My thirty years of camping,
In 1965 my camping days started when my father asked me to take on the
day to day running of Tabor Farm camping site. (later to be called St Brelade
Camping Park) That was a surprise to me, he must have been completely fed
up with the people that he had working for him in the past. I kept a couple of
my men with me to work on the camp site and over a period of three months
that I took to close my gardening business down I kept the others men on to
The first year that I started running the site we had more campers working in
the island living on the site than we had holiday makers, at times only ten per
cent staying on the site would be on holiday. I am sure that my father was
pleased to have any number of campers, so long as he were making the camp
site pay. The first couple of years running the site proved to be a difficult time
for me as I wanted to reduce the number of workers living on the site for the
whole summer season. My father wanted to keep them on because it was
good money and he kept reminding me that they were paying my wages and I
should remember that.
I wanted to run the site purely as a holiday camping site with just a few workers
so as not to frighten genuine campers away because of their free for all behavior.
There was nothing wrong with their behavior but when they were coming back
onto the camp site at all times of the day and night making as much noise as
they could, we were not going to be able to have family campers coming to us.
It took about three or four few years building up a good reputation, we had to
make our camp site a little different to the others. My father changed the name
of the site to St Brelades Camping Park. At that time we were licensed for two
hundred campers including children
We were different to other camp sites, as well as campers bringing their own
tents we offered a complete camping package, all the tents were ready erected
and fitted out with beds and bedding, cookers and all utensils, tables and chairs.
Many of the tents were of the type used by the Boy Scouts association and the
British army. The sleeping bags were filled with kapok and they took a great
deal of time to dry out when they got wet. The folding chairs that we used were
good quality and they were made of heavy canvas material on steel frames. The
steel frames proved a bad choice. Once the chairs got wet they took a long time
to dry out and the steel frames became rusted under the folds in the canvas.
Unknown to us, when we took the chairs out of winter storage the following year,
we found that the canvas touching the steel frames had perished, the steel had
rusted right through the canvas. We had a stock of about three hundred of those
chairs including spares. Every one of them had rusted so during the following
winter amongst hundred of other jobs, I stripped the frames down and painted
them with a special paint and replaced the rivets with bolts as the rivets had
fractured because that they were not up to the job. I had canvas seats made so
that they could be replaced when required.
In the late sixties my father saw that the camping park was going to be a good
business investment and because of stiff competition from in and outside of
Jersey he decided to invest in a large outdoor swimming pool, it was eighty feet
long and thirty feet wide and four feet six inches deep. It held eighty thousand
gallons of water. The pool was topped by water from our bore hole that we
had had drilled a few years before. The pool was built by a company called
Marshman and I think it cost around £3,500. In the planning stages my father
noticed that the concrete on the bottom of the pool was going to be only six
inches thick, he requested that they made the bottom double that, they included
that at the same price.
The work for Marshmans was made difficult because of the soil conditions.
The pool was built in the bottom of a shallow valley. They started excavating
the site with a drag crane from the top of the site until they could reach no
further. They then brought in a small bulldozer called a Drott weighing about
five tons to push the soil over towards the drag crane. The lower they went
so the wetter it became in the site. The had found the tops of three strong
springs. At the same time they found that they would be digging into sticky
yellow and blue clay, making the work even harder to do. Every time that
they would dig into the clay with the digger the labours would have to pull
the clay out of the bucket by hand to unload it. On one occasion when the
men had finished for the day, they left the Drott in the bottom of the site
instead of lifting it out each evening as they had done in the past. The next
morning they found that the Drott had sunk down into the clay about three
feet deep covering its tracks, its like the driver said "his seat was still dry"
When the shell of the pool was finished and all the plumbing pipes and
pumps were connected and six feet wide of concrete slabs had been laid
around the pool, it was my turn to complete the work by first laying sixteen
ten ton loads of ready-mix concrete over a large area, around the pool and
on walkways from two inches thick with steel reinforcing mesh. I had a lot
of help for that job I then laid six hundred concrete slabs with a labour
supplying me with dry sand and cement mix to lay the slabs on.
The pool and hiring-out tents and camping equipment and accommodating
fewer people that were working in the island made us very competitive in
Jersey and elsewhere. We advertised the camping park in many magazines
and national news papers, because the more we advertised the more
Dedication, or was I a fool?
In the late sixties and the early seventies most camp sites in Europe only
opened during the summer season, we were to be different, my father
insisted that we would open all year round. I bitterly remember the days
in the winter when I would have a call from my father after I had finished
work for the day telling me to meet campers who had just arrived in the
island up at the entrance to the camping park and help them to erect their
tents. That was fine in good weather, but when the weather was damp,
cold and sometimes raining and on some occasions freezing, I was still
expected to do as he asked. Without shelter, I would have to wait
sometimes for up to two hours for the campers to arrive late at night and
there were times when they not arrive at all.
I did all the maintenance around the camping park during the winter
months. I added more facilities such as toilets, wash basins and showers.
The facilities that we offered to our camping guests far exceeded their
expectations in quantity and quality. We applied and received a license
to extend our numbers to five hundred campers.
The early seventies were the best years Jersey had ever had regarding
tourism, hotels and guest houses were full, camping sites were struggling
to make themselves pay. In 1972 The tourism office had twenty-eight
thousand registered beds for holiday makers, not counting camping sites.
(in 2004 there are only fourteen thousand beds registered and that
includes hotel rooms, many of them taken up by the finance industry and
now includes camp sites).
No support from the tourism department.
