Wednesday 22 October 2008

New Caravan Club Site in Derbyshire

Major plumbing work was required at home, and the male half of AP wanted a clear run at creating total chaos and leaving an awful mess. "How about a girlie weekend away dearest"? So that's how three girlfriends came to try out the brand new Caravan Club site "The Firs" at Ambergate, Derbyshire, just a few miles from home.

Originally called Firs Farm, we stayed on this site the first year we had our motorhome, so it was interesting to see how it had changed. We've said before that we find Caravan Club sites rather "samey" and this site is no exception. It's definitely been "Caravan Clubbed". However, "samey" equals predictable, and there are rarely any nasty shocks with Caravan Club sites. You know what you are getting, which is large, flat pitches, resilient hook-ups, top-notch heated shower and toilet facilities which are always clean, laundry and dishwashing facilities and well-tended grounds, usually with a security access barrier. If you are really lucky you get friendly Wardens, and the ones at The Firs are some of the nicest we have met.

The Firs opened for business in August 2008 having been over two years in planning and construction, being delayed somewhat due to objections from residents, which resulted in the Reception Block being moved six imches, and the shower block being built in a different position. There are 82 pitches, and approx one quarter of these are hardstand. The site is open March to 10 November.

Pitching is in two separate areas - the main site, and a lower section, down a rather steep access road, but offering a peaceful alternative to the more-populated main site. The best pitches of all are on the front row of the main pitching area, in front of the toilet block, and two of these have truly fabulous views down the Derwent Valley, the others being obscured by trees. As we were leaving on Sunday lunchtime there was a queue waiting for caravans to vacate these pitches, so occupying one of these is much coveted. What is unusual about this site, is that the original shower and toilet block has been converted into multi-purpose building including a drying room, an Information Centre, with chairs and tables to peruse all the leaflets, menus, brochures and posters on display and toilets/washbasin for when the main block is closed.

To get the most out of this site, a car is required, however, with a good OS Map and strong pair of legs (the site is at the top of a long hill), there are walks from the site, which take in several pubs. Not having a car between the three motorhomes, we set out with dog and compass and explored the glorious Derbyshire countryside so close to home yet undiscovered to date. The traditional mill town of Belper is within easy cycling distance (or slightly longer walking distance), with a small factory outlet housed in an old mill building and a mixture of shops, Morrisons Supermarket, restaurants, a tea room and a delightful Farmer's Market held the second Saturday of the month.

The weather was glorious and tee shirts and three quarter trousers were the norm. Lunch was taken at The Excavator Pub at Buckland Hollow, a convenient stopping off place on our 8 mile walk, however, we had a very unfortunate food experience, which was not resolved by the staff, so our advice is, if you are thinking of eating at this pub - don't. A far better bet is The Spanker Inn
at Nether Heage, where the welcome was very warm and the menu looked excellent, although not sampled.

The highlight of the weekend was visiting Heage Windmill , the only six sail windmill in the UK, which was in full sail (but not grinding flour) the day we were there, complete with Miller and Wife in traditional costume. Within approx 20 - 30 minutes walking distance of the site, it costs just £3.00 for an individual tour round the windmill, (some concessions) which is run by volunteers, and it really is a little treasure. The Miller proudly looked after our little dog whilst we explored the mill and heard the long history of this fascinating and unique structure.

The windmill relies on donations and income from entry fees, so if you stay at The Firs, please try and support them with a visit. You won't be disappointed.

PS: More about Heage Windmill in the next blog.

Image above: The Firs Caravan Club Park, Ambergate, Derbyshire

Copyright 2008

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