It was supposed to be a romantic weekend with my long-suffering girlfriend. A trip down to Sussex for a spot of camping, dinner in a local gastro pub, followed the next day with some trail running and perhaps a bike ride. Having been away for much of April, running the Marathon des Sables, I felt I owed it to her to do something ‘fun’ together.
So when I got the invite to attend the first ever Spartan Race Training Camp on 28 April, I was in a bit of a bind. “Do you mind if I bring my girlfriend?” I asked former journalist Alec Lomm, who has turned to the dark side, having recently been appointed Spartan Race’s PR chap in the UK. “I’ve promised her a weekend away!” I said in a pathetic voice!
Having got the nod from Alec and the GF, we drove down to Sussex that afternoon to find the campsite that I’d booked. However, nothing is plane sailing when you try to leave London on a sunny Saturday afternoon, as we proceeded to spend much of it in the car, sat in traffic jams.
Choosing a campsite
One of the reasons why we chose this particular campsite was it’s proximity to Pippingford Park, where the Spartan Race Training Camp was taking place, as well as the Sprint and Beast later in the year. We also chose it because it was happy to let us stay for 1 night. Having not done much camping in the UK, I wasn’t aware of the 2 night policy that so many campsites run. Moreover, at the end of April, there were surprisingly few campsites around.
However, when we arrived at the campsite who’s name I’ve already forgotten, we were somewhat surprised. At the end of a very long driveway, that better resembled a farm track, was not a campsite, but more of a gypsy settlement.
Near the entrance was the ‘toilet block’, so I leapt out to inspect, only to be greeted by cockroaches and other less than salubrious creatures. It wasn’t very pleasant. As we drove further into the campsite, there was no ‘registration’ area, just a smattering of cars.
Stopping to talk to one family who were in the final processes of erecting an extravagant looking tent, I asked him if this was what he was expecting. “No” he said. “We’d probably leave, but it’s a bit too late now to look for somewhere else.”
My plan of romantic campsite and gastro dinner was quickly disappearing. If we’d brought a picnic, we might have stayed, but the local pub was nowhere to be seen!
Camping in a car
So, we drove off, in the hope of finding somewhere else to stay. An hour later and a couple of Google searches, we were no closer to success. “Most girlfriends would request a hotel at this point” Zayne teasingly said, with a wry smile. I couldn’t agree more, but even this was a struggle.
Having decided to throw money at the problem, we couldn’t even find a reasonably priced hotel with a room available. There was only one option remaining. The back of the car!
But where to park, without attracting unwanted attention from passers by, dog walkers or the local constabulary. I had to Google ‘wild camping’ to find out what the law had to say. Not a lot, it turned out!
Having found a cricket pitch with parking spot, we trotted off to the local pizzeria (which only just squeezed us in) for the ‘romantic’ dinner.
Crawling into the back of the car, we lay there, somewhat amused by the whole experience, before drifting off to sleep.
The next morning, we awoke reasonably early thanks to a lack of curtains. ‘Ssshh’ Zayne said with a sense of urgency. ‘Someone is walking past’.
Even though we were innocently sleeping in the car, we felt like stowaway refugees, on the run from the law. But whilst we brushed our teeth on the fringes of the cricket pitch, before preparing to drive to the Spartan Race Training Camp, we had another giggle. This weekend was proving to be a lot of fun!
To read about the Spartan Race Training Camp, read the next post!