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First published in 1962 and reprinted 1963, Know the Game- Camping offered sage advice to the beginner and was a collaboration with The Camping Club of Great Britain and Ireland

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- The Camping and Caravanning Club

Commemorative plaque recording the creation of The Camping Club,affixed to bridge 58 near Wantage, Berks

Enamel club badge. These were available for members to purchase from the outset. Their use was recommended to enable members to ‘recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site’

Enamel club badges were available for members to purchase from the outset. Their use was recommended to enable members to ‘recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site’

The metal plaque shown above is fixed to a stone and brick bridge across Letcombe Brook in Ickleton Road, Wantage. The ‘group of campers’ mentioned was small, just six in number. That simple coming together of friends, including three brothers, from 2nd -5th August 1901, was the first camp meeting of the oldest such club in the World.

Two of the people who had camped in the small English meadow- Thomas Hiram Holding and the Reverend Edward Pitt-Johnson had founded the Association of Cycle Campers earlier that year.

Holding had first experienced camping aged nine when he travelled with his parents across the United States in a wagon train and became the association’s first President. There were thirteen members initially, six of whom attended the first official camp over that four-day August bank-holiday. There were over 100 members of the club the following year and 33 of these, with friends, met for dinner in London in February 1902 to celebrate the beginning of their club. This dinner, or supper, became an annual event and the number of attendees had risen to 92 by 1909. A hundred years later the club was supporting over 500,000 members in their activities.

The Camping Club of Great Britain & Ireland, 1901, second. 1920 - 1983

Enamel badge of The Camping Club of Great Britain & Ireland, 1920 – 1983

“civility and courtesy are cheap, but purchase a great deal”

An annual winter ‘Camp Fire’ was established in 1904 with 150 members present at the first winter camp. Even then, there were camping ‘gear-heads’ and improvements in camping gear were avidly discussed. Displays of tents and equipment were arranged. Lectures and lantern slides were organised. From a total membership of 820, around 400 people attended the ‘Camp Fire’ held at West Kensington in March 1910.

“early to bed; but not too early to rise”

From 1909 members could also view ‘lightweight’ camping equipment at the club’s central office in London. The Association of Cycle Campers shared this central office with two allied clubs- the Caravan Club and the Camping Club, the latter was more for those who enjoyed camping but did not use either cycles or motor cycles for transport. The three clubs supported each other and progressed under the designation of the Camping Union. Central office moved from London to Coventry in 1990.

“if some misguided genius should invent a camping equipment that no one could find fault with, half our pleasures in life would be swept away”

Small lapel Enamel club badge. 1920 - 1983

Small lapel enamel club badge. 1920 – 1983

An annual Christmas Camp was inaugurated in 1904. Nine members pitched their tents near Chesham. This was not an exclusively male affair as four ladies were amongst the sixteen campers at the Christmas Camp at Cudham in 1909. District Associations were instituted in 1907 with the Birmingham District Association leading the way. Official campsites were created for members- 15 in 1906 of which Weybridge was the first. These had increased to 204 by 1910. One of the most popular of club meets, the Club Feast of Lanterns, was first held in Dorking in 1921. Members of the Caravan Club decorated their caravans with hand-made lanterns.

Suggested layout for an A frame tent as specified by the Amateur Camping Club in 1910

‘Ready for occupation’- Suggested layout for an A frame tent, complete with steaming kettle. Amateur Camping Club, 1910

Enamel badge with gilt surround given to new members as a goodwill gesture. 1950-1964

Enamel badge with gilt surround given to new members as a goodwill gesture. Also for presentation to friends as souvenirs. 1950-1964

The Camping Union dissolved amicably in 1909 with the Caravan Club going their own way and the remaining organisations amalgamating and extending their scope to include the needs of pedestrians, pony campers, cyclists, motor-cyclists, motor, caravan, canoeists and boat campers. The new ‘Amateur Camping Club’ was amongst the earliest of organisations formed for all members to enjoy convivial group camping activity. Membership fees were five shillings per annum. The club incorporated the Association of Cycle Campers, the Camping Club and, later, in 1910, the National Camping Club (also formed by Holding). By happy coincidence, the initials of the new association- A.C.C. were already widely known from the predecessor organisation. The Amateur Camping Club was aimed at what they termed ‘light camping’, though the equipment available at the time was no doubt considerably heftier than much available today. In 1910, one member introduced the use of a hand-cart for carrying the necessary camping equipment for him and his family of five that included three small children.

