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.

Camping in Somerset? Petruth Paddocks is hard to beat!

Family camp at Petruth Paddocks

If you’re looking for great camping in Somerset, then look no further than the lovely campsite at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping right next to the Mendip Hills. We stayed there for 4 glorious nights last week along with another family and were struck by the friendly atmosphere, wide open spaces and sense of freedom for adults and children alike.

The owner, Jules, likes to take the approach of “free-range camping” so you are not restricted by a numbered pitch, but can choose where you would rather set up camp. There are two large fields to choose from, one of which is for those who wish to have a quieter camp. During our mid-week stay, despite being in the “non-quiet” field, there were no issues at night and our children (aged 2 and 5 year old) went to sleep peacefully and easily. Jules explained that during peak season at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping, the weekends can get much busier hence the two different fields. He added that he loved the atmosphere during the busier times as you might have some people playing guitars, campfire singing, children having great fun in big gangs. So it would depend on your needs when and where you wanted to stay – whether you prefer a livelier atmosphere or just want some peace and quiet.

Jules encourages children to roam, make friends and enjoy themselves outdoors without the pull towards electronic devices. During our time there, we saw groups of children clambering over the old landrover parked up in the field, much shouting, laughing and chasing as well as ball games and bike riding.

At night time, Jules pops around the campsite offering firepits for those that want a cosy camp feel. We advise you take him up on this as it definitely makes for a lovely atmosphere and it was a stunning site seeing the gentle glows around camp. After he had done his deliveries, Jules offered the kids a ride round on the quad with him which went down a storm! At the weekend, he also takes any kids that are interested across the field to meet his resident menagerie including pigs, ponies and chickens.

At Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping, there are all the facilities you need for a comfortable camp: plenty of toilets and hot showers, separate sinks for washing up, facilities for charging electronic devices, a fridge and a freezer as well as a small shop to top up on necessities. Jules clearly pays attention to detail as he provides a comprehensive booklet on arrival outlining all you need to know about the campsite and the surrounding area. He also insists on careful separation of rubbish into the various types of recycling which we found refreshing as we can’t bear the big skips of mixed rubbish at most camps all going to landfill.

Whilst we were camping in Somerset, we found lots to do. Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping is on the outskirts of the lovely village of Cheddar, home of Britain’s favourite cheese and the magnificent Cheddar Gorge. There were lots of lovely places to eat including cafes, restaurants as well as the obligatory ice cream parlours and the chance for climbing, abseiling and exploring the caves of the Gorge.

We ventured further to the child-friendly Wookey Hole to see inside the incredible caves which have to be seen to appreciate their dimensions, stalactites and stalagmites – our children were quite happy and there was none of the whinging and whining that can accompany trips out. It is also essential that our holidays involve dinosaurs in some way and Wookey Hole delivered by way of huge robotic models and an “archaeological dig.”

On the way to Wookey Hole, we took advantage of local produce enhance by the particular “micro-climate” of Somerset and sampled some simply divine strawberries courtesy of Cliff Besley’s strawberries. They were streets ahead of the watery supermarket versions and we are not ashamed to say we scoffed the lot whilst the children were asleep in the landy (well, you snooze, you lose!)

We also sampled cider from local producers and would encourage you to look out for the little businesses as you are out and about – buying local makes such a difference for real people rather than lining the pockets of huge earners of big organisations! And after all, you can’t go to Somerset without sampling the cider!

We were lucky with the weather as it was consistently scorchio for the time we were there. We noticed this when we went paddling/body boarding in the sea at Berrow and Brean… really warm water, actually thought we were in the Med! At Berrow beach, the #2minutebeachclean was in place. This is a step up from pick up 3 pieces of litter each time you go to the beach but really encourages the children to look after their environment and raise awareness of the problem of littering. Our own little miss bossy boots LOVED this and took control of both the litter picker (or crocodile as it became known) and the bag so it took a little bit longer than we anticipated! It also triggered a really sweet conversation with our 5 year old son about litter and he told me how it would affect his beloved sharks and the fish that they eat. This project is gathering apace and you can find out more about it and also what beaches are covered on their website: https://www.beachclean.net/

So, if you decide to go camping in Somerset during the summer hols or if this has made you think about next year, do check out the lovely site at Petruth Paddocks Free Range Camping – you won’t be disappointed!