The farming and growing industry in Jersey was struggling to stay alive.
Many farmers turned to the tourism department for help. Some wanted to
convert some of their outbuildings into self catering but they were turned
down. I, for one in camping wanted the tourism department to advertise
camping sites along with hotels and guesthouses as do France and Spain,
our biggest competitors, to be told several times during the thirty years
when I was managing our camping park, that "Camping in Jersey is not
the right image to advertise along with hotels and guesthouses "
During the summer season, May to the end of September, hotels were
full most of the time, whereas camping sites were only full for the week
either side of Battle of Flowers day, the last Thursday in July. After the
Battle, camp sites were lucky to have their sites twenty per cent
occupied during the month of August and some like ourselves because
we could have taken larger numbers, were only ten per cent full.
We had been advertising in magazines and newspapers for a number of
years and without that we would not have had many campers arriving.
We, as all the other campsites, wanted help from Jersey tourism, we
wanted them to treat us fairly, we wanted them to do some advertising
as they did with hotels and guesthouses. But we always had the same
Because of the large number of campers we were registered for with
tourism, we were charged a high registration fee. I could not ever
understand how they could take so much from us and give so little in
return. In our last trading season in 1994 , we were charged more than
£2,000.00 for the registration fee. I asked again what was it for and I
was told that it was for advertising.
Confirmation - they did not want campers!
Making an exhibition - of ourselves.
I set up this exhibition at Empire Hall Olympia in London in 1972 to publicize our
camping park in Jersey where we handed out, over one hundred thousand brochures
to the camping public in eleven days. The brochures were from ourselves, of course,
and we were pleased to hand them out on behalf of travel companies such as British
Railways and BEA and The Jersey Tourism Office.
I remember getting to the show hall and being shown to my stand the day before the
show, to set it up. Our stand was right opposite the escalator on the first floor. That
was to be a big advantage as our biggest competition was from Spain, France and
the UK and they were at the back of us. Well I could not believe my eyes when I
saw that except for the timber work had been finished, all the paint work still had to
be done. I went along to the organizes office and asked them to send a painter
around to my stand immediately as I had a lot of preparation before the end of the
day. A painter arrived within a couple of minutes and started apologizing for not
starting on my stand as his painting company had not brought enough step ladders
for all the men to use. I asked him to make a start on the lower half of the stand and
I would see if I could find him something to stand on to reach to top half. To speed
things up a bit I suggested that I could help him to paint the top half as I was about
a foot taller than he was. He nearly had a fit, he said I would not be able to paint
and that unless he did as he was told by the painters union, they would all go on
strike at the show. We compromised, after he had painted the lower half and still
could not find a step ladder, I cupped my hands in front of my body and I told
him to jump up, like a jockey getting on a horse. I supported him all the way around
the stand. Ten minutes later it was all finished, he had done a fine job. He did
suggest that I might like to give him a hand, or two on all the other stands that he
had to paint. In waiting for the paint to dry, I started unfurling the posters that I
was going to display on the walls to find that because of the heat on the cabin
floor in the aircraft when I went over to London had caused the paint to dry
really hard and make the rolls almost impossible to open. They were like springs,
I had to take them outside to weather them. The weather was wet and cold, but
it happened to do the trick Going back indoors, I was pleased to find that the
posters had softened up and I was able to straighten them out.
My painter friend had told the staff in the organizes office about the support that I
had given him when he was painting and they came along to my stand and started
apologizing again, I said that it was no longer a problem. They said that if I wanted
any help, just give them a call. I laughed, I said I might take them up on that.
The following day, Harold Wilson turned up to open the exhibition. We were all
ready to receive the public, a little nervous as it was the first time I had ever done
anything like exhibition work before. Things were very quite until the afternoon,
when we saw more people coming up the escalator and then we were quite busy.
I asked the staff on the other stands if it was going to be like this every day and
they said the it was the same as that in previous years. Quite depressing, the
camping public were coming into the show and spending a couple of hours down
on the ground floor before coming up to us. After all the hard work and the huge
expense of getting to the show and all the helpers standing around with little to do,
I started thinking about doing something about getting the public upstairs to visit
us before they went around the ground floor. I remember the staff in the office
had said that they would give me help if I need it, well I came up with an idea, we
could offer a couple of prizes in a competition.
First prize was for a family of two adults and two children to come over to our
camping park with all expenses paid. They would have all the travel paid, from
their homes to the camping park and return. all meals and all camping. They
would have a hire car for the duration and spending money. Second prize was
for the same for two adults.
I went along to the organizers office full of confidence and being prepared to be
turned down with my idea of the competition because of it being short notice.
They gave it a bit of thought and said, fine go ahead we will give you all the help
that we can. They kept their word, they announced the competition every twenty
minutes over the public address system for the next ten days and they gave
instructions to the elderly gentlemen selling the show catalogs at the entrance to
the show, to call out that St Brelades Camping Park in Jersey was giving away
a free holiday and that the public could get more information by going up the
escalator to the first floor and go along to our stand.
The organizers also agreed to give me permission to past posters advertising
our competition on the whole of the frontage of the Empire Hall, Olympia
absolutely free. Regretfully I was not able to have posters made up in time,
the five printers that I went along to around London told me that they had too
much work on and that I would have to wait at least three weeks.
The result was like a damp squib, nobody won, although the lucky numbers
were announced in national news papers, no one came forward to claim the
There is a bomb....
