Camping This Year – Who Is Ready?

Holden Farm Camping

Finally, there is light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

The stellar vaccination programme is rolling out like a steam train. Infections are falling. Restrictions are gradually being lifted. We are seeing actual people!

Since April, we have been able to camp as long as we take our own washing facilities with us. But let’s face it, not everyone wants to pack a shower as well as everything else (we are in danger of needing an articulated lorry to carry our bumph as it is.)

The next dates for lifting of restrictions, however, come with the glorious news that we can officially go on “normal”, full-on camping trips this year. This means that yes, we can use the campsite’s washing facilities and toilets – hurrah!

So, when can we actually go? And what do we need to be aware of? Let us clarify a few points.

Forest clearing camping
Camping is opening up at Forest Glade Holiday Park.

When can we camp this year?

Camping this year across most of the UK can go ahead fully from the 17th May. You can check the proposed rule changes for each region here: England,  Wales, Scotland.

We are now allowed to cross borders so we can enjoy the full range this beautiful country has to offer.

In Northern Ireland, things are slightly different with the proposed date slightly later at 24th May

Opening from 17th May – Harry’s Meadow

What should we take?

As a precaution, I would take plenty of hand sanitiser, soap and masks. Otherwise, all your normal camping gear should be packed – sleeping equipment, tent, cooking gear, washing equipment, more clothes than you will ever need, kitchen sink, jacuzzi, etc (nope I’m not totally serious about all of those items, but I’m sure it won’t be long until we see some!) Depending on how you feel about sharing facilities with others, you might still want to pack those extras such as a toilet, showering and wash facilities. Have a look at World of Camping for some excellent cost-effective examples such as this portable toilet, solar shower, wash basin.

However, do remember that campsites are “on it” this year when it comes to sanitisation. They have upped their cleaning regimes, some have implemented time slots for guests and many have installed extra toilets and showers. The facilities at Upper Hurst Farm in Derbyshire for example are plush! With underfloor heating in the regularly cleaned toilet/shower block, as well as a generous wet room you will stay cosy as you wash.

Upper Hurst toilet and shower facilities
Scrupulously clean facilities at Upper Hurst Farm

Will there be changes at campsites?

Yes there will, but nothing too significant. You will now be used to the NHS QR code poster and of course, NHS Test and Trace. Well, it is now a legal requirement for campsites, caravan and holiday parks to display these and follow the procedures.

You may well find the welcome side-effect that you have a larger pitch or more space available as campsites reduce the amount of bookings they take at one time to help maintain distancing. Otherwise, expect to see a lot of signs explaining what you should do to help keep everyone at the campsite safe. Expect to see one-way systems for shared facilities to help maintaining social distancing between different households. Expect to see a LOT of hand sanitiser!

Are there any more changes coming?

The next provisional date for opening up further is 21st June. This does, of course, depend on the data surrounding Covid-19 continuing in the right direction. There are no guarantees that there won’t be any further outbreaks, so we simply have to “stay alert” and keep checking reports and regulations. There is certainly a feeling of optimism around the country, however, so let’s continue to hope that the worst part is behind us.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it is so important to support the UK’s tourist industry this year. It is certainly not the only sector to have been affected by events of the last year, but you can be sure that every single one of the businesses has suffered. All the owners want to do is get back to normality, welcoming visitors to their little piece of paradise whilst keeping them safe.

So do give camping a try this year. It is great for families, freedom for kids and you will be doing your bit to help this country to get back on its feet.

Why not have a look at these sites opening up on 17th May?

Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping, Somerset

Bankybarn Caravan and Camping, Derbyshire

Holden Farm Camping, Hampshire

Long Acres Camping, Surrey

Brynawelon Touring and Camping Park, Ceredigion, Wales

Ruberslaw Wild Woods Camping, Scotland

Getting Prepared for COVID-19 Secure Camping

Beech Croft Farm

We now know that camping officially starts in England from 4th July – woo hoo! As we went to press, sites in Scotland can open to those with their own self-contained accommodation (i.e. own shower/toilet) from 3rd July and shared facilities from 15th July. Sites in Wales may open on 11th July for those with self-contained accommodation only and are awaiting further guidance about those with shared facilities. Sites in Northern Ireland are already open.

Visit Britain Good to go logo
Visit Britain – Covid-19 Secure Camping

You might have seen this badge (“We’re Good To Go”) popping up on various websites, Facebook Pages, etc. This means that according to Visit Britain, the campsite has successfully shown that they have met Government and industry guidelines, are thus Covid-19 secure for camping and can safely accommodate their guests. You can be sure that this means a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to update sanitation facilities, mark out pitches, train staff, set out new signs and notices, draw up new rules, etc. So we say congratulations to the many sites on Gone Camping Co that have achieved this.

Covid-19 secure camping at Red Shoot Camping Park
Covid-19 secure camping at Red Shoot Camping Park

So, what will Covid-19 secure camping look like?

