When my oldest two children, Mike and Sarah, were still at Infant and Junior school respectively, a few years before we moved over here, they both experienced their first countryside holiday.
At the time we were living in North Buckinghamshire where I was a Youth Group leader and my wife and I were both Sunday school teachers. Some of the young teenagers came from low income families and had never experienced a summer holiday before – never mind the glories of the Herefordshire countryside.
We managed to hire a mini bus!
And so one year we approached the church for funds to pay for the hire of a minibus, begged, borrowed and bought three tents and a portable loo – and off we went! Through my (first) wife’s family contacts (she was a Herefordshire lass), we found a secluded ‘campsite’ (field) right on the banks of the River Wye, borrowed a couple of canoes and arranged visits to her large family farm.
It was amazing for these youngsters being in the middle of nowhere
I set the family tent up (to house yours truly, plus wife and children), then the enormous, multi-compartment tent for the girls (don’t know why, but no boys were with us that year), then the ‘kitchen/dining tent and set a campfire. What the girls had never experienced before was the quietness and darkness of the Herefordshire evenings (no street lights, passing traffic or noisy late-night revellers). They were also quite overawed at being ‘in the middle of nowhere’, with no local shops, no housing estates, or factories, etc. – just the quiet, peaceful sounds of ‘mother nature’.
They were amazed when I took them down to the edge of the river on that first, dark evening and shone my torch into the water’s edge – illuminating hundreds of small fish feeding within touching distance of them! The next day they really enjoyed taking turns canoeing on the River Wye itself (none of them had ever been in a canoe before, or any other kind of boat on an actual river).
We sat around a camp fire listening to The Birds by Daphne du Maurier
Of course, we also took them into Hereford itself, where they were not only impressed by the world-famous cathedral of course, but also by the relative calmness of the city, plus their feeling that they were ‘stepping back in time’. We spent lots of the following week simply going on long country walks, singing our heads off as we marched along – punctuated by picnic lunches of course. And in the evenings they all enjoyed being scared sitting around the campfire, surrounded by the total darkness and silence of the countryside, listening to a tape recorded reading of Daphne du Maurier’s ‘The Birds’. But the real memory they took back from that countryside camping holiday was the visit to my wife’s family farm.
To see a man walk a bull down a lane was a sight to behold!
Jen’s family ran (still do) a large 600 acre farm that, among other things, raised the world famous red-and-white Hereford cattle. Her younger brother Mark, who was only a few years older than the girls at the time - still a teenager himself (he is now middle-aged and runs the farm in his own right nowadays) was back home on school holidays. As we pulled up to the farm, the girls all bundled out of the van. Then they were all stopped in their tracks – and collectively shocked, amazed and mesmerised at what they saw: Mark was calmly walking a massive 1000kg (over 1 ton) Hereford Bull down the lane on a lead (a rope tied through its nose ring), as though he was taking a dog for a walk!
They almost fainted in admiration at the sight of this handsome young man performing such an impressive feat. (All he was actually doing was giving the bull its daily exercise, but this was certainly no everyday (or any day) sight for these young ladies).