Down in the New Forest, John Hillman discovers that the annual bout of cross-channel pollination is in full swing
Having spent the weekend playing mini-golf in Bournemouth, where it actually rained at 90 degrees for most of Saturday, I’ve realised that I’ve discovered a whole new world.
Putting up my tent at a campsite in the New Forest, where wild horses and ponies wander past your pitch without a care in the world, I soon noticed that the vast majority of my canvass dwelling neighbours were speaking French.
Always keen to strike up conversations with the mainland folk, I got talking to Julian from Caen and soon discovered that Portsmouth is in fact a regular destination for families from Normandy who come over to camp in the New Forest and discover the natural wonders of what is, I suppose, one of their old colonies.
But it also works in the other direction; every summer increasingly larger numbers of young British families are packing up their tents and catching the ferry over to Cherbourg, where you can access some of the best camping facilities in Europe.
The French have long been aficionados of the canvass family holiday, but it has only been quite recently that large numbers of Brits have discovered the pleasures of living under the stars for a couple of weeks too.
As we all become more aware of our environment, after almost 60 years of pretending it doesn’t exist, a younger generation of new families are increasingly looking to alternative holiday experiences that support a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.
Far from the kinds of places where you would expect to find Sid James and Barbara Windsor chasing each other about the barbeque, today’s campsites are actually little beehives of young modern and fashionable family units, offering great holidays with excellent facilities on both sides of the channel.
But if you are planning to join the party, be quick. Campsites around Portsmouth and Cherbourg book up quickly these days and rarely have any last minute places, so you might need to start planning early for next year.
I will be heading off into the Normandy countryside next summer, where I don’t expect to find such a good mini-golf pitch as the one we left behind in Bournemouth; however I’m hoping that I won’t find the 90 degree sheeting rain either.