and Fred Short) and camping. In 1949 there were 12 cycling trips within one month alone and in 1957 the group went rock climbing on Tryfan in Snowdonia. Dick gained some notoriety for hitting the youth hostel warden with a snowball. We should point out that Dick was a very respectable member as his day job was a headmaster!
They also did watersports including canoeing, sailing and camping on punts (the men were known for setting the women’s boat adrift at night). On one sailing trip in Essex, the group’s boat sank and they had to hoist wet socks as a distress signal before cycling or getting taxis back. Even then, one member cycling back got knocked over and had to hitch a lift.
In 1948 two members (Derek Edwards and Cyril Fuller) completed a 45-mile marathon hike in the Brecon Beacons and this became a popular event throughout the 50s and 60s with members manning checkpoints bivvying in the mountains. On one occasion Derek went back with “the surplus gear” and it was only later that Cyril discovered he had taken his bivvy bag. That was a cold night. In the 70s the Tanners Marathon on the North Downs became the most popular one. Other weekends included working on farms after the war, photography and sketching.

Group trips abroad were rare and one member on a trip to Holland and Belgium complained that they should have stayed at home. However individual members travelled widely. One went round the world in 40 days; others went to places like Argentina, Holland and France. Bob Munslow (who was one of CLOG’s many eccentrics over the years) missed the plane to Bulgaria, had difficulty recovering his luggage when he did get there, had many difficulties finding anyone who could speak English, found that his tour party had moved to another hotel without telling him, took a bus which kept breaking down, left his passport at the hotel, walked across country with a very sketchy map, and got benighted in a forest full of bears and wolves. At the end of his holiday he was congratulated by the Deputy Minister for Tourism. Now that’s what I call intrepid!

At the end of the 1960s the average age of members started to increase. No longer in their 20s and with competing demands on their time, weekends away became less popular with only a few going on each one. It was at this time that day walks started. This was very controversial as some members felt day walks did not support the YHA if people were not staying overnight in hostels and threatened to resign (that old chestnut!) while others did not want to get up early to go on a day walk. However, Vera Davis wrote that CLOG should have enough room for both day walks and trips. The first day walk was in 1969 and despite snow and ice managed to attract 9 people. From then on, day walks became part of the programme.

Supporting the YHA
It’s important to remember that CLOG started as a local group of the YHA in Central London. In 1947 the YHA was on the verge of a financial crisis. The group helped out by doing office work at the regional headquarters in Gordon Square, running a shop selling YHA products and most importantly by individual members guaranteeing to pay 1 shilling (5p) each if YHA went into liquidation. Cecil Malyon (CLOG’s second chair) ran a Youth Travel Bureau for YHA which welcomed foreign tourists by CLOG organising many events including evening walks, trips to the theatre, river trips and guided tours of Fleet St newspaper printworks. Group members helped out when the Queen opened a new hostel at Holland House in Holland Park

In 1949 Ron Keatley suggested that the group adopt Tanners Hatch hostel on the North Downs which they had renovated after the war. For years the group supported the hostel by organising working parties of up to a dozen members every 5 weeks. The work included relaying a phone line to the warden’s house, clearing rubbish, digging drainage ditches, sowing the lawn, planting flower beds, trimming hedges, making cupboards in the members’ kitchen mouseproof, installing electric lights, mending blankets, scrubbing dormitories, creating steps to Ranmore Common, making garden seats, staining and waxing dormitory floors. One member wrote to the News Sheet under the pseudonym “Surgeon” to complain that the group had wasted time laying out a “lovers’ walk” path in the garden. The group named the path “Surgeon’s Walk” in his honour.

Also in 1949 members wrote to their MPs to support the creation of National Parks. For the first time councils had to produce definitive maps showing public footpaths. The Ramblers’ Association asked the YHA to assist and the group took part in footpath surveys near hostels at Ivinghoe, Puckeridge and Whitwell in Hertfordshire, Crockham Hill and Doddington in Kent, High Roding in Essex. As this was before the invention of photocopiers John Carlton asked other members to go to county offices to trace large scale maps (6 inches to the mile which took some getting used to) and then tread the footpaths to see if they existed. Later on in 1965 the group organised a weekend at Ivinghoe to survey walking routes to newly-opened hostels at Lee Gate and Bradenham so the hostel could publish a guide for guests showing them how to walk between hostels.

In 1950 the group contributed towards the cost of opening a new hostel at Tregaron in Wales. In 1957 the group, spearheaded by Cyril Fuller, turned their attention to Hindhead hostel in Surrey helping out by tree felling, painting, fitting curtains and repairing the roof. One work party even continued working on Xmas Day. Charles Gunn, the News Sheet Editor, encouraged the group to object when YHA decided to replace oil lamps and fetching water from a spring with electricity and a proper water supply. Our predecessors were certainly Spartans! Hindhead ultimately closed but Tanners Hatch has survived.
During the 50s the group took part in an annual National Youth Hostels Week in which hostels were opened up to the public. As part of this, the group opened its clubroom one evening for a public talk about the YHA.

The group alongwith other YHA groups in London organised a Xmas party for hostel wardens in the London region. At this time there was a close relationship between group members and hostel wardens. Several members volunteered as wardens at Hindhead, Epping Forest and other hostels near London; one member (Fred Short) volunteered as a warden in the Scottish Highlands.

The group also had a close relationship with other local groups in London. Joint folk dances were organised with groups from Islington, Wandsworth, Ealing and North London. In 1965 when Islington Group went into decline, the Central London group helped them out by redecorating their clubroom, organising joint coach trips and an annual cricket match (Islington won the first match but after that CLOG got their own back). Most of these groups folded by the late 70s and their members joined Central London which became the main group for the London area.