We were getting into our stride, we were handing hundreds of broaches and
talking to dozens of people whom were interested in coming to Jersey in their
tents or hotels. It was a busy time for us. When on two occasions during the
show, I was handed a message, warning us that there maybe a bomb planted
somewhere around the show. It maybe on our stand, please look around it
said and went on to say do not tell anyone. I did not find one on our stand
and I did not know of any other stand that had found one. They were terrible
times every where that you went in London you were reminded of bombs
being planted in all sorts of places, it was frightening..
It was worth the effort
We had made it. We had made the national papers, and camping magazines,
we were the blue eyed boys with the President of Tourism, Senator Clarrie
Dupre when we returned to Jersey after our trip to London. The Senator and
the staff from Jersey's tourism's office in London came to visit us on the stand
at Olympia. That was most encouraging as it was the first time and possible
the last time that anyone from Jersey tourism had publicly shown any interest
in camping. I must say that the rest of the time that Senator was in the hot seat,
running tourism, we had his full undivided attention regarding camping. He made
sure that we, I mean all camp sites, had a fair crack of the whip and were helped
to publicize camping in Jersey. As soon as he left tourism, we felt as if we had
the door slammed in our faces again. I believe that there are a couple of the staff
are still employed by tourism, I am sure that they remember the discussions we
had had with them over the years.
On a pedestal
In the late seventies we were riding high, we had recommendations from many
associations such as the AA who gave us high star rating. The Camping Club
International de France recommended us as the only one in the British Isles.
We worked hard at camping, with or without being recognized by our tourism
office, we had made it by our selves.
We catered for a thousand campers at the height of the summer season, seven
hundred adults and three hundred children. We had what others described as an
extraordinary array of facilities. We had a large swimming pool, a field for football
and volleyball, solariums and trampolines. There was an enormous building that
housed games rooms with table tennis and pool tables, TV lounges and a Disco
for teenagers. In an other part we had a restaurant capable of seating over a
hundred diners. Other buildings housed the laundry with washer machines, tumble
driers and ironing facilities and in another we had a very busy store hiring out
camping equipment. We hired out for use only on site everything from ice packs
and sleeping bags to tents.
We arranged educational games for children. I had always been able to employ
teaches or teacher students who were staying with us for the summer season, they
were often over in Jersey looking for employment. The teaches were able to take
about 15 or so young children ages from five to twelve for two hours, twice a
week. The children were of every nationality, they were encouraged to talk in
their own language to each other and often they would talk about their culture
and their countries, so I was told. The children enjoyed their lessons, they did
paintings and general knowledge tests, someone would always have a prize at
the end of the lesson, the one who won the prize was always the one who had
shown to be trying hardest.
Every Friday evening before family campers were due go home at the weekend
after their holidays, we held a Disco for the junior members of the camp. It
proved very popular. We employed the services of a professional disc jockey
who played the latest music, but the old favorite, the dance called the conga
always drew the most children onto the dance floor, the decking around the
swimming pool. No sooner that dance started, there would be as many as eighty
children in that line.
One sided favor
The busiest year that we had ever had on the camping park was in the early
eighties when we had fourteen-hundred campers staying with us.
It was one of those years when the island was bursting at the seams with holiday
makers. Tourists come over to the island for the Battle of Flowers floral event in
huge numbers without booking their accommodation in advance. The tourism
office were pulling their hair out, they were making frantic announcements on
the media requesting short term accommodation of any type. Home owners
around the island, some who had never taken in anyone before rallied around,
they offered their help. Camp sites were full, they were up to their license
capacity. We were able to take up to nine hundred campers, including children
at that time. We had made a request for a license to take more campers as we
had added more facilities. We had forty toilets, forty wash basins and forty
showers and car parking for two hundred and thirty cars. The tourism office
asked us to take more people in. I reminded them that we had reached the limit
of our license and we would be breaking the law if we took more.
I do not think that they were worried how many people we took in, they just
wanted to get them under cover. They asked us to take more. We took more.
We erected an extra seventy hire tents of all types, frame and ridge tents.
Almost every hour for the whole of that week we had calls from the tourism
office asking us about our availability. We started by offering them fully
equipped hire tents for families with children and when we ran out of cookers,
tables and chairs, we were still able to give them sleeping bags and mattresses.
The new un-booked arrivals were very patient, they might have had to wait as
much as four hours to take possession of their tents. They were so pleased to
be able to stay, some went as far as helping us to erect their tents, and the tents
Car parking was a problem that week, I had to make a quick decision, we had
to find extra parking space. I decided to park all the camper's cars on our
land across the road from the camping park It released a grassed area of land
that we had used for parking, adjacent to the park for erecting tents. Campers
who had been coming to us for many years were not too happy about having
to cross the road to reach their cars on the new temporary car park. As we had
over three hundred cars parked there, I had two car park attendants on duty
over night. The use of the temporary car park was only intended for a few
weeks. Using our field as a car park upset the residents in the in their homes
nearby. They wrote to the planning office to complain about the change of use
of the land and everyone one of them signed the letter. The planning office
could see our situation, they could see that it was only going to be short term,
they could understand that we were trying to help tourism's problem. Thankfully
they gave us until the end of the camping season to continue using the field for
Although we had sufficient facilities for coping with the extra five hundred
campers more than our tourism permit allowed when tourism requested us to
help them out. It was when we applied to them for us to add an extra two
hundred campers to our permit that they turned us down flat. Do not talk to
me about favors.
Camping was not always appreciated
PRO BONO PUBLICO below, would have to give his name nowadays
The eighties were our best years for camping.
