Wednesday 14 August 2013

Traditional Camping in The New Forest - Sandy Balls Chamberlin Field

Every summer, in mid-August, Sandy Balls Holiday Village in the New Forest  opens an extra special field for tent campers for two weeks only, including the August Bank Holiday. 

For true back-to-nature camping, The Chamberlin Field is just down the road from the main Holiday Village.  Located in delightful forest surroundings, the camping field is safe, family friendly, and has its own portable loos and hot showers. 

A portable van serves delicious breakfast, lunches and dinners daily, so you can forget about cooking, put your feet up and relax whilst on your camping holiday.

Campers have access to many of the Sandy Balls facilities including restaurant, shops and a variety of activities. 

The indoor and outdoor pools on the main site can be used for a small fee and   there is free entertainment daily for the children including Fire Jugglers, Clowns and Magicians.  Family entertainment is provided nightly, including live music, family quizzes and disco nights

Sandy Balls currently has availability in their camping field in August, including the Bank Holiday, but hurry, places are limited.

Use this link to check and book availability NOW


Saturday 8 June 2013

Camping at Ferry Meadows Caravan Club Site, Peterborough

Ferry Meadows Caravan Club Site
Having had to cancel our Easter camping trip due to extremely wet weather, we were really looking forward to getting away at May Day, and the weather did not disappoint, with fantastic sunshine all weekend.

Ferry Meadows  is a huge caravan site, by  Caravan Club standards - nearly 300 pitches, and is located extremely close to the East of England Showground, making it ideal if you wish to visit any events held there.

Due to the size of the site, there are two shower and loo blocks which are the usual Caravan Club standard, which are closed for cleaning at staggered times.  This is great when you look at your watch and realise you have just 5 minutes to go about your ablutions before the block closes for 1.5 hours.

The site attracts a lot of families, and also groups of families camping together, so that Bank Holiday weekend there was almost a carnival feel to the site, with folks sitting outside to enjoy the much-missed sunshine, barbequing, having a class of wine and socialising, and lots of children relishing the freedom of cycling or scooting around the site. 

The site was probably livelier and noisier than a normal weekend, however, to add to the festivities, "TruckFest" was on at the Showground over the May Day Bank Holiday.  Now I love lorries as much as the next person (!), but there is only so much hooting and hinking of truck horns a person can stand from 9 am to 11:30 pm every day.   

Be aware too that if you are sensitive to noise, or have kids who love ice cream, that there is an ice cream van, owned by the same business that does the fish and chip van (Friday and Saturday evening), which tours the site from 7:15 pm (when the chip van has finished frying) and plays an annoying little number dozens and dozens of times for an hour or so ......

There's stacks of stuff to do from the site - bikes are essential to get the most of the adjacent country park, which is also good for walking and accessible for wheelchairs.  There is the delightful Nene Valley Steam Railway  an easy walk away from the site - we were lucky and got pulled by "Thomas the Tank Engine" on one journey. 

Nene Valley Steam Railway - Thomas the Tank Engine

The pretty market town of  Stamford is about ten miles away, which is lovely to stroll round, with it's wide selection of independent shops.  And of course, the city of  Peterborough is only three miles away (and the end of the line for the Nene Valley Railway), with a wide choice of eateries, shops and bars.

Stamford, Lincolnshire
Would we visit Ferry Meadows again?  Absolutely -  it has been added to our "Favourites" list.  However, we would check very carefully what was on at the East of England Showground first!
All photographs copyright 2013

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Ferry Meadows Caravan Club Site, Peterborough

We'd heard many excellent reports about Ferry Meadows Caravan Club site from several of our friends, but had never been tempted.  Peterborough, nice as it is, just didn't appeal.  How wrong we were.

The Caravan Club seem to have the knack of placing Club Sites in places you probably wouldn't otherwise visit, which means you explore places not normally on your radar.  Ferry Meadows, for us,  is one such site.