A rare survivor, A.C.C. flag that once fluttered gaily from the apex of a club members tent

A rare survivor, A.C.C. flag, or pennant, that once fluttered gaily from the apex of a club members tent

Ogden's Cigarettes. No. 2 of a series of 50 showing various club badges.

Ogden’s Cigarettes. Number 2 of a series of 50 cards showing various club badges. c1914

An Ogden’s Cigarette Card series of club badges included the official badge of the Amateur Camping Club in its selection. Also shown on this card is the first ACC Club Pennon, which measured 7 ½” x 13”, the letters A.C.C. were white on a green background with a ‘rosy’ red’ background. The club’s handbook instructed members that- “the cost and weight are very small, and it should always be used, as it adds to the appearance of the tent”. I doubt many campers today are adorning their tent with a flag fluttering in the breeze.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott was President of the Amateur Camping Club from 1909. He took the club pennon with him on his ill-fated journey to the South Pole. Following his death during his return from the pole in January 1912, he was still being recorded as Club President in 1914, news of his death only having reached England the previous year. In 1919 there were 755 members of the club.

“a ready made camping outfit is a delusion and a snare”

Enamel club badge of The Camping Club-North Warwickshire District Association,1970

Enamel club badge of The Camping Club-North Warwickshire District Association,1970

The club has always sought to aid not only well established long term members but also advise and welcome people new to the experience of camping. For many years the club stocked just about any piece of kit that the budding camper could wish for. Guides to camping, site lists and general information were regularly published. The Know the Game guide at the head of this post was approved by The Girl Guides Association and, if basic in its limited reach, was nonetheless authoritative, concentrating on safety, comfort, camp hygiene and ‘country manners’.

“choose your camping companions with care”

Three Points of the Compass has pitched up on many a Camping and Caravanning Club site. Perhaps looking a little incongruous amongst the plethora of caravans, and the subject of avid curiousity, I have always been met with friendliness and found the welcome facilities excellent

Three Points of the Compass has pitched up on many a Camping and Caravanning Club site on longer hikes. A lightweight backpacker’s setup can look somewhat incongruous amongst the plethora of caravans, and often the subject of avid curiosity. I have always been met with friendliness and invariably found the welcome facilities excellent

Youth Camping Association. post 1941

Enamel badge for the Youth Camping Association, sponsored by the Camping Club in 1941

Various other name changes to the club took place over the years. While the larger tents and caravans are a prominent sight at the club sites today, the club has not forgotten its roots. Revisiting its original 1901 incarnation, in 1944 the Association of Cycle Campers was reformed as a specialised section of the main club. In 1965 this changed to the Association of Cycle and Lightweight Campers and, finally, in 1984, to the Association of Lightweight Campers.- “a special interest section of the Camping and Caravanning Club …. no-fuss camping by cycle, foot or any type of powered transport”

Specialised sub-sections of the club have been created over the years. Cycling, canoeing, mountaineering, folk dance and song were all represented amongst others. There are now nine specialised section. The Boating Group is also affiliated to the Royal Yachting Association.

“don’t expect the use of the whole farm for the sum of sixpence per night”

Enamel badge for The Camping and Caravanning Club, post 1983

Enamel badge for The Camping and Caravanning Club, post-1983

The caravan section was formed in 1933 and ever increasing numbers of current members are now caravanners. Reflecting this change in emphasis, the parent organisation changed its name to The Camping and Caravanning Club in 1983. The club member’s badge changed in its design and name to reflect this change in emphasis. Yet another enamel badge was made available for members to purchase. Today, some forty per cent of the membership choose touring caravans though one in four of those who own a caravan also own a tent.