We were one of the best run, the best facilities and location. So we were told.
We must have been good, camping magazines and journals and camping
associations gave us high ratings. The Camping Club of France gave us the
highest camping site star rating in the whole of the United Kingdom and the AA
gave us one of their highest ratings. We were often on the radio and in newspapers
in different parts of Europe. We had a good long article with pictures about the
camping park in a national Dutch news paper. We, that is I was interviewed by
a top radio presenter, Adian Stanley for Irish Radio when he asked questions
about our camping park and Jersey. A German radio presenter did the same,
he interviewed me in English and he translated it into German for his listeners.
I was getting used to being interviewed, my first time was in the early seventies
when I was interviewed by the presenter of BBC Woman's Hour. That last one
went well with family campers, it caught their attention, we had a lot of inquires
for camping after that program.
The end of a season
I think that my father went too far with the rules
and regulations, I was made to enforce them.
We had more publicity when Beechams Pills chose our camping part to film one
of their advertisements. I had to erect a dozen tents of all types close together to
make the camping park look busy in March. I remember the weather being
bitterly cold when the film company turned up to film. Dr Beecham came with
them, he liked Jersey so much that he used the opportunity to come over that
time to watch them filming. The two actors in the film certainly earned their
money, they had to repeat their lines time and time again to get them right. All
they had to do was to sit at a camping table dressed in light weight summer
clothes. The man had to cough and the woman jumped up and went into the tent
and came out, holding aloft a tube of Beechams Pills and saying something like
"this is what you need for your cough" I think that everyone there would have
wanted those pills after having to wait around for three hours in such a low
temperature. That film went all around Britain for years, that helped to put us
on the map.
"Don't cough over that, have a pill". (Beecham's actors)
We took part in the Battle of Flowers Event. Children and adults wanted to
take part in the carnival class that year when a gentleman, I cannot remember
his name, came into reception one day and told me that if I was interested, he
would be willing to organize a group to take part in the event the following year.
I must admit that I had not seen the Battle of Flowers for over thirty years and
I did not know how to go about it. He convinced me that he could see it through
as he had been involved in events like that on the mainland. He kept to his word,
he was self employed at home and he said that he would happily take an extra
week off from work to help to organize the group. He and his wife worked
hard, they managed to find a lot of highly skilled campers to help them. There
were choreograph teachers and seamstresses and volunteers able to do all kind
of chores come forward from all around the camping park to help. That was a
big event, many of the campers asked if they could sit together to watch to the
cavalcade, that got me thinking. We could have our own stand, we could
advertise the camping park on it.
Some of the Royal bridesmaids
I arranged for SGB to hire out to us three articulator type trailers and erect
seating made up of scaffolding and timber planking. It was a very solid
construction, it was large enough to sit one hundred and thirty people. We
did not have any problem filling them. We had banners attached advertising
the park along with hundreds of our helium filled balloons and it towering over
all the other makeshift stands.
The stand came alive when we took along eight hundred helium filled balloons
with our adverting message printed on them. Half a dozen of the campers had
volunteered to start filling the balloons at six am that day. They were in fits of
laughter most of the time as every time anyone would go pass them as they
were working on the balloons, so they would take a gulp of the gas and give
an imitation of Donald Duck. Thankfully I had ordered twice as much gas
that I needed as each time the campers went passed, they would also take
a gulp of the gas. From then on everyone had the giggles for the rest of that
The hundred tee-shirts that I had ordered earlier arrived just in time for the
campers to ware at the Battle of Flowers event. I remember one family
buying as many as fourteen shirts. I must have sold over two hundred of
them on couple of days leading up to the event. They were all going to be
seen in public, in a big way. The shirts were plain white with a message in
bold lettering on the back. Happiness is staying at St Brelade's Camping Park
What a day
What a day! Fourteen bridesmaids, two page boys and a bride and groom.
The camping park had been buzzing for two weeks leading up to Jersey's
event of the year. This year we were going to take on the best in the show in
the cavalcade class. We had put a lot of money into advertising the camping
park in the past but never as much as we had this time in one go.
I hired the bride's dress and the young man's pageboy outfits and I had bought
thirty feet of curtain netting material seven feet wide to be made into a train for
the bride. I was sent off to buy fourteen tee shirts in white for the bridesmaid's
outfits and Paris pink dye to colour them. I decided to delegate to others the
rest of the shopping when I was asked to go and buy fourteen petticoats and
white shoes for the youngsters. A lot of material was used on the dresses, the
helpers who had gone shopping were not able to find certain items so they
adapted the materials that they had. They bought three feet wide lengths of
white satin curtain material and cut it into twelve inch wide lengths to create
cummerbunds. Ornate cotton netting was used for trimming the outfits and
I was again sent out on a buying spree to buy fourteen wicker baskets and
dozens of carnations and pinks for decoration. The pinks were used on the
brides train, I spread the train out on the ground and I scatted about a dozen
of them onto the material and I asked if they could be sown in place.
I and others then set about making hoops of flowers for the bridesmaids to
carry along with the wicker baskets attached to them. I used about eight
strands of wire to make the hoops and twisted them for strength. They
were delicately decorated with pinks and carnations and gypsophila.
Everyone on the camping park appeared to be involved in doing something
to help during the two weeks, there was an expert for everything, whether
it was doing makeup or rehearsing the youngsters to act as if they were
doing the thing for real. The youngest learnt very quickly, they were keen
to learn. The bride and the groom were cajoled into doing their bit. I
can remember for the two weeks leading up to the big day, the bride telling
me that she did not like dressing up and that she preferred wearing jeans
and that she did not really want to do it.
