My PGL Adventure adventure!

My PGL Adventure adventure!

First of all – this is the “Intro”.  The time we first laid our heads on the bed in Llangors was the end of May, after the Bank Holiday.. I can’t remember the actual date now. Subsequent Chapters will reveal much: but dates have evapourated into the dim mists of time..


This all started in April 1974. I was on an NHS First Line Management Course: geared to Ward Sisters, new Department Managers and the like. Myself being a Catering Officer: one who had experienced some difficulties because of personal incompetence and lack of support in my role. That is another story and indeed will be part of he prequel to this delinquent tale {in the autobiography!!). Sufficient to say I’d got fed up with the NHS bureaucracy and of cosy life in the South East ‘burbs: I’d applied for a job in the wilds of Wales. I’d already had a one-to-one with Mr Peter Lawrence in their travel and marketing agency in Regent Street, West End. I felt honoured and excited.


Moving on, May Day weekend, not then a Bank Holiday, found the first Mrs Huxley and I on the M4 travelling westwards in my little Fiat 850. This was the first time I recall seeing fields of  yellow rape. “Hey what’s all that yellow stuff?” How ignorant was Mother’s firstborn son? We were heading for Llangorse (now Llangors – what became of the “e”?) in the Brecon Beacons (now Bannau Brycheiniog  – how do you pronounce that?)  to meet a guy called Dr David Snoswell. (How was I to pronounce that?) We were aiming to head across the Severn Bridge and up the Wye Valley through Monmouth and the join the A40 as far as Bwlch; at which point we were to follow a narrow lane to the centre of the village and turn up an even smaller lane to Tan Troed Adventure Centre. My little Fiat, with a propensity to guzzle oil and water performed remarkably well; something which it rarely encored. More of that later.


Labouring up the last rough cast incline we chugged into a misty field with a gravely car park, some dull blue and faded green tents on the fringes and what I surmised to be a collection of ex-Ministry of Defence wooden huts. On the left  of the motley collection of huts stood what was labelled “Reception” and I recall a couple of flags and handwritten signs in the fashion of M*A*S*H. – the iconic movie and T.V. series which was currently airing. I was met by a young sparky maid who said she was expecting us – she was known as Radar – although real name Helen. Here I wade my attempt to ask for “Mr David Sno-w-swell”. Being in the NHS – everyone, even the Kitchen Porters were called “Mr . . “. I didn’t want to be pretentious with the title “Dr”. Anyway what sort of Doctor runs an Adventure Centre? More ignorance on my part!


We had an interview of sorts with Dr David. He showed us around the Tan Troed facilities: which seemed a bit rustic and rudimentary but serviceable: sort of cross between a School Dinner Hall and a military canteen; it did boast a Hobart Dishwasher!  The kitchen and Dining Room in the Eligro site were still under construction: a Portacabin Kitchen and an adjacent sheep shed as a Dining Room – washing up facilities consisted of a couple of  free-standing industrial sinks, two Calor Gas boilers and a large domestic immersion heater – WOW! As we’d arrived in the middle of the morning the whole place oozed solitude: all the guests were out on activities and the staff were probably in the pub. We were informed that the pub for PGL was The Castle: the owner of The Red Lion had been declared “Out of Bounds” to Pigglers. More of that later. PGL Llangorse seemed to me to be just the place where one could, as the term at the time spoke “get your head together”! For career and personal development – that’s for me.


The Season was barely underway and the majority of guests were in school parties so there was no hint of what might be to come: “Snoz” and the other admin staff on site were all newly employed – virgins too. I was naively confident that I could run the service; little did I appreciate the complexity and stresses of motivation and directing inexperienced kitchen staff who’s main aim in life seemed to be becoming or seducing a canoeist or sailing instructor: who wouldn’t?  That was awaiting me on my first week!


It had been a good trip over from Bexleyheath; our home at the time. The day breathed promise along with the Spring-fresh Brecknockshire air. It was then off to Ross on Wye to meet, again, with Peter Gordon Lawrence, his wife Rosemary and a Mr Chris Greene; the Operations Manager. We drew up,  in our little Fiat 850, outside the Lawrence’s home-office with some sprightly anticipation: both our appetites whetted. Although in retrospect I’ve always been unsure of the former Mrs Huxley’s enthusiasm for the proposed move westwards. In those days the husband made all the policy decisions!


This proved to be a more demanding interview; they wanted to know how I was going to keep to the budget in times of rampant inflation. Times were tough in 1974; post oil crisis, Miners’ Strikes, England not qualifying to the World Cup, two General Elections. I was leaving the, then protected environment of the NHS for the cut and thrust of the commercial holiday environment. I forget exactly the Budget agreed, but was in the region of £3.00 per person per week. The usual format was a cooked breakfast and cooked evening meal prepared by “chefs” in the Dining Rooms and a Packed Lunch self-assembled under the “supervision” of a catering Assistant and the Group Leaders. At this point I was pretty eager to discover what employment package they would offer me. £2000 per year, live in at Eligro during the coming season, then over the Winter to be be Housekeeper/Bursar at Hillcrest to support the various Centre staff who would be kept on over the Winter to repair boats or engaging  in some maintenance and assisting in the HQ equipment stores at the former Alton Brewery premises on Station Street, Ross on Wye. They would store our furniture and other belongings at HQ and provide me with £50 to help with removal costs. I pretty much bit off their hand. A start date was agreed for the start of June. We headed off up the M50 to tell my Mom, living in the old family home in Birmingham.

Next step, resign from my post of Catering Office St Nicholas Hospital, Plumstead, London SE18 and set wheels in motion to travel over – for our adventure in the wild west – would I have been so enthusiastic had I been aware of what lay waiting for us for the next five or so years? Who knows – but I have to tell the tale; true confessions (“no names, no pack drill” as our military friends would chant!) – It conveys the idea that if nobody is named as being responsible for some error or offense, then nobody can be punished. It’s a warning, or a suggestion, that it would be best to keep quiet to avoid repercussions. It has been broadened in civilian life to suggest avoiding discussion on any subject: but I’m going to discuss (without accusations of libel – hopefully)

For this Blog edition I have no photos. I have a small selection for the next few chapters. By the way I have no axes to grind and wish no malice towards anyone at all. So the photos will be uploaded without anonymisation – I’ve never asked permissions. Forgive me folks!

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