Kathy brought me in through the Northampton rush hour traffic with ease, though I was a little perturbed by the apparent smell of poo as I swung around the final roundabout. I suspected that it was just a local phenomenon, an unfortunately placed sewerage works perhaps, surely it wouldn’t last, and besides, I’d already abandoned one camp site having paid for it in Keswick; I could always do that again, despite this one being much more expensive. Could I attempt to get my money back, the smell of poo not being written into any contract? To be honest, I didn’t fancy my chances so I decided that, if it came to it, I would cut my losses and run.

Swinging into the entrance I encountered numerous booths with red and white barriers, and white lines painted on the wide approach road, complete with areas of scary hatching. You know the sort, intimidating lines painted all over the place that indicate where you are not allowed to drive. Stopping dead in my tracks I noted signs declaring one was for owners only. I didn’t think I was an owner — whatever that was — but I suspected that, had I been an owner, I would know that I was one. One lane was closed and, being a frequent user of supermarkets, I knew not to waste time on that one. The fourth lane was for people leaving, and a long history of life experience told me that I should ignore that lane too. I did note that there were three times as many lanes for people arriving as there were for people leaving and I wondered about there being some Tardis like effect going on here. A camp site that is bigger on the inside than the outside would certainly be an interesting place to spend some time, though I’m sure the novelty would wear off eventually.

I picked the only remaining option that wasn’t closed, that wasn’t for owners — whatever they were — that wasn’t for people leaving or anything else that didn’t describe me. Pulling up to the gate I found myself talking to a nice man seated in the booth at the controls of the red and white barrier. I say at the controls but I don’t know that strictly. We’ve all been through entrance gates, toll booths, security barriers and the like, but how many of us ever actually see what you might imagine to be the array of controls similar to the early models of the Starship Enterprise. Of course, the reality is probably that they have just two controls, Up, Down, and Drop-the-barrier-on-the-car-before-it-can-get-through, otherwise known as the sudden death button. Okay so I know that’s three but, hey.

“Have you been here before?” asked the nice man with all the buttons.

“No, it’s my first time,” I smiled at him.

“You need to pull into the layby.”

“The layby?” I looked around, but I couldn’t see the layby from my position close up against the booth.

“Over there,” he pointed through the Truck and out the other side beyond the rear nearside roof pillar.

I craned my head behind me to see the distant layby through my rear passenger window, across the closed lane, the owners’ lane and the lane for days when there is an R in the month. “Over there?” I asked. “Is it okay to reverse over there? There’s all the things painted on the road, white lines, and all that scary hatching.”

“That’s okay, just reverse over there.”

I pictured reversing right across the road, across multiple lanes of oncoming caravans and owners — whatever they are — with all sorts of massive four by fours bearing down on me.

I didn’t fancy it.

Putting the Truck into reverse I started to withdraw just as a Landrover started to approach from behind. Being as this was the only lane open, assuming that he wasn’t an owner — whatever that was — and he wasn’t leaving at the same time as arriving in some weird Mobius strip type phenomena, he probably had no choice than to approach the booth where I was currently causing a blockage.

Fortunately, the Landrover stopped, as did I, but going backwards was clearly no longer an option. So, there, in the only available lane, in the full view of the nice man at the sudden death button and the driver of the Landrover, I proceeded to perform a fantastically well executed seventeen-point turn (or some such, but it was hardly an elegant display of precision driving). Driving back, I crossed all the white lines, and the hatching where you might imagine there are booby traps for those that venture out of the safe zone lest you claim to be an owner — whatever that is — and I pulled into the layby. A moment later I climbed out of the Truck with something of a sense of relief, noticing a slight smell of poo.

In the booking-in office it turned out I was expected as the receptionist had been notified of my arrival. This was quite impressive, or a little scary I’m not sure which, since I’d booked my night’s stay via a call centre somewhere else in the country. I say scary because most of the camp sites I’d been to consisted of fields with sanitation tacked on; many didn’t have gates, some may not have had a telephone connection and the one at Happisburgh didn’t even have a fence to stop you falling off the cliff into the North Sea. (Actually, they may have had a fence at one point, but it was probably floating somewhere off the coast of the Netherlands by the time I visited, but I might have mentioned that before.)

The reception had a high counter with a friendly girl sitting on the other side. She had all sorts of baffling documents prepared for my arrival. There were printed out things with my details for car parking, for access to the facilities, one with my arrival details including my postcode, number of adults, children, awnings, children with awnings, gazebos, children with gazebos, etc., and one with my leaving date in massive type about ten times as big as anything else on the page. This is all very efficient, I thought, and I was quite impressed. She gave me two maps, and drew on one to show where I could choose my pitch, so it was all nice with plenty of choice, unlike some camp sites that will allocate a spot just big enough for your tent. I was even more impressed when she showed me a flyer detailing how I could get a meal and a pint for about seven quid. I say about seven quid as she showed it to me but didn’t give it to me, so I can’t remember the exact details. (This would become a crucial factor as the evening wore on.) I asked about the laundry and she told me that there indeed was one and that she thought it was open into the evening, eight or nine pm she thought. That was great; it sealed the deal, I wouldn’t go elsewhere, despite the smell of poo, because I could get my laundry done this evening, instead of having to wait around in the morning like I did in Northumberland. She told me it took real money so I didn’t need to buy tokens so I was good to go (or should I say ready to wash?). When I left the reception even the smell of poo didn’t seem that bad, perhaps the wind had changed, or perhaps I’d been being over sensitive.

Extract from #InSatNavWeTrust – a search for meaning through the Historic Counties of England. Find out more here: https://jack-barrow.com/travelogue-in-satnav-we-trust/