I saw the bride first thing in the morning of our big day with a long face, she
did not look very happy, she did not even speak to me, I thought that she
might be giving me a hint that she was going to walk out on us. A little later
I saw her with a hairdresser who was camping with us, doing her hair,
another volunteer was giving her a manicure and there was another waiting
to do her makeup.
The groom was looking splendid in the navel officer's uniform that I had
borrowed from a friend, he really looked the part, especially with the sword
he was wearing at his side. Whereas, the bride did not want to wear her
bride's cloths, the groom did not want to get out of his.
All appeared to be going well with the preparations on the camp and I felt
that I might be needed down at the arena with our campers on our stand.
Campers were streaming down towards the arena early that day to get a
good seat so I managed to hitch a lift with one of them. I could not believe
my eyes as we were going along the road to see that our balloons were
everywhere. They were tied onto road signs and barriers the were even
tied onto policemen who were controlling traffic, there even five balloons
tied either side of the entry to the arena. When I asked the police who had
persuaded them to take the balloons, they said that they were approached
by a couple of gorgeous young ladies who had asked them nicely, to do
them a favour. The girls also suggested that they might like to ware a
Camping Park tee-shirt.
As I went into the arena and started walking along towards our stand, I was
amazed to see that it had been given the same treatment as the road signs, it
had our yellow balloons with our logo message, tied all over it. It looked
fantastic, it was lively and bright, it made people look at it, I was so proud.
The campers had done a fine job, they had even tied bright colored flags
of all nations and large silver bows on it.
When the cavalcade of exhibits started moving along the arena with bands
playing and crowds cheering, we were looking out for our own entry, our
little band of campers, when we saw in the distance a group of people being
loudly cheered on by the crowds, they were our people, they were getting
some of the loudest applauds that afternoon. The group were being led our
bride and groom followed by the fourteen bridesmaids and the two handsome
pageboys. As they got closer to us, the campers on our stand got very excited
especially when they saw that we had won our class.
The young lady that I had seen only a few hours before wearing jeans and a
sad face was now in the limelight, she looked beautiful in her wedding dress
with her beautiful coiffeured hair, she was smiling and waving to the crowds
and thoroughly enjoying herself as did the groom. The bridesmaids were the
star attraction, they performed their duties like professionals considering the
short time that had been learning and their young ages. The youngest being
five years and the eldest twelve. They had to leave holding the brides train one
by one to present a carnation button hole from the baskets they were carrying
and curtsy to elderly ladies in the crowds bordering the arena. They did that for
nearly two hours, the crowds loved it.
Our entry in the Battle of Flowers was called Andrew and Fergie, it was
topical of the time, it was popular with the crowds as the Royals had only
One night after the pubs closed there was a terrible noise of youths shouting
and fighting each other coming from the entrance of the camping park.
Thinking that they were from the park, I approached them at the same time
as our local police. The police broke up the fighting and told them to move
on, thinking that they were from the park, herded them onto our land.
I did not recognize any of them, knowing that we did not take in any single
young people at that time, we were only taking families and mixed couples.
The police told me that they were from the camping park because the
neighbours had telephoned them and told them so. It just happened that the
twenty or thirty of them started auguring and fighting outside of our entrance,
on their way to St Helier. The neighbours complaining that time was nothing
new, they complained every year about noise coming from the main road,
they always suspected that the noise had been coming from our campers.
Big bang ..... quite a coincidence
That sports day was a day that anyone who attended could never forget.
The climbing equipment and the equipment that was going to be used in the
swimming pool had been made ready the day before. It was a full day event
with many campers taking part. The whole event was organized by the same
fellow and his family that had organized our Battle of Flowers entry the
Big secret ..... nobody told me
I had been approached a week before by the officer in charge of a group
from the parachute regiment who were staying Jersey. The officer and his
family were staying with us. He told me that a couple of his men had had
nasty accidents one being fatal when they had been practicing dropping with
their parachutes. He went on to explain that his men needed to have their
minds taken off the recent incidences and would I mine if they were to help
out on our sports day. How could I refuse help like that. I explained that if
his men could be on site between eight and nine the morning of the sports
day, they would be shown what to do.
They arrived alright, dead on eight hundred hours, they came with their
own transport, Land Rovers and trailers and one towing a gun. Once on
site they started assembling their armoury onto their vehicles, they fitted
machine guns and other bits and pieces with the help of the campers children.
The children, the campers and myself just could not believe what we were
seeing, it was like a good dream, the regiment officer had kept this invasion
a good secret, even from me.
The sports events started with the tiny tots sack race dead on nine o'clock.
That was an event the children, the campers and the neighbours will
never forget, that race was started by firing the big Howitzer cannon that
they had towed up with them. Unfortunately the cannon had been taken
up near the main road and pointing towards the neighbours houses was
fired and all the packing inside of the blank shell, it was like confetti, flew
right over their houses and onto their gardens. Not one of the neighbours
complained about the noise as they had the night before when the police
were called. Come to think about it now, I cant remember them ever
complaining about noise from the camping park after that.
An advertisement I made up earlier
We had a lot of talented people staying on the camping park over the
years. One time we had a group of jazz musicians called The Dutch
Jazz Band, they were an university band, they had come over to the
island to play at a few prestigious events. They were accompanied by
a professional female singer and they were over for a week.
