Michael JONES
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Michael JONES - Aberdovey, Wales, 1968

In 1968 I was a Police Cadet in the newly formed West Mercia Constabulary and was based in Shrewsbury. I was nominated to attend the Aberdovey Outward Bound Sea School for a three week course which was to commence on the 6th April. The course was number 278/130

I duly arrived by steam train from Welshpool to Aberdovey and was met and taken to the centre.There were quite a number of us and we were all placed into watches. Mine was Hawke watch and our instructor was Mr G.R.JONES.

We were asked to choose from a list of extra activities and I decided on rock climbing and canoes.

Each watch was based in an old single story building which had a floor covered in brown lino. The room had a series of bunks and we were told that we would be subjected to a number of inspections during our stay and there would be strong competition between us all to achieve the top marks.

I remember we used to keep the floor highly polished by using a couple of spare blankets and lying them on the floor and then dragging them round with our feet.

Each morning we would be woken up and had to get straight out in front of the old house for PE. This was the usual mixture of press ups etc but at the end we had to split into pairs, one had to climb on the back of the other and we had to run down the steep drive to the road. Once at the botttom we had to reverse roles and run back up. This was followed by a cold shower and then a hearty breakfast.

I really enjoyed the rock climbing as I had done some before and didn't seem to suffer from heights, the canoeing was slightly different as I was not a good swimmer and in order to be allowed out on the estuary had to be taught drown proofing. This meant being sat in a canoe on the outdoor pool and then rolling it over so that you were upside down. You then had to tap the bottom three times, roll out and then push the canoe to the pool side. I managed to do it in the end with some help from the instructors and others in the group. I must say that being out on the estuary was great fun even though you had to be very careful as it had one of the most dangerous currents around.

Talking of currents, another great activity was cutter sailing. This got very demanding towards the end of the course when we had an inter watch race. Each watch had to row the cutter up and down stream over a set course. We certainly got to know how strong the current was when you were asked to row against it.

We all had a days mining activity which took place in one of the local slate quarries. When we got there we were shown the entrance to the cave which was at ground level, about two feet high and half filled with water. Once inside we negotiated the various tunnels until we got to the bottom which was a very large cave with a roof which was a couple of hundred feet above us.

In order to get to the surface we had to climb a wire ladder which was hung to one side. The instructor went first and then threw the rope down for the next person to climb. I had never climbed this sort of ladder before and it was certainly not the most easy thing to do.

Once I got to the top I coiled the rope and shouted that I was throwing it down, I didn't make a very good job and the rope got stuck around a large boulder to the left of the platform we were on. We tried to free it but the boulder began to move. Everyone down below had to go back into the tunnels whilst we freed it and the boulder crashed to the floor of the cave.

One of the final things we did was the five day hike in the mountains behind the school and up over Cader Idris. We had a great time even though were were all very tired once we finished it. We only managed to lose one of our team who got taken off with some type of exposure. It was quite cold even for that time of year.

All in all the three weeks was one of the best things that happened in my youth and certainly not something you would have wanted to miss if you had a chance to attend. What made it even more special was that I was getting paid for being there so I actually made a profit that month as there wasn't much to spend your money on apart from the school tuck shop.

Long may these type of places keep going and I hope as many youngsters as possible have the chance to go and do just some of the things that we did but I suppose the health and safety rules may have cut some of them out by now.

It certainly taught you that life is not all about *Little Old Me* and we should all consider others and offer help and support when things get a bit difficult.

I remained with the police service retiring after completing a total of 34 years. I still carry out a full time role within the force but will possibly be reducing my hours soon in order to enjoy a little more travelling with my wife and spending time with our grandchild (soon to become grandchildren)

Best Regards.