Saturday, 27 August 2011

An easy mistake #gb10 #gb11

Our first venture into the world of camping as a family was attending Greenbelt 2010. I have to say it was not a great success and when I tentatively (no pun intended) explored the possibility of a return to Cheltenham for Greenbelt 2011 I was greeted with a resounding no!

Could it have been the five miles of walking as we trudged back and forth from the car park with all our gear because cars were banned from the site due to the rain soaked ground? Perhaps it was the near subzero temperatures at night on an August bank holiday?

Maybe it was the hour long queue to get a token so we could get a place for our young son in the children’s activities another hour later. We gave up trying in the end and he had a rather boring time saved only by his spotting the chap from ‘Rev’ filming outside a toilet on the Sunday morning. Unfortunately D had never seen Rev but he has seen the Pirates of the Caribbean series and kept calling out ‘look it’s Lord Cutler Beckett’ as Tom Hollander tried to record some footage.

Possibly the booking of a tent in Tangerine Fields only to find it was pitched by a very muddy patch on a major walkway was an error of judgement. Our nights were punctuated with unwary campers screaming as they ended up in the mud or banged into our tent as they sought to avoid said muddy patch. It didn’t help when friends informed us, once we were on site, that they had booked a T F tent before and would never do it again because of the noise.

Before leaving for Greenbelt I’d checked out the leisure centre facilities in the area and printed off a map. So on the Sunday morning, after an uplifting communion service, we jumped in the car to head off for a swim and a shower. Following the directions we  eventually arrived at a very grand looking set of buildings but didn’t give it a second thought as this was Cheltenham. We trudged up to the entrance in our grubby clothes and wellies. The doors to the centre slid open and we were greeted by a couple of smart looking young men in spotless tracksuits. I asked for a family ticket for a swim and was informed that the pool wasn’t open until 2pm. I explained that according to the website the pool was open all day. I was asked what website I’d looked at. ‘The website for Cheltenham Leisure Centre’ said I. ‘Ah’, said they, ‘This is Cheltenham Ladies College’. How was I to know they both used the initials CLC? Anyone could have made such a mistake.

The young men at the college were very helpful and gave us directions to the leisure centre which, when we finally arrived, looked more like a municipal facility than the other CLC. Anyway, we had a great time in a near empty pool, the kids had their first experience on diving boards and I enjoyed a very long, hot shower and refreshing shave. During our time in the pool there was a very heavy downpour over Cheltenham which finished just as we arrived back at the racecourse.

My wife had a particularly traumatic experience with the toilets at GB10 which I might recount in another post.

Thinking of all my corporeal and virtual pals who are at Greenbelt 11 and praying they have a great time. Missing meeting up for a chat and cuppa in the Tiny Tea Tent but not missing the rain, camping and sleepless nights. Greenbelt 12? Let’s wait and see.


Crystal Velvet said...

Sounds like Glamping might be more to your liking.

Sam Norton said...

They have completely revised how they do children's stuff now - no queues for tokens, but no leaving kids on their own either - which (to this first-time-taking-a-kid-with-me parent) seemed to work really well. There were loads of things that could be done - although we couldn't get into the most popular stuff. I think it worked well - and I plan on taking all four kids next year (with Mrs N!) I think knowing what to expect is half the battle....

purple pirate said...

I have heard a lot of negative things said about Greenbelt over the years but never before BORING!! I find it inspirational and creative. Perhaps the mud, the noise, the lack of personal hygiene and the being forced to spend time with our kids are all part of the magic?

Philip Ritchie said...

Purple Pirate. It would be a good idea if you read what I wrote. I didn't say it was boring, I wrote that my 9 year old son was bored because he was unable to get into any of the children's programme and we queued for hours to get into age appropriate items only to be turned away because they were full. He actually enjoyed the camping bit but we could have done that anywhere.

I was not the only person at GB2010 who was very disappointed with the provision for children and I understand it has improved this year.

I love spending time with my kids but there are plenty of other places I can do that at a lot less expense and hassle. I have enjoyed Greenbelt in the past (first experience was '79) but I didn't enjoy my son not enjoying it. I want him to experience Christian events as joyful and exciting and unfortunately that was not his experience last year.