Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Carry on Camping

'We're fairly full-up, but I think we can just about squeeze in an extra tent. You won't want a hook-up, will you?'

After trawling Internet campsite pages I was savvy with the lingo, so I knew the kindly site owner was talking about electricity. My kettle-boiler and lantern run on calor-gas, but in any case I didn't want to push my luck. With forecasters predicting a fine Summer and the harsh economic climate, it took some time to find even a 'squeezed in' vacancy.

I'm all set, now, though . Extra tent-pegs, gas canister, notebook and a mallet from Milletts meant a fairly modest outlay, but that's the beauty of camping: once you've got all the basics -it's cheap( as well as fashionable )

The notebook's included because I won't be taking my laptop. It wouldn't surprise me, really, to find that the 'working farm' campsite where I'm headed with my granddaughter has free Wi-F. But a tent's not very secure and I still remember a Womad where thieves crept into tents in the night and stole purses from rucksacks.

Was that the year when it was so muddy we couldn't get into the music field? It was the clayey, glutinous kind that sucked in your wellies so every step was an effort and it took ages to reach the loos, never mind the music. We had to pay out for a visit to Laycock and a cinema, plus cafe meals, and my friend in a wheelchair had to stay in a local B&B. Several tractors were on permanent duty towing cars from ruts. It put me right off.

Womad used to take place on a well-drained site near Reading town-centre.There were plenty of plastic duckboards laid out as pathways, between the area where you could buy a Reiki massage or driftwood furniture, the air heavy with incense, and the international food stalls where huge vats of paella and cassoulet vied with spiced Cornish mackerel.

I have fond memories of camping South of Bordeaux, where we used to head with the children when we had lots of holiday time but not much money. We'd arrive after a three day drive in our tiny Diane 6, having stayed in sites that were little more than fields with a shed and a chemical loo. It seemed to be a rule that every village in France had to have a campsite, however primitive, but Camping du Lac was luxurious, with a cafe and a games area, a beach and a lake. There was even a van that came round every day delivering ice.

We'd find our reserved pitch under the pine-trees, staked out with string and marked with a numbered board. The first thing to do after pitching the tent was dig a trench all around in the sandy soil to act as a drain during the occasional downpours.

Alas, Womad was resited to the grounds of some stately home in the West Country. The mud-bath ensued when the owners failed to supply duckboards. 'All in use at other festivals', the cheery tractor-drivers told us as they hooked tow-ropes to cars, no doubt mentally calculating the overtime.

Trouble is, camping's addictive. My son regarded Womad as an excuse to break out the tent and take his children, with grandma along to keep an eye on potential wanderers. Now my grandaughter is 'hooked', though not in the electrical sense. So it's just me and her at Ecclesden Farm, near Angmering, Sussex. Don't try going this week, because they're full. Besides, torrential rain's forecast for tomorrow.

Ecclesden Farm Campsite:


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