An email from Hampshire Police’s Countrywatch team thudded electronically into my inbox in early May, just before the clutch of Bank Holidays.
“Please be aware that we have ascertained certain information regarding persons (male persons and female persons) investigating rural localities with regard to illegal music-based gatherings.”
Luckily, I’m fluent in Ploddledegook, so I knew what it meant: “Illegal Rave Alert!”
After a 20-year break, the “rave” is back in fashion, and among all the other dodgy types now cruising through our lanes are “scouts”, checking out suitable venues where a couple of thousand youngsters can gather for an evening of brain mashing.
Plod was warning us to keep an eye open for these scouts. Extra vigilance was needed while driving around the farm enjoying the perfect farming weather.
The first alert came late one Friday evening. A clutch of cars arrived in the corner of a field, seemingly unaware of the fact that there was a crop growing there. And, sure enough, up in the edge of the nearby wood, a gathering seemed to be taking place. I thought I should go and inspect. I had to use another gateway (they’d blocked the main one), and trundled up a tramline to meet them. It was as if the cast of Made in Chelsea were doing a Boden fashion shoot among the bluebells. A dozen permatanned London beauties (male and female) were enjoying a picnic. They turned out to be based at T’Big House in Kilmeston, so they were sort of locals, and the woods aren’t strictly mine, so I asked them not to leave any litter and to avoid blocking gateways, and we parted the best of friends.
The next alert seemed far more ominous. Hazel and my daughter Diana were out walking the three dogs when they found three lads and a lass in the roadside barn at the bottom of the hill. The barn had just been cleared of straw, and the lads – baseball caps backwards, grungy hoodies – were all clutching odd-shaped filter-free cigarettes. Hazel recognised one of them from her days teaching at the local primary school, and so her bollocking was particularly strong for him. He was also not Diana’s greatest mate, and so had to endure her ice-cold plasma-stare – which has been known to eviscerate unsuitable suitors at 70 paces. By the time he slouched back to the car, I gather the baseball hat had been turned 180deg – the ultimate tail-between-the-legs for a hoodie. And then, when he got home, Plod were waiting, wanting a word. Don’t tell Diana, but I felt just a bit sorry for them.
Next up was a very dodgy Astra, parked up on the edge of the woods. I drove past it once, then twice. I stopped, walked around it, wrote down the number, jotted down its contents. I drove around the nearby field and cruised through the woods. Finally, just as I was leaving, a young couple emerged from the scrub, clutching a sturdy blanket. Their slightly flushed and emotional faces, not to mention their somewhat dishevelled state of dress, suggested that they had suffered that most horrible of fates: coitus Flindterruptus.
In the end, we remained rave-free. I was able to indulge my continuation of arable crop protectionisation while patrolling tramlines in both a westerly and an easterly direction unhindered by youthful undesirables giving it large while jigging about to modern popular music. I told you I was fluent in Ploddledegook.
Charlie Flindt is a tenant of the National Trust, farming 380ha at Hinton Ampner, in Hampshire