Satan’s little disciples are supposedly now safely locked up in school again so, in theory at least, it should be safe for civilized folk to enjoy a little peace and tranquillity in the big wide world. For one reason and another, Francine and I decided to try something a little different and visit a campsite north of La Manche (a.k.a. the English Channel). We chose a Forestry Commission campsite called Setthorns in the New Forest.
“The New Forest” is a slightly odd tag in some ways; it is neither new, having been declared new almost 1000 years ago by Guillaume le Conquerant, nor does most of it match the majority of peoples’ idea of a forest, large tracts being largely devoid of trees. (See Francine’s nice moody shot to help illustrate.) Many years ago, we drove a visiting Swiss friend to see our New Forest; he looked around slightly quizzically and said, “Ver are ze trees?”. I hadn’t previously thought it odd but I had to admit, he had a point. Much of it is more like heath land. I now know that the term “forest” actually referred to a hunting ground. The New Forest is where Guillaume le Conquerant would have galloped after the occasional sanglier (wild boar) for a damn fine hog roast.
August was a waste of time, weather-wise but mercifully September has started in a different vein with a week of very pleasant weather. Our very own Guillaume, Guillaume le Caravan, was quite excited about the prospect of a trip to The New Forest. We made a leisurely departure and things were progressing admirably until we hit stationary traffic on the A34 still some way north of the M4 junction – and when I say stationary I mean completely. Radio on – reports of 1½ hour delays and A34 being completely closed. We did crawl very slowly to a nearby exit but only because other traffic was clambering off the A34. Beyond the exit, traffic was at a standstill and the queue disappeared over the hills and far away. We exited when we could and Navigation Officer Francine talked me down a few pleasant (i.e. not blocked) country roads, through Newbury and back onto the A34 south of whatever disaster had befallen it. (We still don’t know.)
Having left a lot of very unhappy motorists behind, we arrived at Setthorns campsite and checked in. What a delightful site it is – pleasantly constructed pitches, well spaced out, amongst a mixture of pine and oak trees in Setthorns Inclosure. You see, there are some trees in the forest. We just about got Guillaume set up before the Anglo-Saxon rain began. Since it began sporadically and slowly, armed with an umbrella, we went for a short orientation walk. Soon, however, the real rain came down and the umbrella went up. As forecast, it is now raining quite heavily and persistently.
This camping north of La Manche lark may not catch on. 🙂