Action packed holidays that embrace every ability

Volunteers Diary

Senior PHAB Camp Tuesday 12th –Friday 22nd August 1969

Led by Gwen Blandford
Co Leader Tony Gray

The following is typed from the 1969 original, which consisted of entries from each of the following volunteers:

 Anthony Gray, Paul Flavill, Mike Carding, David Smith, Connor Barry, John Burden

This is a humorous tongue-in-cheek, but no less factual, alternative account to the traditional camp report (which we also have on file for this camp). Some of our rules have naturally changed over time (we no longer allow volunteers evenings off at the pub) but the sense of putting the children first and creating an enormously liberal, fun and inclusive environment is as evident then as it is today. Above all this is a terrific example of the great sense of humour, comradeship, and ability to engage with young people that make PHAB volunteers such committed and special people...


Left corporation Street around 9.30 to the echo of thunder – it seemed an appropriate omen. Reached Hednesford after a few involuntary detours at 11.00am and walked, crawled or fell out into the pouring rain.

After lunch sat around looking vaguely bored despite John and Roger’s bravest efforts on guitar and accordion until it stopped raining, around 5pm.

Then the air became filled with cries of “where can I get a handful of air?” and “who’s got a pre -1910 coin with Britannia sitting back to front on a falling tide in snow storm?”. This heralded the start of Dave’s scavenger hunt and ‘an art thing’ followed. Things began to look up and by supper it was beginning to look a bit more like a PHAB Camp.

In the evening a discotheque proved popular with the older children although some of the younger ones where not so keen.

By bed time the noise had reached such a volume as to convince any "old crew" that this was a true PHAB camp.

Philip Smith – fourth from the left


Girls were all woken about 4.30am  by a variety of wolf howls and Indian war whoops from the boys dorm, this earned room 13, the ‘noisiest room award’.

After breakfast we started our activities; art, drama, dress making or music. The most popular of these was probably skiving. After lunch we went on a ‘Tony Type’ magical mystery tour which started at the petrol station and ended at the pictures where the majority of kids stayed for the programme twice through. This resulted in us being late for high tea and so there were only four choices.

All the volunteers hoped that the kids would by now be too tired to do anything but sleep – but there were was still a kick in the tail. We finally got them in bed for 10pm when we had a summit meeting at which we decided that we wouldn’t have any more meetings but go to the pub instead. Sister Tither swayed the house with an inspired speech on this motion. By now it was even more like a PHAB camp.

P.S Fire drill – everyone successfully dowsed but no one was put out.


Gentlemen of press came – although we impressed on them PHAB etc., the resulting article and pictures of me were lousy.

Firemen demonstration very good, high casualty of arrows in provision of extra activity for the press. It is a long time from lunch to tea especially when playing football under a blazing sun complete with swarming flies.

Walk, apart from a lack of route, went well, kids appeared entertained. Connor had a hard time pushing Billy up and down hills and I had a hard sprint back with Philip, but we just made it.

1st night at Pub – very necessary – very enjoyable – about time too etc.

Kitchen duties starting to pull. Girls obviously overworked – too few of them - Joke!


As the camp goes on the kids not quite so eager to wake us all at 3.50am (still no more willing to go to bed though). Activities going very well now with regular members in each group showing the way. Terry and Philip both make superb actors when it comes to imitating Con returning from the pub.

The visit in the afternoon to the fire-station was extremely good, the kids finding more interest in the smashed fire-engine than in all the serviceable ones. The highlight for many was Wendy going up the lookout tower in a skirt. Then PHAB hit Cannock itself and as usual money went faster than time.

In the evening Mr. Springthorpe came to show some excellent films about wildlife on Cannock Chase, especially Deer.

Another good day ended with a record 7 min trip to the Pub.


Happy birthday Karen, despite your moping over John Peadle, sulk, sulk. Picnic – flies again; greatly enjoyed lying in the sun – wrestling with kids, letting Terry stick grass stalks up my nose etc. personally could have stayed there all day. Only problem – kids in wheelchairs – sandwiches were almost edible.


Paddling pool – kids liked – including wheel chariots, most people went in, including those that shouldn’t have.

