As we all know, the purpose of the close season is to spend quality time with our families, so we can justify indulging ourselves during the actual season. OK, so perhaps it's to give the players a rest and to allow us to miss it just long enough to re-stoke our passion for another campaign and so continue the cycle of life. Whatever it is, I did my bit this weekend by agreeing to do something I haven't done since 1979 - we went camping.
Hailing from the far north of Scotland where tents are invariably pitched wherever people find a flat enough spot, I had a view that we would find a suitable place and simply camp. However, my preparations for the expedition began weeks ago and I was surprised to find that 'wild camping' is not the thing down here and it is, actually, illegal! So my research took me to official sites where I discovered that there are more potential barriers than I had thought possible. Not all sites allow dogs and my sister-in-law was not leaving hers at home. Not all sites allow camp-fires - what's the point of camping if you can't drink alcohol and toast marshmallows by an open fire? Most sites are actually hosted at caravan parks and I didn't want to be camping in what might appear to be someone else's garden.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I found Nethergong Hill, a "traditional" camping ground in deepest Kent. I always take on-line reviews with a pinch of salt but like everyone else I guess, was lured into reading what others had to say and there were some mixed views although most were positive. So we set off with a little trepidation at 4pm on Friday and by 6pm I had the first tent up and the weekend was underway in a stunningly attractive 26 acres of flat woodland and meadow. We were free to pitch our tents wherever we liked and we found a secluded spot by a large frog-filled pond in a clearing in some woods. The site is enclosed by a stream and natural boundaries, so kids are free to roam and associate which is just what they did. Friday evening was glorious as the sun went down and a full moon appeared over the trees.
The only downside was that despite a three mile route march on Saturday morning, we couldn't find an Inn that could run to Sky Sports, so I was forced to listen to the Lions overcome the Wallabies in a close encounter from the cockpit of my car. We returned home yesterday afternoon like born-again campers. Nethergong has been booked for four nights in August and we are trying another site in a fortnight (Nethergong fully booked). Oh and yesterday I couldn't resist buying a new tent now that I am an experienced camper.