Of course we wouldn’t have known this if it wasn’t for the relentless advertising of The Independent newspaper and the Rough Guides-Cool Camping/Places publishing behemoth.
This week, in The Independent online, Shingle Street was “cool place of the day” in a piece that looked like an article, but was really just advertising for the rough Guides/Cool Camping new website. This happens more than you think. We get approached by magazines quite often saying they are doing a piece on camping in Suffolk/England and would we like to be featured. Sure, if you have come to see our campsite and small farm and you want to write about it, then please do. But they are not interested in coming to visit. They want us to pay hundreds of pounds and send them some text and photos to be featured – advertising dressed up as an article. We always say no. It is a matter of principle. I am not paying someone who has not seen what we do be listed as cool or quirky or interesting – this doesn’t feel very honest. We also don’t pay to be included in campsite books – especially those that award stars. We don’t want to be judged according to some arbitrary notion of what makes a good campsite.
So, back to “cool” Shingle Street. The authors obviously hadn’t bothered to visit or really find out anything about the place. According to the article it is “ironically […] the only settlement in Suffolk without streets of any kind”. Except of course it does have a street – it has a line of odd houses along a narrow little road and this in Suffolk is a street. The main road (even if it is little more than a track) in all the villages round here is always called The Street.
Apparently – according to the so-called article – what brings people to Shingle Street is the abundance of bird and wildlife. I am sure some people visit for precisely this reason, but in my experience most of the people who come to Shingle Street are local fishermen, people walking their dogs, a few kite surfers and people wanting a swim. Oh yes, the article mentions that you can swim in the “sheltered, lagoon-like waters” of Shingle Street – really? Sure, you can swim here but first you have to walk past the sign telling people not to go into the sea because of the treacherous currents and tides.
Of course I do swim there and so do quite a few other local people, but we are careful. This is a turbulent coast. The sea has a power to shift the coastline, to make and destroy secret pools – it is not a sheltered, lagoon-like place, it is a wild, beautiful, powerful place.
A storm in the winter made the secret pool – the force of the sea moved shingle and created a pool 30 foot deep, more than 120 foot long and 30 foot wide. But I am pretty sure these people don’t know about it – the secret pool is hidden in plain sight, you have to walk across a sea of shingle and be right on top of it before you see it. Even when the beach is quite busy I am often at the pool by myself with my dog, together in our solitude.
I think Shingle Street is cool, but not because some people who have never visited tell me it is. I think it is cool simply because I like it and that is all there is to it.
N.B. This lack of a coherent business and advertising strategy probably means we will have to keep on with our second jobs for ever, but we don’t care. We don’t want to be another commercial campsite, focused on the bottom line, trying to maximise profits. We want to make a living, but more importantly we want to make a life.
N.B. We also think the really cool campsites are the ones not listed; the ones you find out about from friends; the ones that generations of family go to and stay at; the ones where the owners encourage kids to jump over electric fences and tickle pigs bums …. just saying you know…
N.B. here’s the link to the article.