Campsite Review: Abbey Home Farm, near Cirencester

Where: Abbey Home Farm, nr Cirencester, Cotswolds.

How much: £3 each for adults, £2 for kids.  No other charges.

Campfires: In braziers only, bring your own or hire one for £5

Wood: sack of soft wood £4, sacks of ash £5. Kindling £1. Do not collect your own

Types of camping: Campervans, carlesss camping or camp with car

Facilities: Composting toilets, bush showers

The review: Continue reading

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Campsite review: Leeford Farm, Doone Valley, Exmoor.

Way down to the little river beach.

Way down to the little river beach.

Where: Leeford Farm, Exmoor

How much: £6 each for adults, £3 for children under 5

Campfires:  On the floor, no official fire pits,  just make a fire.

Wood: £4 for a ‘small’bag and £5 for a large bag of very nice Ash.  Very good value! No kindling sold.

Types of camping: Tents, campervans, motor homes, anything really. Electrical Hook up available but no hard standing.

Facilities: Unisex toilet and shower block.

The review: Continue reading

Campsite Review Updated – Beeches Farm, Chepstow, Forest of Dean.

 A slope. Every campsite should have one.

Where: Beeches Farm, Nr Chepstow, Forest of Dean

How much: £6 per adult, £4 per child, under 3’s free.  £2 per dog per visit!

Campfires:  In stone fire pits or very strurdy braziers, free.

Wood: Sold at reception

Types of camping: Tents, campervans, caravans, motorhomes.  Electric Hook up available.

Facilties: Toilet and shower block with indoor and outdoor washing up facilities.

The Review: Continue reading

Campsite Review: Eweleaze Farm, nr Weymouth, Dorset

IMG_5113

Where: Eweleaze Farm, Nr Weymouth, Dorset – ONLY OPEN in AUGUST

How much: It’s a bit complicated, you will need to check the website, but one weekend night for two adults and two young children cost us £38, it is cheaper on weekdays.

Campfires: Yes, anywhere you like (in accordance with safety regulations)

Wood: Yes, sold in the farmyard £5 per bag.

Types of Camping: Tents and small campervans only.  Bell tents can also be hired, set up and ready to go from Honeybells.

Facilities: Mostly composting toilets, a few flushable toilets, solar heated showers, very basic outdoor washing up areas, shop, bakery, wood fired pizzas, coffees etc.  Animals to pet, hay bale kids fun, puppies to walk, ponies to ride!

The Review:   Continue reading

Campsite Review: Wo-Wo (Wasbourne Manor) Campsite, Sussex

Camping with friends at Wo Wo.

Ok, lets get the negatives over with the toilets and showers in the central reception area are in portacabins and up quite steep steps.  A bit tatty and not very many of them.  There are also composting toilets and portaloos dotted around, usually in a reasonable state. It took us a little while to discover these different toilets as there where none in our field. But that aside, lets move on to the good stuff!  Continue reading

Campsite Review: Thistledown Farm, Gloucestershire

http://thistledown.org.uk/

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.

Carless camping area – spaaace!

No really, a LOT of space!

No really, a LOT of space!

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’.

The amusements...

The amusements…

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.

Fire pits and small trees, resided over by large wind turbine and again lots of space!

Thistledown Farm

Campfire fun!

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.

Thistledown Farm

Wild garlic in the beautiful woodland of Woodchester Park NT directly behind the campsite.

Beautiful old boathouse on the lake in Woodchester Park NT.

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.

If you love camping with a campfire have a look at these:

Portable Fire Braziers’.

Debden House, Borough of Newham, London

http://www.debdenhouse.com/Campsite/Campsite.html

What an unusual place. Yes, officially in London, but surrounded by Epping Forest, not an area I had visited before. Epping Forest is massive (as I discovered when I got lost in it, but that’s another story). The campsite itself is pretty huge with several different fields. We stayed in the ‘Campfire Field’ (surprise!). We were camping with a large group of friends and for this purpose Debden house was very good. The pitches are absolutely enourmous, we had about 4 tents, 2 campervans plus day tents and gazebos galore and they all fit in one pitch. Each pitch has a large fire pit and backs onto the open forest. So far, so good! The forest is an amazing place to explore, just keep your wits about you almost everyone seems to have a lost in the forest story there!

However, there are down sides. It was rumoured that there was free firewood at the gates of the field but in reality it was a scraggy great heap of left over builders rubbish. Very little of it suitable for burning and really ruined the look of the place. The site is run by the council and the staff were, pretty disorganised and at times unhelpful. You are close to metropolitan London and you can tell. The rubbish both on the site and in the forest was a sad sight to see, people left pitches in a poor state, there was glass and metal on our fire pit. The toilets are far from most of the fields so many people used the woods.

A real shame because it offers a brilliant facility for those poor coutryside starved Londoners and Epping Forest really is magnificent. Because of this and because of its astoundingly large pitches and fire pits it is a good place to meet up with a group of friends – just watch out for booking confusion, be ready to stand your ground.

