In the course of our travels we have spent a fair amount of time staying on British campsites, from Cornwall to Caithness, Norfolk to Pembrokeshire and Anglesey to Yorkshire. Here is our guide to get you through the weekend at one of these uniquely British Asylums.
The toilet block Almost certainly closed for cleaning whenever you want to use it. In the men’s there is always a guy shaving at the sink, I think it’s the same guy every time too. Someone either straining or farting loudly in the cubicles and a man shuffling sideways chasing blue freshening tablets down the urinal with his stream. In the women’s you generally get a group of young girls all sat on the units drying and straightening their hair whilst piling on the make-up as if its a fashion show. Whilst this is going on they will be charging as many of their devises as they can as god forbid they might have to go a few hours without their phone!
NLG Top toilet tip – Take alcohol gel and if possible, earplugs.
The showers It is always with a slight sense of dread that I enter the shower on campsite that I have never been to before. It’s not that I am worried about the cleanliness, dirty campsites are few and far between, no, its the potential problems in activating the shower that play on my mind. You would think ‘how hard can it be?’ And in the vast majority of cases this is true, most sites have the simple push button arrangement that you would find in all of the swimming pools and gyms in the country. It’s the few that are the problem, just now and then you will encounter one so outrageously complicated that it could only have been fitted by a rogue, devious plumber with a massive contempt for campers. You can be confronted with the most alarming array of dials, switches, cords and buttons. No instructions of course, you are expected to blunder about, usually naked, because like an amateur you decided to undress before confronting the mechanics of the situation. So there you stand twiddling nob’s, pulling cords and pressing buttons before giving up, doing the nude shuffle to the cubicle next door only to find it was fitted by the same world hating plumber. After about fifteen minutes you will discover that there is a button outside the cubicle that needs to be activated. I have been in showers that, after going through the above routine, just hum at you frantically. My imagination half expects a calm female voice to casually say “self destruct sequence – activated” and for a count down to begin.
Then there are the showers that were fitted in 1973 by a Turkish plumber who thought they were being asked to fit a toilet. The kind of middle eastern hole in the ground type, or squat hole if you will. The hapless campsite owner was then forced to fit a shower head above it and call it job done pretending “that’s exactly as I wanted it, quirky”.
NLG Top shower tip – Wear Flip-flops
Campsite Laundries Every now and then it is a good idea to attempt to remove the stench from your clothes with a trip to the laundry. Many sites provide facilities, some just the one or two coin operated washing machines with a pre-set twenty minute cycle, some have tumble dryers and the odd one has a giant, Victorian style wash room complete with giant gleaming white porcelain sinks and water so hot it melts your skin. Unfortunately I have never come across an assortment of young women wearing white pinny’s and little frilly hats that enjoy soaping each other up in the dolly tub, but it is a nice thought while your elbow deep in brown water scraping the funk out of your socks. Prices vary considerably, usually between £2 and £4 for a wash and maybe £1 for twenty minutes in the dryer.
NLG Top laundry tip – Take your own detergent, imagine this:
Washing up facilities A long bank of sinks, usually for some reason outdoors. People must enjoy doing the washing up in the rain it seems, or is it that camper hating plumber again? Generally clean except for the obligatory piece of slimy onion that sits in the plug hole and makes the water drain slowly, its probably been there for years. When, god forbid, someone uses the sink right next to yours, an awkward conversation is all but compulsory.
NLG Top washing up tip – Wait until it’s quiet. Don’t touch the onion!
Other Campers Your fellow site dwellers can be an intriguing bunch.
You have the first time campers who turn up with their brand spanker of an Argos tent. Fiddle mystified with the poles, turn the flysheet round and over several times and after several hours declare victory, standing with hands on hips proud as punch and feeling like Bear Grilles surveying the baggy fluttering mess before them.NLG tip – watch and laugh.
Then you have the glamping brigade. These people buy a 26 man tent, folding picnic table, washing stand, folding kitchen unit, four ring gas hob, microwave, TV and many other weekend survival essentials. They spend an entire day, maybe two setting it all up only to have to begin the process of packing it all away again. What fun. NLG tip – watch in amazement.
The Barricaders. This group set up tents in a circle, presumably to encompass the largest area possible whilst exposing the smallest possible perimeter, then use windbreaks to cover any exposed areas. It is as if they are expecting a Viking raiding party to come marauding up the lane, and when they do they will be ready to fend them off by hurling cans of white lightning at them, for they have come armed with many of these. There children behave like a barbarian raiding party, but from inside the walls of their fort the parents care not, too busy are they with their cheap cider. When they leave, the ground will be strewn with fag butts, these people care nothing for anyone else. NLG top Baricaders tip – How good are you with a machine gun?
The Local’s Some like a particular site so much they buy a season pass and spend every weekend sitting under their caravan awning scowling at the world. “How dare someone be on my campsite?” “That ones walking on the grass! How dare he?” NLG Top “locals” tip – Avoid
The Campsite Shop You may take a wander over here for the one little common thing you forgot to bring. Toothpaste, bag of pasta maybe, bread, milk? HA! YOU FOOL!!! Rookie error that one. Campsite shops sell painted stones, tea towels, climbing rope, dog collars, tumble dryer sheets, knitting needles, parts for amphibious landing craft and most uselessly of all, pot noodles. Desperate enough to actually want a pot noodle? That will be £6.50 please.
NLG Top campsite shop tip – Avoid, theres a Lidl around the corner.
Drying Rooms Sites in more outdoorsie areas may provide a drying room so that you can dry your stuff after you have inevitably got caught out in the British weather without a storm bunker with you. There will be 30 pairs of boots all sitting comfortably on hot air dryers. When you walk in to one for the first time and encounter the smell, projectile vomiting is the normal reaction.
NLG Top Drying room tip – Oh god don’t go in there.
Campsite Owners These are a genus all to themselves. I am sure some kind of covert breeding program goes on unknown to the rest of humanity. Maybe as a site owner you are only allowed to breed with another, to keep the very particular kind of eccentric genes pure. Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority are lovely, friendly, welcoming people, with a tiny minority being the type that should be tattooed ‘not suitable for human contact’, but one thing is for sure, the lot of them are bat shit crazy. I mean that in the nicest possible way though.
NLG Top ownwers tip – Smile politely, leave as soon as possible.