Cup Match wouldn’t be Cup Match without the sights of ribbons of tents stretched along Bermuda’s roadsides, parks and beaches.
The four-day holiday is a great time for families to get together and reconnect under the canvas, whether it’s listening to the cricket on the radio, playing games or grilling on the barbecue.
“It has always been a tradition to go camping over Cup Match in Bermuda, and it is a real family event,” said Craig Burt, parks officer with the Department of Parks.
“Over the holiday you will see whole families getting together — parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
“People like to relax, hang out and chat, and it’s a time of year when people really get to enjoy Bermuda and all of its natural beauty.”
It’s also the only time of year when the Department of Parks relaxes its camping regulations, enabling anyone to pitch a tent in the island’s parks and roadsides, but within certain guidelines.
During the summer, camping is only permitted at three designated sites: Ferry Point Park at Ferry Reach; Higgs / Horseshoe Islands, St George’s Harbour (opposite Gates Fort in the Town Cut); and Chaplin Bay.
This year’s season runs from the third Friday in May to the fourth Sunday in September.
At these three locations, permits are issued on a first come, first served basis, with a deposit fee of $100 and camping fee of $12 per night, payable to the Department of Parks.
The deposit is refunded at the end of the season, if the site is left in a clean condition without any open wood fires.
Bonfires are permitted on certain beaches around the island but this requires a separate ‘Special Event Permit’ for $25.
The fire must also be placed on a metal surface and all trash disposed of.
At the campsites, charcoal, propane or liquid fuel stoves are permitted, but must be in a metal container. Barbecue ash must be disposed of.
A maximum three tents per site are allowed (the largest 15 ft x 15 ft), and occupancy of eight people. The maximum length of stay is eight weeks.
No open wood fires or generators are allowed. Check-out time is 4pm.
All campers must follow the 1988 Bermuda National Park Regulations (copies available at the Parks Office).
Mr Burt said: “We give the campers a tag and they clip this to the outside of their tent, detailing their name and camping ground.
“We change the colour of the tags each year so people don’t try to fabricate something themselves.
“If we find a tent in another location we would issue an abandoned property tag, which, if still unattended after 24 hours means we can confiscate it.
“We know some people are struggling or homeless, so in these cases we would offer them help, working with other Government agencies to get them assistance.”
On average, the Department of Parks issues 50 camping permits per year. But during the Cup Match holiday, the number of tents swells to more than 700 across Bermuda’s national parks and campgrounds.
Campsites on the grass verges of roadsides (such as by LF Wade International Airport) will swell this number further into more than a thousand.
“Over Cup Match we are physically unable to fit all of the campers in (to the three camp sites), so we have a relaxed policy whereby we allow people to set up their tents in the parks on the Tuesday and Wednesday, and they can camp until Sunday evening. Everything must be gone by Monday,” said Mr Burt.
“People can camp anywhere but most of the sites are well-defined, on grassy areas.
“No one really camps on the beach. They use the grassy areas at the back of the beaches in which to set their tents up.”
Anyone wanting to camp at Ferry Point Park, Higgs / Horseshoe Islands and Chaplin Bay, must still apply for an official Parks camping permit. This also ensures you get a designated spot.
Other popular camping areas include Admiralty House Park, Clearwater Beach, and Spanish Point Park — which alone attracts up to 70 tents during Cup Match.
Bermudians have a reputation for bringing everything but the kitchen sink to their campsites, and Mr Burt concurred that since joining the Parks Department in 1985 he has “seen everything”.
“One of the funniest experiences we had was down at Clearwater Beach,” he said.
“We saw a water truck heading to the beach and found a family there with a 12 foot diameter swimming pool, even though the beach was right there for them to swim in.
“We also had a group of guys show up once with a 60 inch flatscreen TV and DVD player in the back of a pick-up truck. They hooked it all up to the truck’s battery system to watch movies.
“I’ve seen it all now. Some people are good and bring all the proper camping equipment, such as barbeques and blow-up beds, but some people bring their real bed and even the kitchen table.”
