No1 in this year’s editon of ‘Cool Camping’ and with very good reason. Campfires, check. Loads of fire pits and deliveries of wood . Ropeswings, check. Stream and ponds for the kids to splash around in, check. But Thistledown farm has even more to offer. Set in 70 acres of pasture and woodlands, the site was designed as an eco-education centre. As a result there are nicely made paths, woodland trails, friendly educational signs, loads and loads of space and an overall emphasis on eco friendliness. The main part of the campsite is in a valley of undulating pastureland, the grass is lush and green, the composting toliets and heated showers are in attractive wooden structures with lovely touches like sinks carved out of wood. The whole area is car free, campers must park their cars near the top of the valley and heave their gear down the hill in wheel barrows. The owners do offer lifts (for a fee) in their small all terrain vehicle if they are not too busy. The thought of this may be off putting to some, however, the tranquility of the camping area is a fair reward for the extra hassle.
A fabulous attraction is the stream, small lake and a few ropeswings dotted around the woods. In my experience these simple pleasures can proved hours of entertainment – the kids enjoy it too… This is a great spot for making and sailing some ‘Mini Rafts’.
An area called the ‘Elderflower Orchard’ is reserved for small campervans and those who choose not to lug their stuff down the hill. This area has portaloos and a standing tap and is a couple of degrees less idyllic than the carless camping area. However, even this is substancially better than many other campsites. The toilets are very well looked after and even the standing pipe, providing UV filtered water, has been thoughtfully designed with a proper soakaway to prevent the area under the tap from becoming a mud bath. Campers in this area have full access to all other areas of the site. And as an added bonus it is slightly cheaper.
Perhaps the best feature of Thistledown is the size and number of pitches. Pitches, based on fire pits, are very widely and randomly spaced, absolutely no straight lines or tripping over your neighbours guy ropes here. Unless you want to, as groups are permitted and can easily camp together.
The area is beautiful, leading directly from the farm is a deciduous woodland with lakes and streams, teeming with wild flowers and wildlife and an interesting manor house ( http://www.woodchestermansion.org.uk). Nearby can be found neolithic barrows, panaramic viewpoints and the foodie haven of Nailsworth. A little further afield lies the National Arboretum of Westonbirt and within an hours drive the Georgian World Heritage city of Bath. An area very much worth exploring.
In addition to the great lay out, facilities and area, the owners are friendly, helpful, non-intrusive and so obviously full of enthusiasm. It takes real passion to create and maintain a project like this and the ideas are still flowing.