It was suggested to me by someone that had seen them playing that
they might like to play for the campers one evening, I liked that idea
and negotiated terms that suited us. As I had not heard them play, I
did not if the camper would really appreciate their style.
We arranged an early evening do when they had to do a performance
later somewhere else. The idea was that they set up their music stands
at the swimming pool side where there was plenty of space and campers
could hear them performing.
Well, they started playing at six-thirty as advertised to a couple of dozen
campers who were sitting and standing about and not showing too much
interest in the proceedings and within thirty seconds of them playing there
must have been a hundred people clambering to get near them to watch
their performance. I think that it started with Glen Miller style music,
that had captured the mood of the campers, because within a few more
minutes many more had joined them, they had left their half eaten meals
in their tents and in the restaurant to take part in the musical experience.
I telephoned our family and friends to come and share the music,
neighbours from all around the camping park came over to hear it.
Young and old loved it
They loved it more when after the musicians after they had been playing for about
an hour, they changed into something a little more comfortable while still playing
From time to time An opportunity came along for us to have some publicly. Chris
Dawkins was one of those who had done well for himself. He was the British junior
go-cart champion and his ambition was to race cars. Because he was competing around
the U.K. and the Continent, I thought that it would be to our benefit and ask him to
advertise the camping park on his racing outfit.
The quality of tents and camping equipment improved over the years that I had been
involved in camping and the price increased at the same time. In the early sixties we
started with secondhand tents that cost £2.10s.0d. and just before we closed the
camping park down, we were paying over £500.00.each and that was buying in bulk
For an example in the early years we would have paid thirty shillings for a new table,
when we were coming up to closing, we had been paying as much as £50.00.
I can remember starting on the camping park with ten tents. Two or three of them were
the small bivovac type and the others were made up of bell tents and tents that would
have not looked out of place in the middle ages. The tents that I had to use were in a
terrible condition, they had been stored in a loft from the year before I took over.
They had been been packed away wet and dirty and some even had oil and grease
from cooking still sticking to them. I suspected that they had been taken down without
too much care. When I say that we had ten tents, I should have said, bits and pieces of
tents, all the poles had been bundled together and as they had not been labeled, it took
me awhile to sort them out.
My father suggested that I should erect all the tents so that I would get used to them,
I had never put a tent up in my life before. I did not know what to expect when I started.
When I was handling the canvas of all the tents, I thought that they had a foul smell and
being that I was not used to handling tents, I would have thought that it was a smell I
would have to get used to. I started with one of the larger tents. I laid the canvas out
on the ground and crawled underneath in the dark with the poles, where I found the
holes to put the spikes through on the end of the poles. In those days the tents were
made of heavy duty canvas and when I was trying to erect them, the creases would
have to be straightened out, more so because they had been put away wet. As I started
lifting the canvas of my first tent to insert the poles and at the same time straightened the
creases, I felt a tickle down the inside of my shirt, I thought that it was a lump of grass
that had fallen off the tent and took little notice as I was concentrating on erecting the
tent. My waist was starting to itch and I started to scratch it, when I got a nasty nip,
I got out from under the canvas and pulled my shirt out of my trousers to see what
was biting me, laying on the ground were several baby mice with their mother, I had
disturbed them from their nest in one of the creases in the canvas.
That tent and the remainder of them had mouse holes or were needing attention
before I would be able to erect them. I washed them with plain water to try and get
the mouse smell out, it did not make any difference, the smell stayed with them until
they were replaced. I had taken them to be repaired but the tent repairers asked me
to take them away as the the smell was so bad.
I was being spoilt .... with new tents
The first time my father had ordered new tents was a historic moment, Unknown
to me he had ordered six tents of different types. He chosen them more for their
price and size than for their stability and long lasting quality. Because the tent
manufactory's had made the tents for a low price, they had used lightweight
material and the tent frames were not strong enough to hold the tents up in a
strong wind. Everything was wrong with the them. The tent pegs were just bits
of bent wire and the guy lines broke down in the sunlight in only a few weeks
as did the plastic/rubber rings that anchored the tent to the ground. The plastic
tent zips broke down within a month, again due to sunlight and were replaced
with brass ones. Our first new tents would have to last at least three seasons to
make them profitable. If my time was counted dismantling and re-erecting and
re allocating the campers into other hire tents with all their equipment, repairing
the tents, in the case of broken zips, I might have just sown on tapes or I might
have used an adhesive tape to patch up holes in the canvas, they would have
had to last ten years to have made a profit.
In the earliest days of hiring tents I would erect six to ten tents, some only eight
by four feet, and in the heyday of us hiring ready erected tents, I could put up
as many as one hundred and twenty frame tents up by myself, most of them
fourteen by fourteen feet square. I preferred to do that as I felt at the time that no
one knew how to erect them as well as I did. I was proved wrong. When I had
back problems and I was having treatment every day, I had to rely on my staff to
take over the tents and under my supervision, of course, they were erecting them
as good or even better than I had been doing over the years.
Just got better
Over the years, camping equipment improved, from the time when I had been
patching up and repairing wooden chairs with splinters in them, tables with
spindly legs and ready to collapse, kapok filled sleeping bags that would never
dry out in time to use and cookers that were not designed with safety in mind
to tents that would last four or five years and needing little attention, plastic arm
chairs and tables, plug-in electricity points, cookers that were barely used as
the campers preferred to use the restaurant, the snack-bar or the BBQ and
sleeping bags could be opened out and used as duvets.