In previous years, the Parks Department has recovered expensive equipment which campers have abandoned.
“People still leave things behind. We’ve ended up with expensive furniture, barbecues, tents and radios,” said Mr Burt.
“I guess they don’t want to take it back with them and they think, ‘I will just buy new items next year’.”
The popularity of camping sites is also dependent on which cricket club is hosting the game, whether east (St George’s Cricket Club) or west (Somerset Cricket Club).
This year it is Somerset and Mr Burt said campers will fill up Somerset Long Bay, Daniel’s Head, West Whale Bay, Chaplin Bay and Warwick Long Bay.
He added: “Some people are territorial and want their same spot year after year.
“Most people are okay but when a new person comes in who wants to camp, even though it’s a first come, first served policy, if someone else has been there for 10 years, we’ve ended up having to resolve disputes.”
He said: “People can camp anywhere in the parks, except for Blue Hole Park/ Nature Reserve, Coney Island and Coopers Island Nature Reserve.
“There’s also a dune area behind Jobson’s Cove which is off-limits where we protect the plants, so discourage camping there.”
During Cup Match, most people move their camping equipment onto the site by Wednesday.
On that day the Parks Rangers will work until 10pm, to enable everyone to move in their food and equipment. They start locking the access gates from 9:30pm.
Mr Burt said it was important to remove your vehicle from the site and away from the gates, onto parking lots by 9:30pm, to avoid restricting access for maintenance crews and emergency vehicles.
“Everyone should be in place by Wednesday, when we lock all the gates,” he said.
This was also important from a safety perspective.
“When you have children running around playing, we’ve had some incidents in the past where they have suffered minor injuries after being hit by a vehicle, so there’s a safety message we like to push,” he said.
“The majority of people are cool but there are some people who can ruin it. We find fences damaged on a regular basis from people ripping them down to drive their vehicles in. So it can get frustrating.
“People have to realize that it’s taxpayers’ money which has to be used to replace these damaged items.”
Campers are given trash bags which are then collected by the Parks maintenance crews. They also need access through the gates to clean toilets.
Parks staff also work hard ahead of the holiday, trimming hedges and cutting the grass, on the Thursday, Friday and Monday before Cup Match.
Mr Burt said that when campers park their vehicles in front of the gates, people start getting “upset” that their trash is not collected.
It also means that emergency vehicles are unable to get through in the event of an incident.
“We stress to people, please don’t block the gates at Cup Match or any other holiday.”
Mr Burt said Parks staff have wheel clamps and also work with the police, so anyone restricting gate access can expect a parking ticket.
But on the whole, most campers enjoy a carefree, relaxing Cup Match, bonding with family, friends and fellow campers — regardless of which side they are on, Somerset or St George’s.
“It’s a total mix of people who go camping at Cup Match — it really brings people from across the island together,” said Mr Burt.
“They come to barbecue, have a drink, relax and listen to the cricket, and support their team.
“On the campsites you can also experience different foods from different cultures.”
He added that Parks staff usually don’t have to bring their lunch during Cup Match as campers will offer them food and hospitality.
Tourists visiting the island are also welcomed and made to feel at home, enabling them to experience firsthand the true nature of Bermudian hospitality.
Mr Burt said: “There have been families who have opened up their camping spaces to visitors, and this leads to them experiencing what Bermuda is all about.”
People can feel reassured that the Parks staff and lifeguards will look out for them and their personal safety.
Mr Burt said: “We prepare our workers with CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training and are always on the go, so if something happens we are ready.”
For more information on camping regulations contact the Park Ranger Officer at 236-5902 or 239-2355, or go to www.gov.bm. The Department of Parks is located in the Botanical Gardens, Paget. Contact 236-4201. The Department of Youth, Sport & Recreation also manages campsites, at Paget, White’s, Darrell’s and Ports Islands, and Messina House. Contact 297-7619 or 295-0855.
Cup Match Companion 2012