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Woolsbridge Manor Farm Caravan Park, Winborne

We had planned an ‘activity weekend’ for the end of the school summer holiday as it was our son’s 7th birthday and he loves outdoor activities, so were heading to the western edge of the New Forest with a shortlist of 3 campsites to visit and fun plans for both Saturday and Sunday mornings.

We left Reading around lunchtime on the Friday and headed South-West at a very leisurely pace, stopping for lunch in the near Lyndhurst and arrived at the first campsite around 3pm.

Woolsbridge Manor Farm Caravan Park was our first choice being closest to Moors Valley Country Park where we had booked a Junior Go-Ape adventure the following morning, and just 20-30 mins from Mudeford Quay where we would need to be early Sunday morning.

Young’un up a tree!

It was the last weekend of the school summer holiday so would likely be busy, which is why we had some backup sites to visit if needed, but thankfully they could squeeze us in and we were very happy they could.

Woolsbridge Manor Farm is a well maintained, fairly structured site with a well equipped shower/toilet block, small site shop, lots of water points and a decent children’s play area. Better still, there are several cycle tracks accessed from gates at the rear of the site that lead to Moors Valley Country Park were there is plenty to do and see, especially if you have young’uns with you.

They also have a mobile fish and chip van that visits on a Friday which made an easy job of our evening meal. We sorted Tallulah out on her pitch and unhooked the bikes to explore, getting back in plenty of time for fish and chips and an early night ready for Saturdays activities.

We were up early on Saturday and after a hearty breakfast we headed off on our bikes once again, this time with a packed lunch and lots of snack and drink provisions for a busy day. After a long ride around the tracks at Moors Valley, we stopped for a well earned lunch before locking up our bikes and pulling on some tree climbing kit for the Junior Go-Ape adventure.

There are plenty of Go-Ape sites around the UK, but only a few with a Junior Go-Ape course that allows children as young as 6 to participate (you need to be at least 10 to enjoy a ‘regular’ Go-Ape adventure) and Moors Valley Go-Ape is one of these.

Moors Valley Railway

After an hour or two of monkeying about in the trees, we were back on our bikes exploring more of Moors Valley along one of several cycle routes and found ourselves at the Moors Valley Railway – Britain’s longest narrow gauge railway – and went for a ride.

That was more than enough exercise and excitement for one day so we took a more leisurely ride back to the campsite, fired up the BBQ and settled down with an ice-cold drink.

The next morning we were up early, packed and ready to leave by 9am on the short trip to Mudeford Quay to take part in our next adventure, a 3 hour kayaking tour of the bay and Christchurch harbour booked with Shoresports.

We arrived in plenty of time to put the kettle on and tuck into bacon and egg sandwiches prepared the night before, then squeezed into some wetsuits – part of the Shoresports package – and listened to the safety briefing before setting off across the bay in kayaks.

Image courtesy of Shoresports

It took a little less than an hour to cross the bay and join the deeper channel heading into Christchurch harbour, but the deeper water and outgoing tide made the next part much harder so it took another hour to get to the mouth of the river Avon.

A quick loop around a section of the river, including a tricky crossing of the current where the river splits, led us into a much easier return journey and we were back on Mudeford Quay a little over 3 hours after we left, exhausted but also very pleased with our exploits and ready for a BIG lunch and the journey back to Reading.

We had a great, fun packed weekend, especially our young’un and it only took a few days for our soar arms to recover. We’ll definitely be doing it again!

Wyke Down Touring Caravan & Camping Park

A 40 minute drive south west from Reading would take us to the outskirts of Andover and Wyke Down Touring Caravan and Camping Park. Sorted.

We left at 2pm Friday following what is now our favourite route, the A4 out of Reading, the A340 through Aldermaston then smaller A roads through Kingsclere and Whitchurch.

A great drive through some amazing countryside with fabulous views and 40 short minutes later we arrived at Wyke Down.

As well as the touring and camping site, Wyke Down is also a working farm with cows, chickens and ducks, a fair sized pub and a well regarded restaurant – book early to avoid a long wait.

The site itself is well laid out, reasonably flat and has good, clean, well maintained facilities that include everything you would expect plus a good (although small) children’s play area and an outdoor swimming pool.

Oli’s bike was the first thing unloaded so while he went exploring, Tallulah was levelled, plugged in and attached to her awning. It was a gloriously sunny day so after all the hard work we relaxed with an ice cold cider – so glad Tallulah has a fridge!

We had booked ourselves a table in the pub when it opened at 6pm and enjoyed a very nice meal, then relaxed with more cider – this time from the bar – while Oli made new friends in the children’s play area.

The site was almost fully booked so it was noisy until quite late, not helped by the owners deciding to empty the bins after 9pm and wheeling them along the road, the grass would have been much quieter choice. Not the best with a 5 year old who is trying to get to sleep, but he eventually fell silent so after a few games of cards and a read of a good book we turned in ourselves.

After our usual bacon and egg breakfast we went for a wander to check out the swimming pool. Still a bit chilly for anything more than a paddle, but we would come back later when the sun had warmed everything up and have a proper swim.

