Mum and Dad liked South Devon. They had holidayed before the war at Stoke Gabriel near Dartmouth with their friends Maud and Jack Gibbs.Memories of that holiday probably influenced them in deciding on us having a family holiday at Dawlish Warren in 1951.
We probably travelled down by train from Paddington, changing at Exeter St Davids and getting a local train for Dawlish Warren but I have no recollection of that.The main thing I can recall about the holiday was that we stayed at a caravan site called the "Welcome Stranger" and that our caravan was called "Idaho". I know now that it was a pre-war caravan and was very cramped. Although it had obviously seen better days it was clean.
I remember that a fresh water standpipe was quite close and I used to fill up the water carrier and bring it back to the caravan. The emptying place for the "grey" water was however quite a hike away. I also remmber the communal wash-houses which had large sinks for washing (no showeres in those days!)and a line of doors enclosing wc's. It was unheated and was my first experience at undertaking ablutions in the open air!
The Welcome Stranger camp opened in 1949 and was still being developed in 1951. There was shop on the site which sold a cereal called "Post Toasties" which was very similar to Kelloggs Corn Flakes. The shop was also the reception area. All problems had to be reported there. The owner was dressed like a farmer with cloth cap, shirtsleeves always rolled up to his elbows and wellingtons. He drove a tractor which delivered replacement bottles of Calor Gas to your caravan and took away the empty one. It was also used to tow the "Honey Cart" from the the ablutions area to the cess pit! Dad used to say "the cart may be gone but the 'memory' lingers on!"
Most evenings were spent at the Mount Pleasant Inn. This was an old coaching inn set up on a hill overlooking Dawlish Warren.
The June evenings were invariably warm and still, the sun not setting until nearly 10pm. From the terrace you could look down at Dawlish Warren Station and beyond to the sands and the sea. What evenings they were! With a bottle of Whiteways Cidrax and a packet of Smiths Crisps to devour I would wonder at the procession of trains passing through Dawlish Warren Station. There were eastbound pasenger expresses hauled by King Class or Hall Class locomotives from British Railways Western Region bound for Paddington, and westbound ones to the resorts of Paignton, Kingswear, Plymouth and Penzance. Brunswick green liveried locomotives hauling rakes of chocolate and cream coaches.
Occasionally there would be one of these westbound expresses hauled by a Bullied Merchant Navy or West Country Class locomotive from British Railways Southern Region, resplendent in their Malachite green livery. Because both regions provided services betwen Exeter St Davids and Plymouth, Southern Region locomotives were rostered on certain runs so that their crews could "learn the road" of the Western region in case at any time the Southern region services were diverted onto the Western region metals. I clearly recall one of the Merchant Navy clsss locomotives being in the experimental blue livery which was used on selected locomotives in the immediate post-nationalisation era. What a memory that was!
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