Transport scarcely adequate and very uncomfortable if you had to stand or kneel on the floor of the fire tender. Important to get them singing in vans. Kids did not eat much tea due to stuffing themselves at the fair.

Not enough time for K.A’s birthday party. Kids rather tired as well. Billy sticking to diet at meals, then stuffs himself with brandy snaps and popcorn at fair. Tony Jarvis in Love - problem.

Pub again, thank goodness. Undesirability of having to clean kitchen out at 12am. Remedy = Jelly fight.


An unusual 8 o’clock hush was broken by the sound of a mad Irishman searching for Alka Seltzer. In drips and drabs the kids got up and wandered along to breakfast – served as usual, a quarter of an hour late. After chores, a dozen or so volunteers and kids climbed into the Phabmobile and did a double round trip of Hednesford to find churches and chapels.

They then split up into three parties and went to their respective places of worship. The Phabmobile went round to pick them all up (sins forgiven etc) just after eleven. Gwen must’ve really enjoyed herself, for she went back for another dose in the evening.

After lunch, friends, guests, relations, and yobs started arriving to find the kids on the archery, doing art, singing, dressmaking, playing sports and generally having a good time (or appearing to have) a good time. Mike, Tony, and Connor organised collecting firewood for the BBQ to be held in the evening, and proceeded to move it from site to site until a position agreeable to all was located. They had to be careful to minimise the fire risk and to get a salubrious position.

Tea was served at half-four on the lawns and enjoyed by all, the younger male generation (NOT from John and Roger’s class) proceeded to sing crude songs from the top of a nearby tree ("Auntie Mary had a Canary..."), but the guests didn’t appear to mind.

After tea a further concentrated effort was made on the BBQ fire, the site was changed yet again, but eventually the fires were finished and they were lit. Shortly before 8, Hilary did a magnificent job cooking the hot dogs, while John did an equally good job leading the singing. Tony took charge of the Lion Hunt, and most of the male volunteers led the song ‘Von Shipiro’ which the kids liked very much.

The Volunteers then held a social gathering in the SGT’s and the W.O’S MESS, partook of suitable refreshments and then in the early hours turned in. Three of our guests, including Nicola, were in no fit state to go home so stayed at the camp overnight.


Bakery, Museum, Swimming, Deer Stalking

Wet morning – visit to warm smelling goody bakery was just the job. Well done Gwen for chatting them up. Ended with cups of tea etc and cakes. Some great singing in the community transport “bus” on return.

Had to miss museum but made it to the baths- superb. Billy and Susan Jordan went in. Terry went in but didn’t like it. Almost everyone else went in. a happy hour.

Deer stalking, was moderately successful. There were some deer including one small one which was fairly tame but not everyone saw them. It was rather dark. Brian Cassidy showed some prowess in calling the tame deer. Worth going another evening, a little earlier.

We had a meeting tonight, mainly to discuss the outing tomorrow, I’d forgotten about meetings, seems a long time since the last one.

Afterwards some of us talked till late, despite tiredness and prospect of an early morning, because we need to talk sometimes.


Rouse 6.30am. Connor involved in incident with aspirator – nasty! Epic run to dairy to fetch milk in time for breakfast. Left for Blackpool at around 8.45am in the care of (Harpics) Harpers Coaches. Arrived around 11.30 after pleasant and songful journey on the  M6 – salad and sand sandwiches for lunch on bench, followed by dispersal and semi chaos characteristically of day trips.

“Alice in wonderland” “Big Dipper”, good for a free ride, returned penniless to beach base at 5.00pm exception to this was Denis who managed a 6/-d profit on the penny rolling. Stephen Gardner (re-christened Bra-Face by Richard Phipps) made a brave attempt to break into a GSC sub-station in mistake for a public lavatory. PHAB camp seal of approval for the Ghost train! The tower was still standing when we left Blackpool around 5.45pm. Stopped on motorway for chips, proved to be a good test of mental arithmetic – so good that we all failed – 15 orange, 12 coffee and 23 teas or was it 4…..!

Got back at 9.15 and made Hednesford pub by 10.20 a much needed break which has been all too infrequent on this camp.



Anthony Gray, Paul Flavill, Mike Carding, David Smith, Connor Barry, John Burden