We have friends who live nearby in Whitchurch so they came to meet us late morning for a catch-up and kick about with a football, then we had a late lunch in the pub and went for longer walk.

The weather changed in the afternoon, becoming increasingly windy and cloudy, the weather forecasts were changing every few minutes and not looking good, so we decided to make a head start on the packing up. It’s easier to pack a dry awning than a wet one even when windy and it would help us get away earlier in the morning.

We ate nice meal in Tallulah while watching others struggle to pack up their tents in the increasingly stormy conditions, played a few games and settled in for an early night.

Our first thunder storm! Lots of lightning, plenty of very strong winds, a bit of thunder yet no rain. Not that it mattered, we were snug an warm in Tallulah.

Coffee, light breakfast and finish the packing and we were on our way at 8.30 in the morning, heading back to Reading to unload, freshen up and head out again to the VW Rally at Stoner near Henley.

A great campsite only 40 minutes away with good facilities, definitely a place to go back to.

Cheddar Mendip Heights

Our first trip with friends – the three of us in our Vdub camper and the four of them in a 6 man tent – was planned at Mendip Heights, a Caravan and Camping Club site in the middle of the amazing Somerset countryside near Cheddar.

As normal we took the scenic route, following the A4 west out of Reading then across to the A303 via Aldermaston and on to Stone Henge. From there we took various A and B roads zig-zagging our way to our destination for around 11.30am.

The campsite was very easy to find and everyone was very helpful and friendly. The site has a combination of hard standing and grass pitches in 3 or 4 fields separated by low stone walls. Most of the pitches have a gentle slope, but there were plenty of bricks and pieces of wood to aid levelling and we were setup within the hour and ready to help our friends pitch their tent.

The kids went to explore the play area and the adults sat down for a catch up and glass of wine.

After some food we all went for a nice long walk – there are several recommended walks of varying distances, the site shop even sells a handy walking guide book.

The site shop was excellent, selling a wide range of essentials as well as local produce and a pre-ordering service for fresh bread and croissant for breakfast. The showers/toilets were equally as good, very clean and well maintained.

We were only staying for the one night so after settling the kids into their sleeping bags we finished another bottle and settled down for the night.

In the morning we enjoyed our fresh croissant immensely then did a leisurely pack-up ready to leave the site at noon and head back to Reading once again.

Cheddar Mendip Heights is an excellent site, great location, fantastic facilities and very reasonably priced. It’s a Caravan and Camping Club site, but non-members are welcome, and is very friendly and family oriented.

We will definitely visit again.

Newton Mill Holiday Park

Our next adventure was once again taking us west, but this time to Bath in Avon & Somerset, or should that be Avon, or Somerset or Bath & North-East Somerset, to visit friends and family.

We set off around 11am on Saturday and headed west for a gentle cruise along the A4 passing through the  several beautifully quaint market towns and villages, any or all of them worth a ‘leg-stretch’ pit stop – Marlborough, Beckhampton, Calne, Box and lots of others – and arrived in Bath around 1.30pm.

We pulled into the first of two sites we had planned to visit (Bath Marina & Campsite) for a quick look round to check facilities and prices and while it was certainly very well equipped we decided we would prefer a more rural setting for the night that was promised (via their website ) by Newton Mill Holiday Park just a few miles away.

Newton Mill also turned out to be the much less expensive option (£17 vs £27.50 at Bath Marina for 2 adults, a child of five, Tallulah the VW T2 and an awning) as well as being similarly equipped in terms of electric, water and toilets etc.

Within an hour or so everything was setup including our awning – although not a new awning it was only the 2nd time we had used it and the first time was a practise run in our garden! – so we went exploring. Newton Mill has lots of things to explore, great open spaces and woodland, a babbling brook, an excellent children’s play area (unfortunately not open when we visited due to some additional drainage work being done) and a pub!

After a quick kick around with a football and a nice meal with friends (all cooked in Tallulah although the pub was tempting…) it was time to test the showers and settle in for the night (it still gets pretty cold at night in March…) so with the awning all zipped up and our new heater plugged in we watched a DVD then had a wonderful nights sleep.

In the morning we woke to another beautifully sunny day, stretched, showered and went for another quick walk before cooking and eating breakfast and starting the ‘packup’. Everything went back into Tallulah in much the same way as it had come out the day before and after a short pause for a cuppa we were ready for the next leg of our journey into Bath for lunch.

The Hop Pole serves excellent food and happens to be opposite The Royal Victoria Park which has an amazing children’s play area so when we eventually persuaded our 5 year old that it was time to head home we loaded up and retraced our footsteps heading east back along the A4.

We saw the ‘white horse’ on the hillside east of Cherhill and stopped for a stretch at Silbury Hill, the tallest prehistoric human-made mound in Europe, and covered the 76 or so miles back to Reading in a little over 2 hours.

For anyone who might be counting that’s another 180 or so miles covered and a running total of 2 nights in our camper.