Those of you who camp with the Club on a regular basis will no doubt be aware that it has a network of 109 sites around the UK, in varied locations and each with their own unique character.
One of the benefits of my job is that I get to visit and camp at them on a regular basis. But to ensure I always cover off a number of Club Sites in one go, I do an annual Club Sites visit with the Senior Communications Manager, Jon Dale.
The visit enables us to meet members out camping with us and the Holiday Site teams that run those Club Sites. We also get to visit the chosen region, test some tents, and get a feel for what our members are talking about.
In the past we’ve visited areas of Wales, Scotland, south-west England, and even France where the Club’s European travel service sends plenty of members for camping holidays.
This year Jon and I turned our attention to the south-east, more specifically the area south of London.
Our first stop was Chichester where it was great to see a full Club Site. We were pitching up in two Outwell tents in glorious evening sunshine. But the sunshine didn’t last.
Despite hoping for a repeat the following day, the sound of rain on canvas (well, polyester actually) started about 4am and pretty much continued through the whole visit three-day.
Breakfast was prepared in a gap between showers, and one of the nice things about doing the cooking on such trips is seeing Jon wander off with washing bowl in hand to clean the mugs and plates. He'll love me for saying that!
Next stop on our tour was Graffham Club Site, and what a gem it is. Tucked away in a forest in the newly-created South Downs National Park, this is a site to visit if you want tranquillity and privacy, with discreet pitches tucked away among the trees.
Then it was a flying visit to Slindon Club Site, which is set in an Orchardn Orchard on National Trust land, before arriving at Crowborough Club Site on the edge of Ashdown Forest, known as the home to the fictional character, Winnie the Pooh. Following a tour with Holiday Site Manager John Lane, we headed to our last Club Site for the day, Norman’s Bay.
It’s a windy site so we ensured the tents were well pitched and it was pleasing to say the two Outwell units held up well.
The next morning we took some time to take a look at the nearby beach – which is actually owned by the Club – before jumping in the car for our next stop on the itinerary, Folkestone.
Our Club Site at Folkestone is certainly set in a dramatic location – on a cliff-top surrounded by the famous White Cliffs of the area. The site doesn’t take touring caravans but there is a honeymoon pitch tucked out of the way. And there are quite some views. In clear weather you can see France but not today, though the weather had at least improved.
On to Canterbury Club Site where Michelle Papworth, the Holiday Site Manager, showed us the recently refurbished facilities block, which has been given a make-over as part of the Club’s major programme of improvements. The facilities block certainly looked good, as did the site, which is just on the edge of the Kent city.
There was just one more Club Site to take in during our visit, Oldbury Hill. Whenever we chatted to site staff about our last stop, the consistent message was: “It’s on a hill.” Some of it is, but there’s also a bespoke set of chocks made back in the mists of time, each individually crafted for every pitch. It’s fascinating little facts such as these chocks that really help give each Club Site their own unique character.
Roll on next summer’s visit.
Editor, Camping & Caravanning
I've been a journalist for more than 20 years and a magazine editor for at least a dozen of them. I have a love of the great outdoors, not to mention camping in all its forms, which is a great way to get out there. But I don't just like admiring the countryside, I love getting active by sailing, trekking and walking, canoeing (when I get the chance) and mountain-biking.