WHEN the Smith, Rickett and McCawley families came to Wallingford on holiday for the first time, little did they know they would still be visiting the town together 50 years later.

For more than half a century, the three families have been coming to the South Oxfordshire town to spend their holidays at a campsite.

On Sunday about 40 of them descended on Wallingford to unveil a bench alongside the River Thames, near the campsite, to mark the anniversary.

In 1953 Arthur and Gert Rickett, then of London but now living in Southend, were passing through Slough when they stopped at a garage and asked if there was anywhere nearby they could visit for the weekend.

They were told about Wallingford’s Riverside Camp – and they enjoyed it so much they returned with their neighbours George and Rene Smith.

In 1961 they met Reg and Freda McCawley, from Buckinghamshire, and since then all three families have made a habit of meeting again every year. Their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren still visit Wallingford for their holidays to this day.

Mrs McCawley, 81, from Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, said: “I never thought we would still be coming here in a million years.

“It is very emotional and very exciting to see this bench.

“For me the attraction of coming here is the company, above everything else.”

Since the first holiday the families have expanded, and nine-year-old Sam Acres from Aylesbury, a member of the McCawley family, is one of the youngest new arrivals.

He said: “I love coming here because I enjoy playing sport and fishing and swimming.”

Elaine Clark, 51 from Swansea, a member of the Smith family, said: “Whenever we get together, Wallingford always comes up in conversation.

“My memories of the town have always been happy.”

The group met up at The Boat House pub before the bench was commemorated with Wallingford Mayor Bernard Stone.

The bench inscription reads: “McCawley - Rickett - Smith families. Friends for over 50 years. Past and present.”

He said: “It speaks volumes for Wallingford as a place to visit. So many families go different ways and never see one another, but this is brilliant.”