Camping came to a relaxing end this year with the annual family trip. Stuffing both boot and roof rack full of the staple foldaway, thermal and long-life necessities, we journeyed south towards the coast. The Barn Caravan Park is quiet, spacious and wonderfully located. Roughly a twenty-minute train ride from the centre of Brighton, it is based in the little village Lancing and is only a ten-minute walk from the sea.
Everything was as you might expect.
Quick dips, long lounges, dripping ice cream, coastline wonders, cream tea, barbecued dinners, cooked breakfasts, burnt marshmallows, deflating mattresses, salty skin, seaweed hair, struggles for shade, struggles for sun, sandy jogs, yoga stretches, wobbly chairs, unreliable cup-holders, tans, freckles, smelly cows, smelly food, smoky fires, acoustic sing-alongs, barking dogs, barking neighbours, territorial camping rituals, kites flying, kites dying, foot-stabbing pebbles, damp books, sacred sunglasses, dry towels, the perfect rock, too hot, too cold, silent beach huts, pub lunches, real ale, shore winds, refreshing breezes, outdoor coastal gym facilities.
Everything was just as you might expect, apart from the array of cross-trainers, leg toners and bicep-blasters perched next to the coastal path. We climbed aboard. Perfectly designed for those with the strength of a ladybird and agility of an elephant, they weren’t particularly challenging for your average punter. The mundane colours of these bicep-busters also matched the standard fashion guidelines for crutches and chairlifts. Still, it’s the only place I’ve ever witnessed a public, free-to-use outdoor gym existing with the same etiquette as a children’s playground. That speaks volumes for Lancing. Why haven’t super models of these bad boys already stuck their metal junk into the likes of Hyde Park, or lined themselves up along South Bank? Give them an adjustable setting and a glossy cover- they would round off the metropolitan dream! Clunky and unexpected, they were moderately inspiring.
We took a day trip away from Lancing on the train. Strolling through Brighton Lanes, every so often I’d sift through an abundance of vintage garments that seeped from desperately hipster boutiques. It was Brick Lane with sandcastles and poodles. It was perfect. In the space of a few hours, pensive coffee-sipping became tactless Pimm’s-slurping and we quickly made ourselves known to the talented and dashing buskers playing opposite. My friend and I went to their gig that night. Afterwards, we tottered around on the pavement outside, exchanging awkward waves with our new best friends and casually stalling our departure. It was school all over again. Of course, we were unaware that at this very second the last bus was rearing its ugly engine up, up and away from Brighton city centre. Left with no choice but to comfort-eat a snickers and spend extortionate amounts on a 30-minute taxi ride, we returned to the land of tent. In a further desperate attempt to calm the munchies bought on from excessively drinking whisky-cokes, we loudly rifled through plastic boxes and freezer bags. I missed the kitchen cupboards. The knowledge that Warburtons lived in the bread bin and that milled oatcakes would always be in the top-right cupboard above the oven. Only after giving up and zipping in did a hamper of digestives, fruit loaf and other unmemorable goodies get delivered into our tent by my angel of a mother. Never give up on a midnight snack.
We all spent our final night in Lancing having hefty pub portions (anything with chips), followed by a long evening stroll. Unusually, there were no mosquitoes, spontaneous rain showers or colossal gusts to battle with. There was just the subtle glow of beach huts dotted along the coastline, guiding us back to base; a memorable farewell to the delights of camping holidays this year.