Another very early start this morning took me to Calshot beach, and thence to the Bramble Bank, a small sand bank in the middle of the Solent where the unlikeliest of rugby matches (next to last year’s event) was to take place between New Milton Rugby Club and Vectis Rugby Club from the Isle of Wight.
The Bramble Bank (or Brambles) is an arrowhead-shaped sandbar in the central Solent which is uncovered at low water spring tides.
A group of boys, parents, referees, organiser Laurence Doll and myself were collected from Calshot at 6am by two small hovercraft. Actually, one was small, enclosed and heated, and one was very small and open to the elements (mine, shown below).
As cold and damp as it was, a smoother ride on the Solent I have never experienced. We glided over to Cowes beach to collect the other team, then to the centre of the Solent, where we waited for the sand to slowly uncover. Then the boys jumped out, flags were dug in to mark the pitch, and the match was under way.
This is the second year that Tinstar has been along to record the event in pictures, and this year we also designed (at traditionally short notice) the banners which lined the ‘pitch’. Last year’s transport took the shape of Army landing craft, and we were all rescued by the RNLI when the tide came in quicker than expected.
Once again, before anyone could blink the bank started to flood, and everyone was bundled back into the hovercraft for the return journey. A cold, damp, surreal, thoroughly enjoyable experience once again.