Camping Expedition to
Canada and the USA


By C. Brading, U6SC

Frustration and boredom. Hardly appropriate words for the beginning of what was to be the holiday of a lifetime. Yet this was what we felt on Sunday 15 July, thanks to the combined effects of the British heritage-appalling weather and bad industrial relations. Airport staff were none too happy either as 171 idle staff and students from nine Hillingdon Borough schools created utter chaos in a busy air terminal. It was to be a five-hour delay before we could genuinely say that twenty months hard work and saving were at last behind us.

First experiences were not encouraging as we found ourselves setting up tents at past midnight and in grass wet from a recent thunderstorm; not our idea of fun, especially after an effective 29-hour day. We consoled ourselves, however, with the notion that it was all 'an experience'. After all, we were at least in Canada, despite all the 'tents' moments.

Further investigation the following day revealed our location to be an old strawberry field near St. Canut, a small village some thirty miles north-east of Montreal. We spent five full days there, dividing what was far too short a time between Montreal-where a day was passed at the old Expo '67 site (now an exhibition devoted to Man and the world that he lives in), the Laurentian Plateau, an upland area of forests, lakes and mosquitoes, or simply resting on the camp site. The latter energetic pastime basically involved swimming in a lake that looked like cold tea and acquiring an unhealthy sunburn under cloudless skies and in temperatures ranging from eighty to ninety degrees. The welcome evening coolness provided opportunities for disco, dances and baseball – arranged in our honour by the friendliest people we had ever met. Highlight of the week is the giant-killing performance by the best baseball team in England - the 'Nix-Knockers', which achieved a 7-7 draw with the local youth side.

St. Canut, however, was not the expedition's main objective, and so on the Saturday following our arrival we drove some 450 miles southwest to the town of Queenston, seven miles from Niagara Falls. That evening the tents went up once more; not, I hasten to add, without a great deal of muttering from the St. Nicholas contingent.

It was in Queenston that most of us became acquainted with the delights of selfcatering over hopelessly inadequate stoves, and certain groups seemed content to live on rice, sweet corn, rice, stew and rice pudding. However, lack of originality in the diet was overcome by large-scale consumption of hamburgers, hot dogs, coke, sodas, milk shakes and banana splits.

Since we had almost complete freedom to choose our own daily activities, Niagara itself never really suffered the full force of a large invading party of English students. Nevertheless we all managed to visit the town and the Falls many times, and our occupations there ranged from the mundane shopping for souvenirs to the more interesting and exciting trips into the Falls by boat and over them by helicopter. Unfortunately the proposed barrel trip through the rapids was not proceeded with.

Other trips such as those to Toronto and the heavily used Welland Ship Canal stand out in our many memories, but after Niagara Falls the most enjoyable experience was the 2.5 day expedition into the Algonquin National Park, a large area of forest, lake and mountain covering nearly 3000 square miles and some 200 miles north of our base in Queenston. In three weeks this was the closest that any of us came to Canada as it really is, and the time was used bear-hunting, canoeing or simply walking. It was in the Park that we received our one and only heavy storm, and that evening we completed a major civil engineering project -digging a complicated network of drainage channels designed to carry the floodwater through the staff tent. Work was carried out with blunt axes, sticks and bare hands.

Returning to Queenston it was soon time to leave Canada behind us, and three weeks to the night after our arrival in that country we crossed into the United States, driving the 400 miles to New York overnight. The following day was spent touring this great city, and the very bastions of America, such as the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building went down under the English invasion. And then, suddenly, it was all over. We took off from New York in the early hours of their Tuesday 7 August and arrived home at midday GMT.

This was not only an enjoyable experience for all concerned, but also a very valuable one. On behalf of the twenty-five from this school I would like to thank all the staff from the various schools, especially Mr. Ford who at times did his utmost to make the holiday an even greater experience. Last but by no means least I would like to thank Mr. Dickerson, the headmaster of Townfield School, Hayes, for it was by his efforts and sheer hard work that a dream was turned into a vivid reality that none of us shall ever forget.

C. Brading, U6SC

1973 School Magazine


Junior Common Room (1963)

Dr. Watson's Retirement

Photos of Staff