To start with, it's a huge site - nearly three hundred pitches over two different sites, East and West. It is cut in two by the road into Ferry Meadows Country Park. Having driven round the West side, which is mainly hard standing, we eventually ended up in the East side, which is more meadow, less regimented and felt more spacious. 

I say eventually, because we sat ages at the barrier into the East side, wondering whether the wardens back at Reception a few hundred metres back, would spot us on CCTV, or whether we had to go back to Reception and ask for an access card.  After a few barked instructions to me from Mr AP, along the lines of "sort it please", the barrier went up, allowing Mr AP to drive smartly through, with me playing catch up behind on foot.  

Now we were there at May Day Bank holiday weekend, and for the first time in months, or maybe years, the sun was shining and it was warm and sunny the whole extended weekend. 

That meant the site was extremely busy for the whole weekend.  More about this in the next blog . . . . . .

Above photo: Ferry Meadows Caravan Club Site, East side view.  May 2013
Copyright AvailablePitch 2013

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Sofa brings the campsite indoors

How many of you are missing camping at this time of year?  Us too -  it's just a little cold for us at the moment.  However, you can now recreate that campsite ambience quite easily at home with this camping-inspired sofa bed from Austria designer Stephanie Hornig

My latest project Camp was — probably like every graduation project — very personal. In the last year I travelled a lot, and I missed the feeling of home when I arrived in these empty rooms. I began to compare the life of a modern nomad with camping; it’s the feeling of simplicity and independence when we’re outside in nature that inspired me. The pieces are reminiscent of the outdoor world and retain their functional character, but are frozen in their movement: a sleeping bag on legs, a torch in a power strip made of stone, and an umbrella stand with a large tabletop. Each of the three objects show a different aspect of camping and are collages of material, function, and form — the elements are translated directly to visualize their autonomy and lightness clearly".

Image courtsey of

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Staying in A Camping Pod - in which we experience podlife

Arriving at Eskdale Campsite to stay in a Camping Pod, we received an extremely warm welcome from owner Martyn and warden Lisa.  The M6 had not been kind and our driver was frazzled but huge cups of tea delivered with a smile made things right again. After a brief but comprehensive description of site facilities we were shown to our Pod, given a introduction (how to lock it, how to use the portable gas-fired heater etc) then left to settle in.  
A slight grumble is that you cannot park your car very close to the Pod, so several journeys were necessary to transfer our essentials down a narrow twisty path to the pod, repeated two days later when we left.  In the pouring rain.  Both times.

So what can you expect to find inside a camping pod?  Well, the inside of the pod is basic.  Cushioned waterproof flooring, a couple of hooks, and that's it.  No shelves and no frames for airbeds or sleeping mats.  This means everything is stored on the floor.  So you have to be incredibly organised.  During the day, we piled all the bedding on top of each other and had the chairs inside.  That was because it rained almost non-stop the whole time we were there.

Whilst hook-up is not provided, there are a couple of pods where it could be accessed for podders with babies or medical requirements.  We took a jump starter/booster to run a 12v lamp which provided good lighting and we also used it to charge our mobile phones.  The low wattage ceiling light only provides a ghostly glow, so torches or battery lanterns are a must.  You'll need a torch for night time ablution visits in any case.   

Martyn assured us that the pods were accessible for disabled users, however, we feel that some modifications would be needed (which Martyn would facilitate as necessary), as there is a 6 inch step up onto the decking and a high cill to get into the pod. It is about a minute's walk back to the shower block on a twisting gravel/bark path, which may be heavy going for a wheelchair.

We had no intentions of cooking, but this would be done under the overhang, not inside the Pod (for safety reasons).  Actually there is no need to cook if you don't want to. . . . .

