Article and recent photos kindly supplied by Keith Franklin
Like probably many other On the Buses fans, I was brought up on a diet of 1970s/1980s Butlins holidays.
As such, "Holiday on the Buses" has always been a particular favourite of mine - a real slice of holiday camp life, just as I remember it! I found out that this was filmed at Prestatyn Pontins in North Wales and so I decided to pay a visit here during a holiday in August 2002 to check things out. No. That isn't quite true! This was one of my main reasons for choosing to spend my holiday close-by in the first place!!!
Driving up to the old Pontins main gate and security hut felt very strange indeed. Good old fashioned British Holiday camps have unfortunately had their day here in the UK. As a result, during the '80s and '90s, most have either closed down and been demolished, or renamed 'centres' - and changed so much that they are now totally unrecognisable.
But 'Holiday on the Buses' Pontins remains virtually identical to the 1973 celluloid! I quote, "you almost expect Blakey to be stood on guard at the gates!" Luckily, I didn't have to run the risk of bumping into *that* merry old soul as I found a hole in the rusty perimeter fence
So what is it like? I managed to get a good look at all of the main buildings featured in the movie - the chalets, main reception, swimming pool, children's boating lake and first aid (!) block. I took a few photographs and then compared them with how the camp was back at the time of filming.
Remember when Jack and Stan first arrive at the camp? A fanfare is playing and people are literally swarming around the main reception building. These days things are rather more quiet! I saw two, maybe three people here. No Pontins open-top tour bus outside either. The reception gazebo had gone, as have the red and yellow paving stones. The front of the building has instead been clad in dark blue metal. However, the line of Pontins flags are still fluttering away.
What about where Olive loses her bikini bottoms in the swimming pool? Although the front of this building had again been clad in blue metal, everything else is also pretty much the same - although I would guess they are a bit more particular about their life-guards and the requirement for them to have actual life-saving qualifications! The poolside chequered tiles are still here, but the fence between the adult and learner pools has gone - as have the bleaches and diving boards.
Finally, I traced the footsteps of Stan, as he was pursued from the first aid block across the boating lake and through the blocks of chalets, by a frenzied Blakey. The first aid building is now a utility block with a laundrette etc. The children's pedaloes have long-gone for health and safety reasons, but the original concrete boating lake shell is now used as a go-cart track. Most of the chalet blocks have been modernised, but they are essentially still the same. The insides have been upgraded. They now have large French windows and the wall plaster outside has been removed to reveal yellow brick. On the upper balcony the concrete steps up remain, as do the metal panel balcony fence panels. However, one corner of the camp had been fenced off and possibly sold off before this modernisation. The chalets here are completely unchanged!
Last of all, if you took a stroll back down to the beach, you could see where the tour bus was 'allegedly' (I cottoned on at the age of five that the sea wasn't moving in the shot!) submerged. You can also see the walk over the dunes that Jack and Stan took all those years ago, where Jack spoke about his stint of National Service and his great knowledge of the tides.
Click on each image below for a larger view