The start of this new decade has certainly been a hard one for travel enthusiasts. While 2020 has forced us all to stop in our tracks and enjoy time at home with family and friends, it has also allowed us to press the reset button on our bodies and minds.
Us travel enthusiasts have had plenty of time to sit and reflect on the adventures we have been fortunate to experience whilst planning others we hope to someday be able to have. But if you are reading this blog you probably know that that has not been enough to curb that travel urge. Twelve months of not stepping one foot inside a plane has been more torturous than ever anticipated. So how can we get our fix whilst making sure we are keeping each other safe?
Sitting in our tiny third floor flat in London that is 100% not designed to be in full time we were grateful when the first lock down restrictions started to ease (and very unhappy when they returned). With no backyard or outdoor space for almost five months we were itching to be outside, full time.
Thankfully the beautiful 2020 summer turned up as restrictions were easing and we started to look for ideal staycations on our own soil. With Europe being just a stone’s throw away we have often overlooked the beauty that England has to offer and neglected the opportunity to travel to some of England’s most talked about destinations. Ensuring we spend the majority of our time outdoors we realized that we had never officially been on a camping holiday together.
We hired a car for 4 days, packed our two-man tent and our camping gear and off we went.
Camping grounds in ENGLAND
England has hundred of camping grounds and green spaces that can be enjoyed by families, couples or solo. Campsites are currently (in 2021) taking about half of the usual amount of guests due to COVID social distancing rules. Due to this, look at booking a few weeks in advance, especially if camping during peak season* as the campsites do fill up pretty quickly.
*Peak season = April-May and July-August, including bank holidays.
If choosing to camp with a tent there is generally the choice of electric grass pitch or non-electric grass pitch. Unsurprisingly the electric grass pitch is most sought after and is best booked in advance.
Amenities vary between each camping grounds. Some grounds come complete with a pool, sauna and onsite bar while others may offer only non-electric fields, next to a lake with horses. There is something out there for everyone and every experience.
What to pack
Do not let not having a car put you off camping. We comfortably carried all of the below to a car rental, so it is doable. We chose a non-electric pitch and the below is what we packed. You may wish to include a few other electrical items if you choose an electric pitch.
· Tent (inclusive with hammer and pegs)
· Sleeping bags
· Pillow (a blow up pillow saves space and is surprisingly comfortable)
· Blow up mattress and pump
· Portable light
· Cutlery, plates, cups/mugs and bowls and spatula
· Camping cooking pots/pan/kettle (you can purchase a kit from any camping shop for £20-25)
· Picnic blanket
· Portable gas stove + gas canister
· Flip flops (useful for showers)
· Sunscreen and bug spray
· Cooler bag
· Cleaning products; washing up liquid, sponges and towel
· Bin bags
· Personal cosmetics
· Personal clothing
· Portable chargers + cords
The stigma of camping
There can be an unfortunate stigma behind camping being an UN-luxurious holiday. What is sadly forgotten is the experience of what camping can give you.
Traveling to new countries teaches you many life lessons that you can not always get on your home soil. This is what makes traveling so addictive and fascinating. The different cultures, food, smells and language is never ending. Camping however teaches you different life lessons. It teaches you how to survive, to assemble your home, cook your own meals and to create a fire to keep yourself warm. It teaches you an appreciation for the outdoors, nature and how to work as a team.
There is nothing quite like sitting outside eating breakfast and drinking coffee watching a new day start.
Tips and Costs
· For the general amenities you can get a non-electric grass pitch for £15-22 during peak times and £10-18 during off peak times, per couple.
· The electric pitches tend to be a few £ extra per night compared to non-electric.
· The cost is generally the same whether you have a small or bigger tent.
· Having more than one car will generally include an extra fee per night on top of your pitch costs.
· If you have a two man tent, it is always worth asking campsites who are advertising as full as they may still have room for you - we got lucky with this.
· Dogs are generally welcome but some sites may charge you extra per night.
· If pitches allow you to have fires they will generally supply wood for a small fee and fire pits free to use.
Camp site recommendations
We spent two nights at Hurst View Camping. This campsite had two large open spaces, one for families and the other for larger groups. Despite the footfall, the showers were fabulous and very clean all the time. There was also a handy small shop on site in case you ran out of the essentials. Taps could also be found in the fields which were signed as drinking water and to top it off it was within the New Forest (South) and only a 15 minute drive to the nearest beach.
The second two nights we stayed at Giants Head Caravan & Camping Park. This campsite was much smaller but located quite high in the hills. The fog that came over the campsite at night was pretty spectacular and super eerie as it happened in seconds. The facilities at this site were once again amazing and the showers were better than a lot of hotels I have stayed at. The only issue with this property is the entrance is set on a main road and it can be a bit tricky to see from a distance. We found slowing down to approach the entrance quite dangerous as a lot of drivers traveling behind were not very forgiving to have to slow down for you. If you have a caravan or a big camper van, be cautious.
Our first campsite in the Cotswold did not let us down. Pelerine campsite was so quiet and peaceful that we decided to stay an extra night. We stayed here in September, not typically peak camping time, which is why we may have hit the jackpot. There is a small village called Newent 3 miles away which has supermarkets, takeaway shops and bars if you fancy.
Our second campsite, Greenacres campsite, was 30 minutes south was bigger but still personal. This campsite had a cafe, large bathroom facilities including hairdryers and a laundry, and the owners were very hospitable. It again was close to a small town, Coleford, for a quick bite to eat or to stock up on supplies. This campsite was set behind the owners house which made it feel highly secure.
The Yorkshire Dale's
Riverside campsite in Malham is set in the most beautiful location, probably one of the best we have been to so far. It consists of one small field partially divided by a small stream with bathrooms, showers*, washing up facilities and a designated car park (no parking on the grass). The owners are farmers and if you can get past their slight peculiar mannerisms you will no doubt have a nice time. We pitched our tent up next to the stream with cows and sheep as our neighbors for the night. It was nothing but peaceful.
The campsite is a short walk way from Malham Cove which is popular for it's limestone wall and unique limestone pavement on top (featured in Harry Potter). If you fancy a longer walk, a loop continues through to Gordale Scar and Janet's Foss which both feature a waterfall.
*Showers cost a pound; you can buy tokens on arrival.
How to search for campsites in england
Finding a hotel or hostel with all of the different websites and apps currently available is relatively easy, but what about campsites?
Here are some of our favorite websites and apps that make searching the perfect campsite easy.
> Pitchup - This site covers the UK, Europe and America. It is easy to follow with filter options to pinpoint your perfect campsite.
> Campsites.co.uk - This site allows you to pick your region you wish to travel to and whether you want tent only campsites, caravan parks or glamping sites.
> Airbnb - You can go for 'wild camping' by finding people who are happy to allow you to pitch your tent on in their backyards. Under the filter options you can find campsites under the heading 'unique stays'.
Share with us your camping experiences or leave your favorite campsites in England below. We would love to check out your recommendations.