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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!

Sidmouth Folk Festival

Another regular event for us but the first with Tallulah is Sidmouth Folk Festival.

It runs for 8 days starting the last weekend of July and even without buying tickets for the festival itself, there is plenty to see and do in Sidmouth all week.

For the last few years we have stayed at Thorn Park Golf Centre in Salcombe Regis, which runs as a regular camp site for the duration (with the greens roped off) and itself hosts a Fringe Festival.

Thorn Park, while very basic, is also incredibly relaxed and very reasonably priced at just £10 per night (£13 with EHU although this is limited).

There is a shower block and a separate toilet block but these are used by the whole site so there are queues at peak times.

A bus service runs to and from Sidmouth hourly or there is a beautiful coastal work that takes 20-30 minutes going down and 30-40 coming back up.

Alternatively you can drive into Sidmouth in 5-10 minutes although you then have the issue of parking. In the past we have parked at Sidmouth Cricket Club who charge £10 for the day and are perfectly situated at the far end of the sea front.

Once in Sidmouth there are stalls all along the promenade selling jewellery, juggling items, arts & crafts, face painting and many other things as well as several music and performance acts drawing crowds.

Heading away from the beach there are several pubs with live performances and open mic sessions and regular comic and circus performances in front of the town hall.

All this before even thinking about the line-up for the actual festival which runs in several marques around the town and in other venues, for which tickets are required.

On the final day (night) there is a procession and fireworks and everything turns back to normal until the next year.

We have a great time every year at Sidmouth, not only because of everything that is going on, but because we also meet up with lots of friends from all over and camp together at Thorn Park.

Sidmouth Folk Festival is unusual in as much as you don’t have to spend a fortune on tickets to be part of it, and is definitely worth a visit by anyone who enjoys unusual music.

This year we saw a guy playing Drum ‘n’ Bass on a didgeridoo, worth a visit just for that!