The Club Badge

“its use is recommended to enable members to recognise their fellows in the sport, and as a passport when camping on an official site. Its cost and weight are small”

Club Handbook, 1914

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section of the Camping Club

Pre-1983 enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section of the Camping Club

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section, this badge reflects the change in name of the Camping and Caravanning Club

Enamel badge for members of the Motor Caravan Section, this badge reflects the 1983 change in name of the Camping and Caravanning Club

The caravan section continued to evolve, not only at last reflecting the changes in propulsion from horsepower to internal combustion but also the growing preference for self-contained and motorised recreational units and a Motor Caravan Section was formed in 1962. An annual meet for members of the sub-group is held. 2022 will see their sixtieth anniversary.

“the best position for a lady to adopt in a tent whilst dressing her hair, is kneeling. There is no difficulty then. If nobody is about, go outside”

Enamel badge for members of the Trailer Tent Group- a sub-sction of the Camping and Caravanning Club of Great Britain & Ireland

Enamel badge for members of the Trailer Tent Group- a sub-section of the Camping and Caravanning Club of Great Britain & Ireland

Enamel badge for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club, with 25 Years membership, post 1983

Enamel badge for members of The Camping and Caravanning Club, with 25 Years membership, post-1983. Continuous veteran membership was signified differently

Another sub-section was formed in 1967 with the creation of the Trailer Tent Group, the same year that the club held their first Canadian tour.

“re kit:- boil it down”

The club never abandoned backpackers however. Beside welcoming them to the great majority of sites, specific backpacking facilities have also been provided at a handful of locations.

A new style badge for the 21st century

A new style badge for Veteran members was introduced in the 21st century and levelled the prominence of tent and caravan

The Lake District’s Windermere site, Milarrochy Bay on Loch Lomond and the Hayfield site in the Peak District, provide campers with food preparation areas, indoor and outdoor seating, vented lockers, boot cleaning facilities, bicycle stands and electric points. The latter always appreciated by power starved hikers.

“don’t boast about the set of your flysheet if your tent is full of wrinkles”

Enamel badge for the camping club youth section. This is aimed at young people between the ages of 12-17

Enamel badge for the camping club youth section. This section is aimed at young people between the ages of 12-17

“To encourage in young people, particularly those of limited means, a pioneer spirit of adventure, and self reliance and closer contact with nature and the countryside by the practice of camping”

Following on from the Youth Camping Association formed by the club in 1941, a Camping Club Youth section was created to encourage younger campers and this has remained a focus of the club throughout its existence.

Suggested light kit for one, 1910

  • single tent with guys, slides and pegs
  • poles and pennon
  • single groundsheet of proofed material
  • eiderdown, with valance to tuck under body
  • ‘sirram’ saucepan-kettle stove, windscreen and spirit can
  • matches
  • small aluminium frypan
  • single canvas bucket
  • cup, plate, spoon, fork and knife
  • aluminium condiment box
  • three [proofed bags for bread, oatmeal and tea
  • down pillow
  • string bags, straps and basket

should not weigh more than 9 1/2 lbs.

“if the weather be fine and warm, there is nothing better in life than to lean over the parapet of the bridge and watch the weeds and the quick fishes”

Camping Club Recruiter. Pre 1983

Acrylic badge for Camping Club Recruiter, pre-1983

Acrylic badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post 1983

Acrylic badge for Camping & Caravanning Club Recruiter, post-1983

Acrylic ‘recruiter’ badges were earned by recommending another individual for new membership of the club- ‘friends recommendation’. These were cheaper produced badges than the much loved enamel badges of yore. Again, a slight change in design was introduced following the 1983 re-branding exercise. Recruiters may be doing quite well, for today, there are over 720,000 club members.

