When travel journalist Sophie Campbell squeezed into heels and a hat to investigate the English social season, she got more than she bargained for. Why, she wondered, were events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, The Derby at Epsom, Royal Ascot, the Henley Royal Regatta, Wimbledon Fortnight and Glorious Goodwood so formal, so fashionable and so famous? Her hectic and sometimes hilarious journey through the English summer proved as exotic as any tribal rite of passage as she swam the River Thames in the dark, partied with owners and trainers at Ascot, camped out for Wimbledon, joined Irish Travellers at The Derby, infiltrated the parents' stand at the Eton v Harrow cricket match and got caught using a mobile in the Stewards' Enclosure at Henley. En route she found a fascinating and surprisingly complex social structure dating back to the time of the Stuart monarchs and involving fashion, food, art and the marriage market. The English summer will never be the same again.
SOPHIE CAMPBELL writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph and is a qualified London Blue Badge Guide. She lives in London.
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