We held a large stock of hire equipment during the late eighties, including one
hundred and eighty tents, one hundred frame and the remainder dome tents,
five to six hundred plastic armchairs and seven hundred sleeping bags.
Although we were doing well with our ready erected hire tents, we had the
opportunity to take on a couple of travel agents who wanted to have their
own ready erected tents in addition to ours on our camping park. That proved
In the mid eighties, sadly, my father passed away suddenly. He is greatly missed
by the family. He was a good grandfather, always finding time for the little ones,
and giving advice to his children. He had many friend who used to call in to his
home every day. He was a popular and generous man. He would always have
time the listen to his friends problems and he would often offer them financial
I worked hard for my father for thirty years, first on the farm and then on the
camping park, and in all that time he treated me as an employee, not as his son.
Maybe that is as it should have been.
It was only after my father's death that I realised how much that he had been
influenced by his friends and some of the family in the running of the camping
park And as an example, on one occasion I was asked by my father to keep
a time sheet of my hours while I was working on the camping park. Even for
him that would have been an unusual request. I would have have never
complained to my father about me doing a lot of hours, for fear of him saying
to me, " Go now, I will get someone else to do your job". He must have been
told by someone in the family whom I had confided in.
My time sheet... typical example ...July 1984.....not much time for sleep
9am - 2.15pm
2.45pm - 8.30pm
12 Midnight - 4am
9.am - 2.30pm
4pm - 8pm
9.30pm - 4am
9am - 8pm
9pm - 12 Midnight
9am - 1.30pm
2 pm - 8.30pm
9pm - 1am
9am - 1.45am
2.15pm - 7.45 pm
12 Midnight - 4.15 am
6.30am - 3pm
3.30pm - 2am
7.30am - 3pm
3.30pm - 8pm
9pm - 12 Midnight
8am - 9pm
10pm - 4am
9am - 3pm
3.30pm - 9pm
10pm - 12.30am
8.15am - 3.30pm
6pm - 10.45pm
12.15am - 2.45am
8.30am - 2.30pm
3.15pm - 9.15pm
10.45pm - 1.15am
8.am - 3.45pm
5.30pm - 8.30pm
9.15pm - 12 Midnight
9am - 2.30pm
5pm - 8.30pm
2am - 4am
8.15am - 3.15pm
3.45pm - 7.45pm
3am - 5.30am
My work included
In the early days of running the camping park, I took it for granted that part of my work
was to do all the maintenance and construction on the the site darning the winter months
and just do only a little as the season got busier and I would have to concentrate on the
day to day running of the site. I had not expected to be the toilet cleaner, receptionist
In those days the site would open in March and the first campers would arrive at six in
the morning from the passenger mail boat. I would meet them at what was laughingly
called the reception office. It doubled up as a camping equipment hire shop and and
store room for bottled gas. Entry to the "office" was through a wooden up and over
door that was difficult to open at times when the wind was blowing in the wrong
direction. My father had had help in erecting the "office" a couple of years before I
started working for him on the site. He and his help had built up the walls of the "office"
and placed the roof into position on their first day. When they returned the following day,
they were a little upset to see that their work had collapsed in a heap on the ground.
The structure was designed to be used as a small single car garage and it was built at
a low cost. It was made with heavy duty asbestos sheeting on the walls and corrugated
asbestos sheeting on the roof. As it turned out, the lightweight softwood frame holding
the sheets together were not strong enough to carry the weight of the roof.
I used the shabby "office" for a number of years. It needed attention after strong winds
had moved the sheeting from their frames and where water regularly came in through
the roof and the side walls. So much damaged had been done to the materials of the
little building as it was being built that it would have been better if it had been put to
one side and a new one built if my father could have afforded it.
Entering my home of fifteen years with my little daughter. Notice the nearly new
panels on the front of "my office" They had been salvaged from another building.
Years later we built a new (or nearly new) camp reception office from discarded
window panels from a local hotel.
I knew that running the camp site was not going to be easy, with the shortage of
funds and by past experience of working for my father with his stubborn ways.
The sewage system had a lot to be desired, the waste water from the eight toilets,
eight wash hand basins and a cloth washing machine, ran into a steel barrel that had
been buried in the ground, from that, it was piped away towards the open area
where tents were to be erected. The idea was that the effluent would soak-away
into a French drain. The drain was a trench about thirty feet long, six feet and three
feet wide and filled with large stones and covered over with old corrugated iron
sheeting and a few inches of soil. When the drain had become so saturated that it
would no longer work, I would have to dig further into the field when the system
failed. Every day without fail, I would have to be on standby darning the busy
period of the day to make sure that the effluent was getting away.
We carried on with that system for a further two years until I was able to persuade
my father to buy a pump to pump the effluent up to a purpose built soak-away of
eighty feet long. It was more of a compromise, he bought a small Stuart Turner
pump, capable of pumping about four hundred gallons an hour of clean water.
As it was not designed to pump solids as we intended. When started up we found
that it would only pump one hundred gallons an hour, that was about forty to fifty
flushes of the toilets, at least that was an improvement on the previous system.
Things improved over the thirty years that I had been running the site, from having
to put up with just a soak-away, to having a Rolls Royce quality system capable
of pumping seventy gallons a minute.
Between camping seasons.
Every year I did the maintenance on the camp site almost single handed .
Without boasting, I installed all the fresh and foul water systems, I did all the
plumbing, sometimes having to use secondhand pipes and fittings.
