1979: A not so grand tour, a birthday and trips more local

Saturday 14th July 1979

My records say Pilning were playing Blagdon at home and that I wasn’t taking part. I didn’t have a diary page for this date so something must have been a bit awry. Gloucestershire were not playing. I didn’t go to the Edgbaston test where a Gower double hundred would have been in my memory bank. I would have no interest in Regazzone winning the British Grand Prix. I can only think that I was away visiting and planning something for the coming month.

We didn’t have gap tears as a student in 1979. What we did have was interrail.For about £100 you could travel wherever you liked within Europe for a month. I might well have been getting the essential passport, E 111, traveller’s cheques and maps sorted. August was to be my month of interrailing. My companions for this trip were Martin Searle from University and Neil Malpass from home. Martin and I had to plan to be home ready for the fieldtrip to the Netherlands that came soon after in September. We had a limited budget but ambitions to follow the sun using youth hostels and camp sites.

The Rail map we used to record the route is copied below.

thomas cook rail map 1route map 1979

The detail went as follows:-

Leg Start Finish
1 London Paris
2 Suresnes / Paris Lyon
3 Lyon Antibes
4 Antibes Avignon
5 Avignon Sitges
6 Sitges / Barcelona Encamp Andorra
7 Encamp / Andorra Brive
8 Brive Bellegarde
9 Bellegarde / Geneva Delemont
10 Delemont / Basel Bullay
11 Bullay / Koblenz Metz
12 Metz / Luxembourg Chalons Sur Marne
13 Chalons Sur Marne London

Some observations to recall:

  • Neil never had a hair out of place or a shirt untucked for the whole trip. We camped in a rough old tent with limited access to showers but he managed to maintain a certain image. His greatest expenses was on telephone calls home.

brive bus and telephone

Neil on the phone and a London Bus in Brive.

  • In contrast I did not. It was my blue cagoule period. The age of the duffle coat was over, trainers, tatty jeans and my blue knitted jumper worked for all eventualities.

 neil an me 79 paris

  • Martin was the king of transport. He had form, having worked for London Transport, and he was the world authority on buses, timetables and barrier jumping at French Railway stations.

 paris 79

Neikl Malpass and Martin Searle

  • Leg 2 was on the then new TGV. I’m not sure it was strictly possible on the card we had but we did catch Le Train.
  • In Antibes it rained and rained some more. It was now time to look at a weather map. The depression was moving eastward so we decided to head west. Italy no more, Spain was where we were off. Back to Avignon and head for the coast. Neil was happy, a beach was his idea of heaven. Milan and Rome would have to wait. Barcelona was next.
  • Barcelona was full, Sitges was not. Neil enjoyed the coastal views. I thought we might make it to Gibraltar. Martin saw sense and we headed back northward via Andorra, Germany, Luxembourg and Paris again.
  • For a summer month we became experts on French / Swiss market town cafes and where and how to get a decent continental breakfast.

This trip was quickly followed by the Netherlands Field Trip. One half of the Geography course headed for the Alps to study Glaciers and all things Physical.  Our half of the course wanted to get to check out the urban landscapes of the Polderlands and the dog poo ridden streets of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The trip coincided with my 21st birthday.

The high / low lights were:-

  • Deciding to buy a bottle of the then trendy Baileys as a present for my Mum from Duty Free on the way out to Vlissingen on the Olau line from Sheerness. Note that it was on the way out. This was a typical error for this twenty year old.
  • Drinking the said bottle of Baileys on the way across and sleeping on the floor watching vomit washing from the toilets in to the main bar. Despite Greg’s recent allegations, none of said vomit was mine.
  • Walking the streets of Rotterdam, mapping indices of deprivation and creating a dog poo index for the inner city areas.

lost in Rotterdam

Greg Boughton, Martin Carr, Tim Miller, Martin Searle, Martin Gerrard and Ali Robertson appear to be lost at the bus station in Rotterdam.

  • Chatting to seriously interesting people in back street bars of Bijlmermeer.


 Bijlmermeer housing project. In 1992 it was the scene of a tragic aircraft disaster.

  • On the eve of my birthday discovering Green Gin in the bar of the Soesterberg hostel. I am not sure but I think I shared that birthday with Alan Brumpton; to my shame I did not share the gin. We soon cleared the bar of all drink, Gin, Lager, or whatever was available.
  • Being dropped off the coach the next day and being told that on no account was I to communicate with anyone. The village of my birthday was called Vinkeveen. Breakfast involved lots of coffee, bacon and eggs and I watched in ordered silence and co-ordinated the walks around the village by the more sober folk in the group. To be fair to myself I did get to the full walk around and no one wanted to talk to anyone. Hal Pawson, Greg Boughton and Alan Brumpton could well cope without my intervention so all were happy.

 alan brumpton in cafe mode

 Alan Brumpton in supervisory mode

 Vinkeveen 1

Hal Pawson and Greg Boughton reporting back to base.

  • A member of the Dutch army asked for my help in finding their way from Vinkeveen to Amsterdam. Given my instructions we had a Dads Army situation. A tank pulled up in the main high street. The long haired driver stepped down to join me for coffee. I decided to point him in the direction by first orienting his map to identify the road he was using., He parted happily, I went back to my coffee believing the Geographers of Southampton were perhaps trying to wind me up with an over-elaborate hoax.
  • A coach tour of the Polders that was as interesting as one might expect.
  • A talk and discussion with Urban Geographers from the University of Utrecht. This I quite enjoyed. There is only so much variation to be had in comparing one polder with another. WE did walk around a field to experience the “S” field pattern in operation on a dairy farm.

Other Geography Field Trips while at Southampton

One afternoon a week was Fieldtrip time. Those I remember, and therefore of some use, were:-

  • A walk around Southampton Bargate and the docklands.
  • A walk around Winchester.
  • Barton on Sea coastal management. This was used many times in my teaching career.
  • Ecology of the New Forest at Cranes Moor. Rose got much more out of this than me.
  • The suburban expansion of Southampton to the west. This one didn’t actually happen due to a Robinson malfunction described in last week’s post.
  • The landforms of Hampshire north of Southampton. This was hard work as this area isn’t the most dramatic of landscapes but we did spot some sub-Eocene surfaces.
  • The Villages of North Hampshire. I was dropped off in Sutton Scotney and had a great time chatting to the locals over a pint or two before walking to South Wonston.

Tenby Fieldtrip. A residential stay in a hotel that involved masses of Geomorphology along the Pembrokeshire coast, fluvial studies in remote streams and a trip to Milford Haven.

Geog. Soc, the student led society for Geographers, also had trips of a more social nature. The Mediaeval banquet at Beulieu would probably be best forgotten. I just want no one to remind me of my behaviour on the second visit. We also had a tradition of an industrial visit to a local Brewery. The best being our trip to Blandford Forum and the Hall and Woodhouse Industrial site.


1984       Simpson A W 47

1990       Bow Brickhill H W 2

1993       MK City H Ab

2009       Derbyshire

2014       Derbyshire

2015       Leicestershire

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