“if you snore, have a separate pitch”

'Veteran's' badge, signifying longstanding continuous membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club

‘Veteran’s’ enamel badge, awarded post-1983 to those who had achieved 25 years continuous membership of the Club

'Veteran's' enamel badge, signifying longstanding continuous membership of the Camping and Caravanning Club

‘Veteran’s’ enamel badge, signifying 25 years continuous membership of the Camping Club. Pre-1983

Club members who had completed 25 consecutive years of membership, and were eligible for state pension, could claim Veteran Membership of the Club. This gave a much reduced membership fee. This has caused vexation amongst members who have racked up considerable years of membership but may have taken a break of a year or two due to circumstances.

On the centenary of their creation, the Camping and Caravanning Club released a large button badge for their annual 'National Camping Week'

In 2001, the centenary of their creation, the Camping and Caravanning Club released a large button badge for their first annual ‘National Camping Week’

In 2019 Three Points of the Compass was completing a hike on the Cleveland Way around the North York Moors and coastline and was drawing close to the nights halt. After a windswept and wet day, I was damp, hungry and looking forward to my booked pitch on the Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site. I knew a hot shower and pristine pitch awaited. I needed to properly rest and recuperate prior to setting off on a further fifty miles across the Tabular Hills. I walked through ranks of caravans and motor units, not a tent in sight anywhere beyond a few awnings. The receptionist apologised and said he wanted to amend my booking, I sighed inwardly and wondered what was coming- “I can give you a special backpacker rate, I’m just refunding your account“. I was soon tucked away on a secluded part of the large site and given exclusive use of a family shower block. Result!

“an old campaigner is known for the simplicity and fitness of his equipment”

This, and other quotes in bold above, are ‘hints and tips’ from-

The Handbook of the Amateur Camping Club, 1914

Arrivals leaflet, Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site, 2019

Arrivals leaflet, Scarborough Camping and Caravanning site, 2019

On hikes still to come, Three Points of the Compass looks forward to the occasional break from wild-camping and will often enjoy nights on the well-appointed sites run by the club, assured of good facilities and a great welcome. I may stick out a little with a lightweight tent amongst the motor-homes, modern caravans and frame tents, but the Camping and Caravanning Club really does remain ‘The Friendly Club‘.

In 2001 The Camping Club celebrated its centenary. A second commemorative plaque was placed beside the first plaque shown at the head of this post

In 2001 The Camping and Caravanning Club celebrated its centenary. This second commemorative plaque was placed beside the first plaque shown at the head of this post

There is a timeline of many of the most important or influential UK outdoor organisations on my main website. I will be covering a number of these later in the year. Do have a glance at the list and see where today’s organisations fit in, you may even be able to suggest a glaring omission to the list!

Edwardian gentlemen

Organised outdoor activity in the UK- Britain’s first holiday camp

“Only youths and men of good moral character are eligible for admission to this

Holiday Camp and should anyone unfortunately prove, by word or deed, to be otherwise,

he will be liable to instant expulsion”

Joseph Cunningham, M.L.C., J.P., C.P.

Joseph Cunningham, M.L.C., J.P., C.P. Founder of the Cunningham Holiday Camp

Amongst the first public campsites in the World opened on the Isle of Man in 1894. The venture came about due to the frustrations experienced by Joseph Cunningham and his wife when, employed as the superintendent of The Florence Institute in Toxteth, Liverpool, he arranged annual week-long youth camps at Laxey on the Isle of Man in 1892/3. The following year the annual camp was held at nearby Howstrake. Unprofitable at this juncture, Joseph left the institute and he and Elizabeth went it alone, running the next camp at Howstrake themselves as a much expanded and more ambitious enterprise. Within a few years up to 600 men were staying at the ‘tent city’ each week. Open during the finer months, from May to October, the Cunningham’s considerable business acumen ensured the success of the camp and demand quickly outgrew the capacity of the site. However the Cunningham’s were tenants only and sought better control of the facilities they wished to provide.

Howstrake camp on the Isle of Man

Howstrake camp on the Isle of Man

In 1904 they opened a new camp just a couple of miles south at ‘Little Switzerland’. The larger five-acre site they had acquired had room for not only around 1500 tents but also a large dining pavilion where ‘up to 3000 can be accommodated at a time’. The new Cunningham Young Men’s Holiday Camp was originally open March to October but by 1933 this had changed to May to September. The camp at Howstrake continued under separate management.