All the swimming pool filtration systems that we had used over the years had been
secondhand until the last few years, when I installed some of the latest equipment
available. The first lot of steel pipes I used were rusted on to each other and had
to be freed with easing oil so that I could have used them. The larger of the pipes
some being six inches in diameter were the must rusted as they had been
underground in their previous installation. Although the gate valves had been
manufactured in bronze before the war, it was only when they had been fitted and
in use that the metal started breaking up and disintegrating. That caused me a lot
of trouble especially since we were still short of funds at that time and I was not
able to replace them with new ones.
I always went along to my favourite supplier of metal fittings, Hunt Bros the scrap
merchant dealers, they could normally get me out of trouble at times of need with
Something strange going on
I remember the time when my father and I were going through a stressful time
arguing in high season about me needing a more efficient sewage pump system soon
as we were having break downs every day and he told me that I would have to
make do with it . The following morning I found a stranger in my office who told me that
he had been asked by my father to learn everything about my job, he was to do
everything that I was doing. He told me that he had recently been made redundant
by the hotel that he had been working for. Fortunately as I had been passing by
one of my receptionists whispered to me that the man had said to her that he was
going to take over my job and that they were to give him every assistance.
I showed him the books, I told him how we operated reception, I took him around
the camp and told him how I planned the advance bookings and I also told him
about the problems with the sewage pump breakdowns. I told him that I usually meet
and greet everyone who arrived on the site and show to their places. I told him that
we could have as many as two hundred family campers arriving in the evening at one
time and they would have to be sited as soon as possible because they would not be
able to pitch their tents in the dark and that in the event of elderly or disabled we
would have been expected to help them to erect their tents as we normally did in the
past. While we had been walking and talking about the camp for a couple of hours,
the fellow repeatedly told me that running hotels were nothing like running a camping
park I was not sure what he meant by that.
We had been talking in reception when I was called away to attend some urgent matter
and when I returned the fellow was missing, I was told that he had just gone off to have
his breakfast in the camp restaurant. I followed him in there because I wanted him to
experience a situation he would be having later and he would need to have seen it for
himself then. The chef told me that the man who I had been walking around with had
passed through the restaurant and that he had gone out of the back door.
I have never seen him since, my father never mentioned the fact that he had asked the
man to be my assistant. There were other similar situations that came up like that.
I had to swallow my pride and not pursue them unless I had wanted to lose my job.
Every day it was like walking on a knife edge, running the camping park with hundreds
of campers was nothing compared to dealing with my father's demands. He was a hard
Worse was yet to come
Working for my father for twenty-odd years was hard going but it was nothing
compared with working with, and for, my family who inherited the camping park
on my father's death. Horrible memories, I am not going to write about them for
I was out voted
Soon after my father's death there was talk by the family about closing down the
camping park and develop it, or sell it for building. I was in my mid fifties and not
ready to take early retirement. After all I put in to working for my father over the
years, I was not ready to retire gracefully. I wanted to carry on running the
camping park as I thought that camping had a good future in Jersey. Although
tourism in Jersey was on the decline, because of high ferry and flight fares and the
Tourism Office trying to give Jersey a false up market image by demanding hotels
and guesthouses spend more money, that they could ill afford, on their properties.
Up until the time my father passed away, He would spend as little as he could on
maintenance around the camping park and if we were to continue with running it,
so we would first have to do something about keeping the water out of the large
building that housed the restaurant and the games rooms, re-roofed the toilet
amenities, replace and add more toilets, showers and washbasins. and larger
capacity hot water boilers. We also added a more efficient laundry and a large
sewage system as the systems I was made to use previously were not going to
work any longer as they were worn out. The restaurant was fitted out with stainless
steel counters. And in the restaurant kitchen we had new cookers and grills and
All the electric cabling in the restaurant area had to be in trunking for safety
reasons. Heavier electric mains cables were brought onto the camping park
through six hundred feet long and four feet deep trenches as the existing cables
were not large enough to power even half of what the new equipment would
demand. Because we had more power on site we were able to equip all tents
with mains power and while we had the the trenches around the site open we
added a stand-tap fresh water system.
To permanently separate the tent sites I planted eleven hundred trees and
bushes with the help of a tractor with an arguer attachment to dig the holes.
The trees were mostly Silver Birch. Other work we did around the park was
installing a network of land drains in the lower part of the camp site. There
were as many as seven active springs with water coming up out of the ground
at all times of the year. We used hundreds of feet of four and six inch plastic
perforated pipes. On occasions when we had a heavy rain storm, even the
six inch pipes would have been full. Before we installed the land drains, part
of the site would have been under water and it would have been very damp
for a long period after. Although the tents were erected on sandy top soil,
the subsoil beneath was blue clay and the water could not penetrate it, also
the area became very smelly.
A few technical details about the amenities.
Forty toilets, forty washbasins with push down taps, forty showers with mixer
valves. The State gas boilers gave us up to ten thousand gallons of piping hot
water a day and we had twenty thousand gallons of water from the mains for
drinking and showers. We used our own bore hole using anything up to ten
thousand gallons a day for supplying the swimming pool and the toilets. All
waste water, sewage, had to be pumped away from the camp by pumping it
over five hundred feet to the main road. The difficult part of that operation
was having to pump up a forty feet incline. On a day when the site was full to
capacity the pumps would have to pump anything up to thirty-five thousand
gallons. The swimming pool was eighty feet long and thirty feet wide with a
flat bottom. It was four feet six feet six inches deep and it had a shallow end
for children. The pond held eighty thousand gallons of water and it was
surrounded by over two hundred square yards of concrete tile decking.