This is about canals, but not yet.
First what is this place?
A car park? A van showroom? No a Campsite. At least it purports to be. It is the Folkestone site of the Camping and Caravanning Club.
For over 20 years we have been members of this august institution, but I’m feeling less and less a part of it because it has become over run with people who don’t want to touch grass. This camp site is one of the very few that doesn’t permit caravans, but even then it is becoming overwhelmed with motor homes. In deference to them the club has put in all those hard standings you see in the picture. How do you hammer a tent peg into that lot?
How long before some bright spark suggests that they concrete over the whole lot to save people getting their feet wet walking to the operating theatre clean toilets? Maybe then they could think of putting a roof over it to keep out the rain. The monthly glossy club magazine devotes about four times a many pages to reviews of tow cars as it does to tents.
There is one advantage. After about 8 pm it’s lovely and quiet because the others are all inside watching telly or DVDs. So we can sit outside and watch the sunset in peace. No ball games or frisbees though – not allowed.
We like to consider ourselves to be superior beings because we have tents. Quite a few tents actually, a two person, a three person, a four person, - and another two person I had forgotten. Well they are cheap and we like them. This year we camped for the Cambridge Beer Festival in one of the two person tents, the sort you have to crawl into. Last summer a week in Shropshire in our very unfashionable 4 man tent made of good old cotton canvass.
I have to confess though that we also have something which is not really a tent but a sort of shed on wheels. This to us is as a luxurious as we ever want to get and we even feel guilty about having gone this far. Meet our trusty 15 year old Dandy folding camper modelled by Grace on her first ever camping trip last week.
Note that we are on the grass. The “Holiday Site Manager” (they used to be called Wardens), offered us a hard standing. I nearly spat, but he was quite a nice man.
“What has all this to do with canals?” you ask. Well it’s the creeping luxurification and sterilisation of what is essentially an outdoor pursuit. If you read the boating mags now you’d think boating was all about luxury kitchens and wet rooms, underfloor wine stores and electrical gadgets. Its hardly likely to attract people who appreciate wildlife and industrial archaeology and just messing about on the water. This will inexorably lead to people demanding more gentrification and sanitisation of the canalscape.. Already there are people complaining about trees along the towpath. It’s the thin end of the wedge.
PS should you see Herbie out and about around Braunston this week, shout “Hello Rick /Marilyn” for they will be in charge while we rest at home.