Classic Camp

Classic Camp

It is 1958. We are camping at the spot we always camped at. It is not a camp site. It is merely a ledge on the South Downs, not far from a water supply and with a friendly farmer. For the first time my dad is trying out colour photography. He has borrowed a suitable 35 mm camera. The scene, as you can see, was beautiful and we have our classic camp set up.

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Let’s start with the tents. The pyramid at the left hand end was our toilet tent. I suspect that by this time we had a chemical loo which, when full, was emptied down a rabbit hole! The tent had been a polar tent and originally it would have been held in place by snow piled on large horizontal flaps on the outside. Dad had equipped it with guy ropes and peg downs.

The little brown tent was used as a store. That had been a US Army bivouac tent.

The square tent coloured green was a hefty wooden frame tent. It served as living room and parents’ bedroom. By this time it sported a lean-to extension for further storage space. The square bell tent in brown, with a fetching green top was home for us children.

And of course, we had no car. We had been driven there in a lorry and there was a return date fixed, some three weeks ahead.

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The backdrop of our view was the wonderful Mount Caburn – the highpoint on a little break-away section of South Downs. Being children, we saw shapes in things, so that chalk pit had green areas which were a galloping horse and a duck. Further round and on the extreme left of this photo there’s an area of woodland which appeared to be a letter P to us. These features all still exist but shapes change and the horse and duck probably aren’t recognisable as such any more.

At the left end of the photo and below Mount Caburn there’s a line of seven elm trees and these have gone. Actually, they weren’t a line for five of them were on the nearside of the A27 road and two were on the far side. Being of simple pleasures, we liked watching the Eastbourne bus threading its way between those trees.

Also between us and Caburn there was the railway line and it happened that every hour the up and down London to Eastbourne trains passed each other in that view. That was always a sight to enjoy.

Of course, this was a part of the Southern Electric railway system so even back in the late 1950s most trains were electric. But there were still steam hauled goods trains and also some cross country trains which were steam hauled. There was a daily train we called the Birkenhead Express for it was heading for that Merseyside town. Bits from various Sussex and Kent towns were joined up at Redhill and made their way up to the Wirral in Cheshire. This train caused me to think Birkenhead must be a wonderful place.

Ah! Happy memories!

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