In 1963, Phil Bull volunteered several of us to attend Farchynys to assist at the first Parents’ Open Day. The drive was, as usual, uneventful with the obligatory stop at the tea rooms in Welshpool – always worth a trip on its own.
On arrival, guess what, we had heavy rain, just like we did on all subsequent visits, here was coined the legendary phrase “Is it raining at Farchynys? – Yes, it farchyn ys.”.
We bedded down for the night, eagerly looking forward to the next morning, awoke early to a good breakfast and a tidy-up, to await the arrival of the parents.
I was assigned car park duties in the field at the front of the house, which the heavy rain had turned into a bog.
Parents with cars were slipping and getting stuck in the quagmire, and I was getting soaking wet pushing cars in the chaos: I wished I was back in Walsall.
Apart from this, the day went well and was followed by many subsequent visits, including CCF long weekends camping in local farm fields.
I also remember the delights of the café hidden in the forest that was run by a mother and her four daughters; the night of the horrendous gale when one section got lost in the wilds, and two others had to spend a night in a barn; and the round-the-estuary race for cadets, when I posted a record time.
Happy days indeed!
Mac Tonks QM 1962-67
Chris, an Oxford friend who helped me with some research on outdoor education for the book shared these photographs of his trip and this note:
“Prompted by your work on your book last year we made our first camper trip of the season to Snowdonia this week. Although, we thought it spring, on the Mawddach, the season was still Winter. Here are some photos of us and friends en route, we actually completed the circuit of Cadair Idris Cwm which was a first for us”
It is fifty years to the day since I first saw the Mawddach glinting in the late Autumn sun. Our trusty blue Commer minibus, complete with transversal bench seating had successfully navigated the pass at Dinas Mawddwy and the hair-pin riffs of Fiddler’s Elbow, and with the aluminium catering trays of Mrs Watkins’ fried fish and baked-bean-splattered mash still skidding around our feet, had come to a temporary stop in Bontddu to pick up the milk. Shortly afterwards, we had arrived at the majestic but dangerously uneven main drive to Farchynys.
I hadn’t been lucky enough to visit during my first year at Queen Mary’s, but aged 12 and accelerated into the Alpha stream, I was one of a party of third formers visiting the Coach House under the charge of George Brudenell, our easy going Year Master and his Physics Department chum, the ever-wry Ernie Watson. One of them pointed out the two granite and slate buildings perched half hidden and forbidding on the hill to our left of the Dolgellau to Barmouth road. Then, with assorted bumps and skids-on-gravel, the minibus had made it up the drive, passed the rhododendrons of the Hall and stopped outside the Coach House.
No sooner had the front door been unlocked then I experienced the Coach House’s unique aroma: a mélange of damp, overcooked vegetable and burned carbon. As the more experienced hands raced upstairs to secure the best bunk positions in the dorm, others were pushing refectory tables together to make one giant table tennis court, while an enterprising Prefect was opening up the weekend tuck-shop, packed for travel in a large biscuit tin. This contained the Kit Kats, Mars Bars and Wagon Wheels necessary to maintain morale over the coming hours.
The darkness came, and for boys from an industrial town, this was a darkness absolute and rare -the kind that torches and fireworks are made for. But for now, it was time for supper and the return of the fried fish, mash and baked beans which like us had made it all the way from Sutton Road in Walsall.
It was later that evening, after the group had done the washing-up that I made the first strategic error of my Marian career. I casually let it be known that in the morning we should check the post-box as there might be something for me as it was my birthday. The possibility of receiving some extra spending money had clouded my better judgement and I soon discovered that sharing this piece of information was not conducive to either a peaceful or an undisturbed night’s sleep in the dorm. It was an unforgettable first night at Farchynys.
Today I’d like to share a wonderfully evocative piece of writing describing some adventures during the July heat on the Mawddach written by DoubleSkinnyMacchiato, the celebrated coffee blogger – who in the interests of full disclosure also happens to be my daughter, Bex:
An afternoon in June, 2013.
At Rhuddallt and a watercolours lesson under indifferent skies – the Mawddach retreating fast beyond the bridge.
From Hilary’s terrace: matchstick figures on manoeuvres ran on sands beside the headland at Farchynys.
A desert warfare weekend for the CCF.
Kodi Beveridge-Smith, Captain of School in action giving a marvellous speech at the QMC dinner and keynoting the significance of Farchynys to his own experience of Queen Mary’s. Kodi is pictured with Guest speaker Cdr Matthew Punch MBE and Richard Langton, Head of School
A celebration of the Mawddach, Barmouth and an old Coach House on the Estuary at Farchynys
In one eventful weekend in November 1963, the President of the United States was assassinated, The Beatles launched their second album, Dr Who exited his Police Box to confront the Daleks for the first time and a convoy of Walsall grammar school boys arrived on the Mawddach to spend their first weekend at Farchynys. This was Queen Mary’s newly acquired adventure centre, an old coach house on the Mawddach estuary lying in the shadow of Cadair Idris, just 4 miles from Barmouth and its iconic railway bridge.
Every week for the following fifty years, successive generations of QM folk have made the hundred mile journey to the coast and have promptly fallen in love with this special place, discovering that estuaries can be wonderfully productive eco-systems for personal growth. Marians on the Mawddach tells the stories of pupils and their teachers and also of the people they meet as they explore this highly contrasting landscape to their home in Walsall.
Buy now at:
WD Wilkins, Dolgellau
White Rose Bookshop and Café
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