As I walked past the Toddler’s Cove car park yesterday, I was suddenly reminded of the extraordinary story I wrote about it way back in 2004.
Back then, this was one of the prime dogging locations in Canterbury.
Dogging, for the uninitiated, is that curious sexual practice of going out to remote or hidden locations and watching or taking part in a light bit of public fornicating, usually taking place inside a motor vehicle.
I’d been tipped off that there was a website detailing all the locations in Kent and quickly found it.
By then I’d been in journalism long enough to know that little surprised me. A look at the site revealed that the Toddler’s Cove car park and the one at Clowes Wood on the road between Canterbury and Chestfield were favourites with the local doggers.
Members of this public forum talked openly about the sort of things you could get up to there. One even warned of a “dodgy man” seen at one of the spots. A dodgy man at a dogging venue? Surely not!
So we duly published the story. But what followed, I have to concede, truly did surprise me.
Instead of receding into the distance, perhaps embarrassed that their sordid activity had come to the attention of a nosy reporter, some doggers did quite the opposite.
One left a sarcastic message in the chatroom: “Say hi to the Press y’all.” Then a woman whined: “They’re going to ruin it for everyone.”
But by far and away the most astonishing reaction came from a bloke who wrote a letter to my editor full of self-righteous indignation over the article. Apparently, I was a total arse for daring to bring this to the general public’s attention while he was an entirely innocent member of the Canterbury dogging community.
If he’d have written the letter today, he’d probably have claimed victimhood status as a member of an oppressed minority community.
Even more incredibly, the letter told us that the man and his wife were practitioners of the entirely wholesome art of piking. That, we learned, meant they performed for an audience of men who stood around the car doing…well, erm…
Unfortunately, he didn’t include his name and contact details so I couldn’t go and have a pleasant chat with the fellow.
Anyway, what this above all showed us was the extraordinarily skewed sense of morality whereby people who appear to be little more than over-sexed oddballs complain bitterly when a general public finds their shenanigans at play parks and a beauty spots more than a wee bit distasteful.
The council wisely chopped down the trees which used shield the Toddler’s Cove car park, thereby reducing its appeal to doggers. Clowes Wood, according to the web, is still the place to go, however.
All a bit weird if you ask me…