1. Booking

All bookings will need to be made in advance this year – there will not be the opportunity of “Oo, this looks nice, let’s try here!” as you drive by, so be organised and book in advance. This is for several reasons: to minimise contact, to allow for electronic payments, to ensure guests are fully aware of rules and conditions before arriving and most importantly for campsites to ensure the number of people on site are limited accordingly. This is actually a good thing as it will mean larger pitches and more space this season. As you might expect, prices may have to increase as sites will have less guests and a shorter season.

Covid-19 Secure camping at Beech Croft Farm
Socially distanced pitches at Beech Croft Farm in the Derbyshire Dales

Now, we are great advocates for camping with other family groups as it really can be great fun. However, this year, campsites will not be able to accept such bookings. Beech Croft Farm in Derbyshire has reiterated the government guidelines in their Covid-19 update in that they “cannot accept bookings for more than 2 units together if you are from different households.” This will be standard across the industry for the time being, so it is a case of more time with your family I’m afraid!

2. Checking in and out

All guests have a responsibility to stay away and isolate as per the government regulations if they develop symptoms of Covid-19 in the run up to their holiday. Disappointing though this would be, we all have a collective responsibility to guard against the spread of the disease as of course, the quicker it can be controlled, the quicker life can return to some sort of normality.

A warm welcome and safe conditions at Cotswolds Camping

Cotswold Camping, Oxfordshire are also keen to make sure everyone is safe and have installed a fever detection system to check temperatures thus ensuring all guests are protected from Covid-19.

Checking in and out will also be contactless and outdoors. Alex advises that at Stanley Villa Farm in Lancashire, whilst guests will be greeted on arrival, social distancing will be maintained, and the keys would be left in the door of the camping pod. Similarly, check out would be contactless and guests would be asked to simply leave their pod key in the door.

Covid-19 secure camping at Stanley Villa Farm
Camping Pods at Stanley Villa Farm

3. Distancing

Most campsites have limited pitches available to ensure they can maintain social distancing and rotate facilities as appropriate. Holden Farm in Hampshire, will ensure that only 10 families/households will be onsite at any one time in their wonderfully spacious camping field. This has the benefit of plenty of space to fly a kite, play a game of cricket or just enjoy the fresh air. They will also provide each pitch with a complimentary firepit – perfect for lazy summer evenings.

For Covid-19 secure camping, expect to see more signs than usual, indicating spaces for possible queues or a one-way system where there is likely to be a bottleneck. Signs will also provide reminders for hand washing, use of hand sanitisers and maintaining distances – you may well feel you’ve seen it all before, but as we all know, we have to continue to “stay alert.”

4. Sanitisation

You can expect cleaning of facilities to be more frequent and thorough this year. You may well be greeted by someone in full PPE as you approach the facilities and you may also need to be patient to allow them to complete the thorough deep cleans required.

Holden Farm have the excellent modern camping facilities on-site that you would expect: clean flushing loos, hot showers and good washing up facilities. The small numbers onsite will work to your advantage, thus avoiding the need for queues. Cleaning and maintenance have been increased further to the Covid-19 secure standard. They have also installed perspex dividers between wash basins so you feel safe when brushing your teeth. You will need to bring all of your own toiletries and expect to be given loo roll on arrival as it won’t be kept in cubicles. Furthermore, there are hand sanitisers dotted around the site so everyone can keep germ-free and safe.

Holden Farm
Plenty of space at Holden Farm!

Fallow Fields Camping, Kent are enforcing a 24 hour period between bookings of furnished bell tents, as scientific evidence suggests the virus does not remain on surfaces after 24 hours. They will carry out their customary deep clean between bookings as normal, and use disinfectant on all hard surfaces. Additionally, all furnished bell tents will have an anti-bacterial fogger used – this kills 99.99% of germs and stays active on surfaces for up to 30 days.

5. Sharing Facilities

There are some sites that have invested heavily into their showers and toilets to ensure minimal sharing. For example, Fallow Fields Camping have added additional mobile showers and toilets to the campsite to help with social distancing. They have also employed a local, professional cleaning company to carry out 2 deep cleans per day alongside regular wipe downs of touch-points throughout the day.

Stanley Villa Farm in Lancashire have also added more shower units but will work these on a time slot basis, with cleans between each use.

Some have even gone so far as to allocated specific areas for guests so there would be no sharing. At Longberry Farm in Kent, the reduced capacity on site this season means that guests will have their own allocated kitchen/dining area and washing facilities that will not be shared with other guests. The hot tub option will also be private – how very lovely!

Longberry Farm
Pristinely clean bell tents at Longberry Farm

You may well need to pack more items than you normally do. If the site you go to usually has tea towels, crockery, washing up brushes, etc. it is highly likely that they won’t be able to do so this year, so check with them beforehand and as Mr Grylls would say “be prepared!”

6. Activities on site

Some playparks might be open but you will need to supervise children more closely this year rather than let them go “feral” and insist they use the abundant hand sanitisers before and after use.