. . . . because there is a fantastic Breakfast area in the Shop where you help yourself to croissants, hot toast and butter, muffins, cornflakes and hot drinks, all at extremely reasonable prices.
Talking about the Shop - this is a fantastic place - stocking all those essentials you've forgotten to bring, together with items you never knew you needed.
A short drive or a 5 minute walk away is The Brook House Inn which welcomes walkers and dogs and serves excellent food.  There is also free wifi, a lifesaver, as there is no signal at all, ever, on the campsite.

Because we had almost wall-to-wall heavy rain during our stay, sadly, we did not see as much of the area as we would have liked (yes, I know, wimps).  A couple of short walks was all we managed. Indeed, the beautiful fell views were shrouded in mist/low cloud most of the whole time we were there.  But as Martyn said (more than once) - "that's the Lake District for you"!

We got the distinct impression that nothing was too much trouble for Martyn and his staff and you only had to ask if you needed any help - for example, we could not find an electric socket anywhere, however Martyn was happy to let us use one in the staff area if necessary.

So a huge thanks to Martyn and Sarah at Eskdale for inviting us to stay - it was certainly a memorable experience, and one we would not have missed for the world.  I do have to say, hand on heart, that, for now, we won't be swapping motorhome-life for pod-life any time soon.  We are, however, extremely pleased that we gave it a go.   

Above images : All copyright, August 2012

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Wednesday 19 September 2012

In which we start to discover what Pod Life is really like

Well, we wanted to know what it was like to stay in a Camping Pod. And we certainly discovered this at Eskdale Campsite in June 2012.  We were prised out of our motorhome and introduced to the wonderful world of Podding as guests of Martyn and Sarah Merckel, franchisees of Eskdale Camping and Caravan Club Site. 

There are three ways to end up in a Camping Pod:

1.  As a complete newby, with no expectations
2.  Graduating from a tent
3.  Downsizing from a caravan or motorhome (like us)

Of these, No. 3 is probably the most interesting.  Pod Life is back-to-basics camping.  As Martyn puts it "just think of a pod as a wooden tent".  And that is exactly what it is. A wooden tent. 

So, just as if you were in a tent, water is obtained from the tap a minute's walk away.  Light comes from torches or lanterns (unless you take a starter/charger like we did and plug a 12v lamp in) and heat, if needed, comes from a portable gas fire loaned free of charge (with 2 full gas cannisters).  You need to take a gas hob to cook on (or at the very least, boil a kettle in a morning).  And needing the loo in the middle of the night means a minute's walk to the toilet block in your jim jams, fleece and shell.

The Eskdale Pods are "Generation One"  Roughly translated, that means they are basic.  Extremely cute and loveable, make you go "ahhh" when you first see them, but basic.  A charismatic, cosy and curved wooden structure, well insulated, with padded matting on the floor, small lockable double "French doors", a small window at the back for ventilation, and an overhang under which to cook and watch Podders and other wildlife, and that's it.

You need to take airbeds/camping mats, sleeping bags, cutlery and crockery, a kettle, torches, water carrier, washing up bowl, chairs, table and perhaps a barbeque.  This is approximately half of what we took: 

... and yes, dogs are allowed in the Eskdale Pods.

In the next blog, we describe living in a Pod, in a wooden Pod, in the best (actually worst) of the British weather. . . . . .

Above images copyright July 2012

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Wednesday 22 August 2012

Important message about our photos on Blogger

We've been using Blogger since 2007, posted over 140 posts and uploaded hundreds of photos. It now seems all those images have somehow been lost or deleted by Blogger and replaced by a black square with an exclamation mark in the middle.

It appears, at the moment, that our only option is to painstakingly re-upload all the photos again.   One by one.  Individually.  Luckily we have them all saved on our server. 

So until and unless someone can tell us how we restore our photos, all we can do is work through each blog posting and re-upload the photos.  This will take time, lots and lots of time, time we can't really spare, so please bear with us and meanwhile if ANYONE can help with restoring our photos, please do get in touch.  We've contacted Google but . . . . .