Author Topic: CHA memories, anybody?  (Read 260 times)

GeoffB

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CHA memories, anybody?
« on: 22:46:21, 28/08/17 »
There must be other people here who remember the Countrywide Holidays Association? My first walking holiday in the Lakes was just after finishing school in 1971, when I stayed for two weeks at Stanley Ghyll House in Eskdale. It was a great set-up, with full board and lodging and a programme of guided walks of three different categories, from easy stroll to strenuous summit walks. Some walks started from the house, but most commenced with a minibus trip to Wasdale Head or Brotherilkeld. In the evenings there were quizzes, dancing, and so on. Good clean, old-fashioned fun which nobody seems to be interested in these days. The following summer I spent a couple of weeks at Forest Side Guest House in Grasmere, with the same, familiar CHA set-up. I subsequently left the country to live abroad and only had a couple of short visits to the Lakeland Fells between then and 2013. In the meantime, of course, the CHA had ceased to exist (I'm not sure when that finally happened). I guess the whole set-up was too old-fashioned and people these days just want to drive to a location, walk for a few hours and then drive home again? I have passed Stanley Ghyll House (now called the Stanley Hotel), a couple of times since and looked wistfully in through the windows, reviving old memories. In 2013 I actually stayed at Forest Side. In those days it was still a reasonably-priced place to stay, and I was intrigued to see that the old carpet with the CHA logo on it was still on the floor in the “annex”, which contained the most reasonably priced (not en-suite) rooms. Otherwise the house was very much as I remembered it, with wainscotted walls, huge fireplaces and old, comfortable furniture. Maybe a little run-down, but perfectly acceptable accommodation, and in those days probably the only place in Grasmere where you could get a room for less than £50 a night. While I was there the manager informed me that the place was going to be closed for renovations at the end of the season, and sure enough, for at least a couple of years it was completely off the market, with articles in the local press featuring som entrepreneur who had bought it and was planning to turn it into a “country house hotel”, with luxury en-suite rooms and gourmet dining. For a long time I suspected that he had bitten off more than he could chew and the whole project had collapsed, but eventually that is precisely what it became, with rooms from £199 and dinner consisting of a tiny piece of meat in the centre of a huge plate, accompanied by half a dozen peas and a sprig of water-cress. I don’t know what kind of accommodation the average British fell walker is used to these days, but I’d hazard a guess that not many stay at this place. Having said that, I suspect not many stay in Grasmere. I certainly wouldn’t, as it’s become nothing more than a Beatrix Potter theme park where bus-loads of Japanese tourists wander from one overpriced souvenir shop to another, and the last thing that enters their minds is to look up and notice the fells around them. There’s not a real pub in the place, either. It’s sad really, especially from the point of view of somebody who remembers Grasmere – and Forest Side, in the 1970s. All I can say is, thank goodness there are still places like Wasdale Head. But what a pity there are no longer places like the CHA guest houses.  :(

Pura Vida

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Re: CHA memories, anybody?
« Reply #1 on: 08:06:38, 30/08/17 »
Hi,
I believe that Glaramara in Borrowdale was a CHA house. It is still operating as an Outdoor centre and Wedding Venue. Still available for B&B.


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GeoffB

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Re: CHA memories, anybody?
« Reply #2 on: 14:08:47, 30/08/17 »
Hi,
I believe that Glaramara in Borrowdale was a CHA house. It is still operating as an Outdoor centre and Wedding Venue. Still available for B&B.


Yes, that's right, it was. I'm sure there was at least one other CHA guest house in the Lakes (Ambleside?). The CHA also had several other houses in other parts of the country, notably the Peak District and I think near Dartmoor.

Lakeland Lorry

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Re: CHA memories, anybody?
« Reply #3 on: 18:30:52, 31/08/17 »
Wasn't CHA the fore-runner to HF Holidays?  The HF Holidays format today is exactly the same as you described.   They have about 16 houses in the UK and offer full board with 3 guided walks a day and evening activities.


https://www.hfholidays.co.uk




GeoffB

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Re: CHA memories, anybody?
« Reply #4 on: 19:23:55, 31/08/17 »
Wasn't CHA the fore-runner to HF Holidays?  The HF Holidays format today is exactly the same as you described.   They have about 16 houses in the UK and offer full board with 3 guided walks a day and evening activities.


https://www.hfholidays.co.uk


Yes, that's right. Since posting I have found the website of Douglas Hope http://douglashope.co.uk/, who has done a lot of research and presents histories of both organisations. CHA was founded in 1891 by T.A. Leonard, a Congregational Church minister from Colne, Lancashire. In 1913, for somewhat obscure reasons, he resigned from the CHA, despite it being a thriving organisation, and founded the Holiday Fellowship, which seems to have been pretty much identical to CHA in all respects apart from the name. I hadn't actually searched for HF, so I hadn't seen that website. It looks as if HF Holidays runs (among other things) a set-up very much like the original CHA/HF one. So in fact, the concept is not, as I thought, unworkable in this day and age. HF Holidays seem to be carrying on the tradition, albeit as one element of a somewhat more diversified range of products. I notice also that CHA does still exist on as a business entity, and has the same address in Didsbury as in the 1970, but no assets or liabilities.

Lakeland Lorry

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Re: CHA memories, anybody?
« Reply #5 on: 20:45:33, 31/08/17 »
HF holidays are still very popular especially with the over 60s.  I know some people who have been going on HF hokidays for years.  Their holidays are great for people on their own as every is very friendly.   


I must read my book on the history of HF Holidays to find out why they split from the CHA.

GeoffB

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Re: CHA memories, anybody?
« Reply #6 on: 21:42:35, 31/08/17 »

I must read my book on the history of HF Holidays to find out why they split from the CHA.


Yes, it's a bit of a mystery. Even Douglas Hope, who has clearly done a lot of research, doesn't mention any specific reason why Leonard should start up one organisation, get it running well and then leave it and start another, almost identical one, except to say that it was an attempt to form an organisation that was "truly working class".
« Last Edit: 21:45:46, 31/08/17 by GeoffB »