Martin on Cnicht

Martin on Cnicht

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Youth Hosteling Memories

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Sue and I had the pleasure of attending Stockport Walking and Outdoor Group’s 60th birthday party on Saturday. It was a joyous occasion, enjoyed by many of the current 150 members and by many ‘old’ members, few of whom we knew as we are recent newcomers to this group.

The group was one of many set up by the YHA after WW2, and unlike many of its contemporaries it has continued to thrive and is currently very active. Curiously, one table was occupied by folk who claimed to have joined the club in 1952, some 63 years ago. This minor ‘discrepancy’ was glossed over, though I noticed a few askew glances from folk wondering whether the party had been hijacked by the inmates of a nearby old people’s home!

It got me thinking about my own youth hostelling experiences. On at least two occasions, at Westerdale and at Glenbrittle, I was arriving with groups but the warden wouldn’t be there. “The key is under the mat – make yourselves at home – if you can make it through the snow.”

In those days there were fewer hostel staff and guests always had to carry out a duty. The header image shows Jim and Howard carrying out their duty at Stockinish Hostel on Harris (NG 135 910). The hostel, open between 1965 and 1998, was an old school. When we visited in September 1968, on my first trip to Scotland, there was no sophisticated sanitation. We pooed into a bucket, which was emptied into Loch Stocanais. I wonder whether the locals still have to do that?

Here’s the hostel.

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And here’s Howard (RIP) with the Austin Devon estate car that hauled us around Scotland that September. It managed about 40 miles a day before requiring some sort of TLC. It’s pictured in 1969, on the day it was taken to the knacker’s yard, outside our rented house in Drury Street, Levenshulme, a ‘two up, two down’ with a small kitchen tacked onto the living/dining room. No bathroom or indoor toilet – just a tap in the kitchen and a toilet outside in the yard.

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We used to take our showers in the Students Union at UMIST – a wonderful place that also had a great refectory, if you didn’t choose to eat chicken biryani at the Plaza Café on Upper Brook Street.

Many of us travelled by bicycle in those days (some things don’t change), picking up unclaimed bikes from the police when ours were either stolen or ‘died’. I remember a long walk to a bike shop one day when my bike’s front wheel’s spokes decided to call it a day. Buckled wheels from hitting kerbs at speed, usually at night with dubious lights, were a common occurrence.

That’s all for now. I’ve emptied the loft and have a house full of boxes (rubbish, memorabilia, photos, toys, etc etc) to ‘process’.

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