But generally, you may well have to become more self-sufficient in terms of entertainment this year. Wonderful additions to your stay such as the “Kids’ Retreat Tent” or “Kids’ Cinema” at Fallow Fields Camping,  simply cannot be available at this time. So pack the bikes, tennis set, kite, football, hula hoop, Connect 4, Uno, etc and prepare to use your imagination to keep all entertained…sort of like you have done for the whole of lockdown really (sorry!)

A beautiful evening at Fallow Fields Camping

At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, it is extremely important that we adhere to the campsites’ rules and accept the changes to our “normal” holiday. These really are “unprecedented times” (had to say it) and the whole situation does not just affect us personally, but everyone around the country. If we want camping to return to normal, then it is vitally important to support the industry this year so that there are still campsites in business next year.

The alternative does not bear thinking about!

Re-opening Campsites – A Possibility in 2020?

2019 at Chestnut Meadow

There is a buzz going around that July 4th might be the official start of camping with the long-awaited re-opening of campsites – I know, the excitement is too much! After weeks of lockdown and confinement to our own homes, many of us are champing at the bit to look at a different piece of scenery – somewhere other than the garden fence would be nice! But we are also sensible people and know that we cannot put ourselves or anyone else at risk by being reckless at this still early stage in the pandemic.

So, is camping safe? And how can re-opening campsites ensure safety of their guests?

Camping mealtime
Missing this!

Well, many camping, glamping and caravan sites have started to gear up for a 4th July re-opening and have thought long and hard about the measures necessary. Luckily camping, in all its guises, lends itself quite nicely to natural social distancing, but there are some issues such as shared bathroom and washing facilities, close proximity to other campers, etc. that need careful thought.

Many re-opening campsites will require advanced booking as they need to limit numbers and thus help with social distancing and sharing of facilities. There are some camping sites that have plenty of space for ease of distancing between tents such as the spacious fields of Willowbrook Farm. This ethical working farm in beautiful Oxfordshire have also installed extra hand sanitising points and are looking forward to showing off their farm in all its glory once more.

Sheep at Willowbrook Farm
The flock at Willowbrook Farm

There are some glamping sites that offer ease of social distancing by the fact that there are few accommodation options that are very much self-contained such as the 2 huge safari tents at Brocklands Farm in Hampshire. These are 100 metres apart and completely independent with fastidious cleaning taking place in between guests. In addition, they guarantee a refund on any bookings that cannot be taken as a direct results of government restrictions.

Tinkers Bells have an exclusive use family glamping site at Field Head Farm in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside. That means your family can have the whole site to yourselves! Well, that certainly solves any social distancing issues! And family size is not a problem as the three luxurious bell tents can cater for up to 12 people. In addition, you would have your own hot power showers, toilet and powder room; kitchen, bbq and firepit area; a huge hideaway tent for you to snuggle up and relax in and plenty of scenic outdoor space.

Several campsites have closed some or all of their facilities meaning that campers need to bring their own. There are plenty of cost-effective solutions on the market such as these from World of Camping: portable toilet and solar shower.

Whilst some campsites have closed their toilet and washing facilities, Harry’s Field in Hampshire have actually increased theirs to help maintain social distancing.

Tehidy Holiday Park in Cornwall has invested in an activated oxygen fogger for sanitizing their accommodation – this effective and natural product kills 99.99% of pathogens present in under 30 seconds!

Some holiday makers may well want to hold back from booking until there is more certainty as they don’t want to risk losing out financially. It is worth checking out with your preferred campsite what their policy is as the vast majority of sites are keen to look after customers.

Some sites such as Fakenham Fairways in Norfolk are allowing provisional bookings to help with flexibility and peace of mind in case of a change to government guidance following an increase in cases. Similarly, Hook Farm in Dorset is taking bookings arriving from the 4th July but will happily change your booking to another date within 12 months of your arrival date. Chestnut Meadow in East Sussex offer refunds for Covid-related issues and have developed a new tool in their website booking system so you can move your booking if necessary, giving you total flexibility.

2019 at Chestnut Meadow
2020 camping might look different to last year at Chestnut Meadow!

Other sites such as Holden Farm in Hampshire and Lanyon Holiday Park in Cornwall guarantee that whilst there is uncertainty, you can move your booking to another date in 2020 or 2021. Also, plenty of sites such as Ruberslaw Wild Wood Camping in the Scottish borders, are looking to the future and offering online bookings made for 2021 at 2020 prices – worth taking advantage of and helps to secure the businesses’ futures.

Camping at Ruberslaw

It is really important to support this industry in 2020. Many campsites including Forest Glade in Devon and Petruth Paddocks in Somerset have invested heavily over the winter season to improve facilities but have already missed half of their peak season and thus income will be massively down. Re-opening campsites need to put measures in place to ensure our safety that will inevitably incur more costs. This, along with a reduction on number of guests expected mean that the second half of the season will not put them close to recouping lost income. The vast majority of these lovely sites are family-run small businesses, not huge corporations and if we want to go camping in the years to come, we need to make sure there is an industry to come back to.

If in doubt, postpone, don’t cancel.