The Cunningham Camp at Little Switzerland on the Isle of Man had 1500 tents and bungalow accommodation

The Cunningham Camp at Little Switzerland on the Isle of Man had 1500 tents and bungalow accommodation

The 'Camp Herald' was an annual publication that included photographs and reviews of the holiday camp, listed excursions and facilities and included a booking form, 1933

The ‘Camp Herald’ was an annual publication that included photographs and reviews of the holiday camp, listed excursions and facilities and included a booking form, 1933

The camp is usually considered the first holiday camp though some argue that it should be discounted as accommodation was within tents at first. Within a few years wooden huts supplemented the ex- army bell tents. Tents were eventually replaced with more substantial chalets built by WWI internees. The description of these as ‘holiday bungalows’ may be somewhat stretching but, by account, most holidaymakers enjoyed their stays immensely, returning year on year. Reading and writing rooms were provided. There was a 90 feet long swimming bath, lawn tennis and badminton courts, putting and bowling greens, and sports field, at which medals were awarded on the weekly Sports Day.

Bungalows and tents had electric lighting and could each accommodate up to four campers. The same fee was charged for each.  Tents came with wooden floors. ‘spring bedstead and comfortable bed’. More luxurious accommodation was provided in the camp’s ambitiously entitled Snaefell Mansions.

“Use of intoxicants, gambling and improper

language are strictly prohibited”

Menu board at Camp Cunningham

Menu board at Camp Cunningham

A programme of daily outings and entertainment was provided, as were three meals a day and an evening ‘supper’ for each camper. The camp had its own bakehouse, laundry, ‘refrigerating apparatus’, electricity generators and workshops.  A ‘camp orchestra’ kept diners entertained at mealtimes. There was a camp farm at Crosby, some five miles away. This grew fruit and vegetable for the kitchen and had pigs and a herd of 130 cows. While the local milk produce was appreciated, young men were forbidden some pleasures, for Liverpudlian Cunningham was a Presbyterian and strict abstainer from alcohol. Though no doubt many took advantage of certain off-camp establishments when away for the day.

Keep Fit Class at Cunningham Camp

Keep Fit Class at Cunningham Camp

Enamel camp badge

Enamel camp badge. An earlier design incorporated the word ‘Cunningham’ at the base of the tent, as shown on the front of Camp Herald publication. Cost- 4d

Campers could sign up to be bussed to various points on the island. Alternatively, hikes were organised, cameras could be hired and trumpets issued along with song sheets so that groups of walkers could sing while tramping, alongside a ‘merry tune’ from anyone that was musically inclined.

The camp was taken over during both World Wars. In 1914 as an internment camp and as a Royal Navy training school- HMS St. George, during WWII. Following the war the family declined to continue with the camp and it was sold to a Blackpool businessman. Joseph Cunningham himself had died 4th September 1924.

The Concert Hall cleared for a dance

The Concert Hall cleared for a dance

Three Points of the Compass has not, as yet, visited the Isle of Man but has stayed at many a holiday camp as a youth. Various Butlins camps were visited by the family each year as we grew up, they were (relatively) affordable and provided the diversity of entertainment required for a large family with wide age ranges and gave my hard working parents the break they deserved. I am told that we never visited the two main rival institutions- Warners and Pontins, but other smaller independent camps were also occasional destinations. Either alone, or with one or two of my siblings, I would wander off exploring dunes, cliffs, woods and beaches. Rock-pooling and fishing. I invariably had a great time, got sun burnt, sustained multiple scrapes on rocks and thorns, startled adders in the bracken and pulled wrasse from the pools left stranded by retreating tide.

DisclaimerThree Points of the Compass is well aware that the title to this blog is incorrect. The inhabitants of the Isle of Man are British, however the island is not part of the United Kingdom. The Isle of Man, situated between Great Britain and Ireland, has an independent administration and government. However the establishment of this first holiday camp is so closely linked to that which evolved in the UK that it cannot be ignored.