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Jane Badger Books

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Pony Club Camp (paperback)

Josephine Pullein-Thompson: Pony Club Camp (paperback)

Illustrator: Sheila Rose

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The glorious swansong of the West Barsetshire Pony Club sees the Major run a camp for the Pony Club members.

Noel and Henry have now left school and have returned as instructors to deal with the loose and the runaway, and that's just the ponies. The Pony Club members are even worse. Pony Club Camp is filled with extraordinarily vivid characters who will stay with you long after you finish the book. And it ends on a note that has tantalised readers ever since the book was published.

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There was tremendous excitement in West Barsetshire when Major Holbrooke at last announced that he would run a pony club camp. For years a succession of members had suggested, hinted at and demanded camps and now, when at last the camp was promised, all was confusion. Parents, who had booked expensive holidays and found that their children would rather go to camp, were furious. Fussy parents were horrified; they said that it would rain and ignored their children’s promises to wear mackintoshes and gum boots. Poor pony club members dismally shook their money-boxes and wondered how on earth they could collect the six guineas, which it cost for pony and rider at camp. Members without ponies racked their brains for something to borrow or hire.

Susan Barington-Brown told her parents at tea. “Camp?” said Mr. Barington-Brown. “That’ll do you the world of good, Susan. You’ll have to get up in the morning for a change. Six o’clock, that’s the time.”

“Camp?” said Susan’s mother. “I’ve never heard of such a thing. Sleeping out in a field when you’ve got a perfectly good bed at home. There’ll be insects, Susan.”

“Well, I shall just have to put up with insects,” said Susan. “I don’t mind anything except earwigs and I don’t really mind them unless Christopher puts them down my neck. I’m not missing camp. I’ve been on at the major to have one for years and years and years. Write a cheque for six guineas, Daddy. I might as well send the whole lot at once.”


Henry Thornton, who had joined the regular army and was now at Sandhurst, soon received an invitation from his uncle to spend his next week-end leave at Folly Court to discuss the camp. A camp, oh lord, thought Henry. Now what is my dear uncle up to? I don’t like the idea of this at all; I’d better have an urgent engagement elsewhere for my summer holiday leave.


Major Holbrooke spoke to Noel Kettering out hunting. “You’ve heard about the camp, Noel,” he said. “I want one or two of you older members on the staff. Will you come as a junior instructor?”

“Oh, I couldn’t possibly,” objected Noel. “I can’t instruct; I’m hopeless; everything goes out of my head. And I can’t keep order; no one pays the least attention to anything I say.”

“Nonsense,” said the major firmly. “You’ve taken two rides perfectly successfully to my knowledge. You people who’ve had all the fun of the pony club for years have got to turn to and help, otherwise what’ll happen to the pony club of the future?”

“Oh, dear,” said Noel, “but I’ve never been to camp; couldn’t I come as an ordinary member just once?”

“No,” said Major Holbrooke. “If I let you off, I know perfectly well that Henry will refuse to be Master of Horse.”


At the Priory there was considerable annoyance among the older members of the Radcliffe family.

“The major’s the limit,” said Hilary. “He wouldn’t have a camp when we asked him and now, when we’re practically grown up and able to go abroad, he goes and has one for wretched undeserving people like Margaret and James.”

“Hear, hear,” said Roger, who was now a medical student. “It is the limit. We’d have given our souls to camp.”

“I shouldn’t have given mine,” objected Evelyn. “Too girl guidy for me. I don’t care for regimentation.”

“Ha, ha,” said Margaret. “Off you go to silly old Switzerland and James and I’ll go to camp. Which horse do you want, James? I’ll take Quaker.”

“Oh, no you won’t,” said her elder brother and sisters firmly. “Nor Sky Pilot; they’re ours. You’ll take Northwind or nothing.”

“You can’t stop me. You won’t know what I take,” taunted Margaret, “you’ll all be gone.”

“I won’t,” said Evelyn, “I’m not going till next day.”

“I shall take Rocket, of course,” said James.


Gay Millwood was delighted when Noel telephoned her at the end of the Easter holidays and offered to lend her Sonnet for the summer and camp. Since Jean, Gay’s younger sister, had become horsy they had to share their grey pony, Biddy, and though they had both put their names down for camp it had not seemed very likely that they would both be able to go.

“The wretch never had her foal after all,” Noel explained, “she’s terribly fat and perfectly sound. I’ve ridden her several times; she stretches one’s legs like mad she’s got so broad and she puffs when you canter a step, but I thought if you rode her a bit in the term you’d have her fairly fit for the camp.”

“Gosh, how super! I’ll ask my parents,” Gay said. “And it’s jolly nice of you, thanks tons.”


The Mintons were all going to camp. Their mother was in rather a fuss about the camp list. It was very expensive to produce three of everything. Three ground sheets, three palliasses, three sleeping bags. Three complete sets of grooming tools instead of the ancient and almost bristleless dandy brushes which were the usual grooming tool in West Barsetshire. Three sets of mucking out kit, six tin plates, three tin mugs and knives and forks and spoons.

Mrs. Minton grumbled about the expense but bought everything. Mr. Minton grumbled about the expense and suggested that they didn’t take their yearly seaside holiday, but the boys objected, they wanted camp and the holiday too. Christopher grumbled about having to ride old William. If only his parents would buy him a horse. David grumbled about Fireworks who, he said, was always so crazy at pony club rallies that he’d probably go quite mental in camp. And twelve-year-old Martin, the youngest of the Mintons, said that it wasn’t fair that he should always have to ride Mousie when everyone knew that she was no good at anything.

Page length: 200

Original publication date: 1957

Who's in the book?

Human: Noel, Henry, Major Holbrooke, Mrs Holbrooke, Mrs Quayle, Christopher, David and Martin Minton, Susan Barrington-Brown, Gay and Jean Millwood, James and Margaret Radcliffe, Marion Hunter, Merry Hemlock-Jones, Lynne Aldworth, Judith Quayle, Nicholas and Jonathan Lucien, Poppy Newland, Carola Birkett, Sally and Guy Barkham, Penelope Barr
Equines: Truant, Tranquil, Evening Echo, Northwind, Rocket, Sonnet, Biddy, William, Fireworks, Mousie, Crusoe, Quaver, Frolic, Beauty, Wonder, Jackdaw, Amber, Smudges, Star, Rob Roy, Pickles

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