Cloud Farm, Exmoor, South West England

http://www.cloudfarmcamping.com/index.htm

Cloud Farm is hardly a secret in this part of England. And at peak times it gets pretty busy but it still scores very highly for me. If you get there at a good time you can pitch next to the river (Badgworthy Water), which tumbles along merrily and, it has to be said, fairly noisily along the bottom of the valley. There is a fence presumably to stop small children falling in, but there are handy gaps at intervals so you can climb down, clamber over the rocks, and do all the other things that picturesque rivers require you to do.

Camping right next to Badgworthy Water.

Arriving mid-week the place is lovely and empty.

On the oppposite side of the river is Exmoor. Although you are in a valley the views are lovely, there is a cute footbridge over the river from the campsite or if you are brave a few places you can step across on stones with only slightly wet feet, depending on how high the river is! It is well worth exploring this area. In one direction along the river there are several deep pools, very peaceful and beautiful and in the other direction you will find the ford where the occasional car or tractor splashes through and the kids can have a great paddle, next to which is a rather a sweet gift shop and a cafe. All most satisfying.

Nearby is Lynton and Lynmouth, the stony beach of Porlock and if you venture through the Valley of The Rocks near Lynmouth you might stumble across Lee Cove, a gorgeous cove which reveals acres of gorgeous sand as the tide recedes. The guy who runs the campsite is a yachtsman so ask him about tide times!

Fantastic cove that reveals acres of sandy beach as the tide recedes.

Fires are allowed, indeed encouraged, you can’t book so try and get there early for a riverside pitch. The site does spread a long way along the river but the furthest parts are quite a hike from the toilets. There is a shop with some basics and a lovely cafe selling crean teas. Yum. All set amongst the gorgeous wildness of Exmoor. A definite favourite.

 

Since, this review written I have visited Cloud Farm again, please have a look at my thoughts second time around!  You may also be interested in this ‘Alternatives to Cloud Farm’.

Campsite Review: Priory Mill Farm, Brecon, South Wales

Where: Priory Mill Farm, Brecon, South Wales,

How Much: £7.50 per adult, £4.50 per child (2-11)

Campfires: Yes, only in braziers but you can borrow them free of charge.

Wood: £5 per bag of logs

Facilities:  Lovely toilet and shower block, a river and short walk to Brecon.

So much about this campsite is great. It has been well thought out, the facilities have been built with skill and charm, the Mill House is beautiful, they do not overcrowd the site and they do rent out fire pits. The site lies in a fairly narrow ribbon alongside a lovely tumbling river, just the right sort for kids to play around in, making dams etc.

On the down side, as you are down in a small valley it does feel a little enclosed, I was frustrated that I was in the Brecon Beacons with no mountains in sight. The road next to the site, although minor, is fairly busy during the day and being in a small valley the noise is a bit amplified. Where we were pitched was perhaps the worst spot.  The river is behind a big screen of trees and down a steep bank so I did not feel able to leave the kids (one of whom is only 3) to play in the river by themselves, as I couldn’t see them. Of course, no fault of the owners and I certainly am not suggesting they should cut the trees down but just an aspect that made it slightly less than perfect for me, however, it was a good patch of shallow river great for building dams etc and would be great for slightly older kids.

Unfortunately, I had been unable to book a fire pit, having been assured that one would be available.  When we turned up I was rather disappointed when it turned out there were none left. They did agree that we could use our fold up barbeque as a fire pit, and I was a happy camper once again. But I fear my experience was slightly tarnished in those important first moments of arrival. In addition,  having set up camp at the far end of the site on a rather scrubby bit of land as we were in a campervan, I was somewhat miffed to find a campervan parked right in the middle of the lush meadow the next day.

The Brecon Beacons is a fantastic national park and our explorations of it are far from over. Priory Mill has done a lot right but I think you need to pitch in the right spot to get the most from it and try to insist on reserving a fire pit!

Or you could buy yourself your own Portable Fire Pit!

UPDATE

I have since been in contact with the owner of Priory Mill and I told her about my experience.  She had the following to say:

‘Hello Hazel,

I’m really sorry that your experience with us was not so great.

I’m not sure when it was that you came to stay, but it really is very rare for us to run out of fire-pits.

We had a few fire-pits stolen from our site towards the end of last year (quite disheartening) which meant that a couple of times we ran out, but only over one or two weekends at the end of the summer holidays. Noel has since made some more to replace these.

We are still planning on sticking with our honesty system this year (and lending our fir-pits out) rather than a deposit system (too complicated) in the hope that people will honour this and not take them home!

We have done quite a bit more clearing on the river bank this winter so that the river is more accessible than it was…. and sunnier too.

We have an area at the far end of the field that we use for campervans as it has hard core under the grass. This means that we can have campervans park there without damaging the grass where the ground is much softer.

Occasionally we have had people taking their campervans onto the softer grass area….. (possibly misunderstanding our directions to the hard standing area?)….. it is then difficult for us to insist that they move once they’ve set up, but I can see that this could be annoying to witness as a camper who has followed our request!

We endeavour to keep both the site and the grass in as good a condition as is possible until the very end of the season (end of October), but a very wet summer can make this quite a challenge. Keeping vehicles off the grass helps to prevent a late summer mud bath !

Once again I’m really sorry that your stay with us was not more enjoyable and I hope that if you come again it will be a better experience.

Best wishes’