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Filey Memories by Dean Himsworth Back

In July 1969 I inquisitively stepped from a train, gripping tightly to my mothers hand and clutching a small brown leather suitcase and I was quickly ushered onto a carriage of a small road train. It was painted yellow and blue and it noisily trundled through a tunnel and into Filey Butlins.

The train rumbled along past the outdoor pool and the boating lake and I sat in awe at all the wonderful buildings and activities that were revealed to me as we chugged our way to reception. So began a 30 year love affair with Butlins.

Filey was the biggest of all the camps, a fact that contributed in its ultimate downfall. Covering some 400 acres it was the third to be built and was several miles south of the town on the north east coast. The camp had a certain degree of symmetry with the outdoor pool in the centre flanked by theatres on each side followed by ballrooms and dining halls. Generally the overall layout of the camp remained unchanged throughout the years with only the function of some of the buildings changing.

The camp eventually boasted most of the Butlins usual attractions, funfair, crazy golf and of course a chairlift. Though it never had a monorail there was a miniature railway that circumnavigated the huge boating lake.

Filey became our families twice-yearly holiday destination. Our original party of three, grew to four a year later when my sister was born and by the mid 70s as many as 10 aunts, uncles cousins and friends would all

holiday together. For me those holidays epitomized everything that Butlins represented, freedom, enjoyment, excitement and involvement. And did we ever get involved, my sister won a free week in a talent show, my Aunt won the weeks heat of the holiday princess and my Nan must have judged every competition ever staged. I failed however ever to win as a jockey in the donkey derby.

I was always filled with great excitement on the eve of a week at Filey and equally filled with great sadness as we drove home the following Saturday. Straining to see the camp disappear from the rear window of the car as we drove north. Then sadly sinking back into my seat nursing a souvenir toy. I would then be buoyed by talk of our next visit when I could once more put my chalet key around my neck and run off to ride the mad mouse roller coaster or have a Cresta lemonade while watching the tropical storm in the Beachcomber.

I last visited Filey in 1982. 13 years and almost 25 visits and the magic was starting to fade. Our party had dwindled in numbers and I had grown too old for fiberglass canoes and crazy golf. It had also become obvious that the camp was struggling. The once inevitable queues for attractions had vanished and the north side of the camp had started to be closed down. The Regency ballroom was closed and the proud knights now stood guard over a dance floor full of old chairs and a dodgem car! The announcement that Filey was to close came as a sad blow, but not a shock. As regulars over the last decade or so we had seen its gradual decline.

To say that I last went to Filey in 1982 was not strictly true. I paid a visit to say my good-byes in 2001. Most of the camp had been demolished by then. I strolled around the ruins of the old buildings picking out familiar landmarks. I  sat for a while on the top of the old south fountain remembering how I had climbed the fountain and played in its cool water as a child. It was heartbreaking to see a place that had been the site of so many happy times for most of my family lay in ruins. Click here to read Dean's memories of Filey after closure in more detail

My love affair with Butlins did not end in 1982, I spent two fantastic seasons as a lifeguard at Minehead in the early 90s and now with a family of my own we regularly holiday at the remaining Butlins. We all enjoy our breaks at the new centres, but for me nothing will replace a magical holiday camp called Filey.

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