I went, as some of you may know, on a bit of a road trip around England, which for me entails getting a ferry from Belfast to Liverpool. We went for 2 and a half weeks and went to three destinations. The first was a little place near the town on Frome in Somerset. It is a campsite behind a pub called the Bell in the village of Buckland Dinham, run by a couple called Jeremy and Lucy.
Now the Buckland Bell is a very basic site. Before I went I was able to read very helpful reviews which did reveal that there are chickens roaming freely on site, and that indeed the only toilet facilities are in the pub, which aren't open at night. There is one portaloo on the campsite itself. What I didn't know was that there are approx. 5 cockerels among the 30 chickens or so, who start competing for the noisiest crowing at exactly 4am. I know this because it was a bit stormy, and on night one I was on extension watch. You know how Vango say that if the wind is up a bit it's probably quite sensible not to put the extension/canopy up, well I ignored that and subseqently sat up most of the night popping the elasticated bit back on every time it blew off. (I removed the extension the next day). Anyway I discovered the church bell went off on the hour every hour. So when the bell rang four times, the cockerels started. Over the coming week they would sidle up to my side of the tent, effectively splitting my ears as there's not much protection from a 2000HH bit of fabric!
Night 2 I got nudged in the arm by unseen forces. The Propietor, Jeremy, lives in the corner of the field in a caravan because he's scared of the ghosts in the pub. So he was slightly worried when I informed him that I'd been nudged in the arm, twice, by a ghost and I could for certain rule out my kids playing a prank. Through the week a couple of other ghostly incidences happened. My kids saw what looked like a human form made up of white mist run across the garden of the pub. And there was a whole evening of unexplained doorbell rings in the pub itself, even though there was never anyone there. Then my son felt and heard a breath across his face. Now having watched a few episodes of Most Haunted I can catagorically say that these 'astral beings' were not out to get us and so we were not freaked out as we felt that if anything had malicious intent we would know about it!
|Feeding the Chooks|
There are no showers on this site, well, that is not strictly true. There's a pipe with a colander on the end which delivers freezing cold water in what Jeremy proudly calls his Bush Shower. When I got desperate enough to use it I hyperventilated for about 3 minutes. Then I went back to the tent and told my boys that actually it wasn't that bad. I was lying.
One of the most brilliant things about this site is that Jeremy provide beer barrels and upside down bin lids to light a fire with. I went to the nearest DIY and got a weber grill for £5.99 for a barbecue and the campfire really made our stay at this site special. We used this site as a base for sightseeing. We went to Longleat on four different days, then Glastonbury Abbey, the Clarks Village Outlet mall, and Wells Cathedral. I'm putting in a pic of Wells Cathedral because it is breathtaking and the town is such a gorgeous place. We also went to Bath, and got totally fleeced. I swear, Bath is a more expensive city to see than London. I know that because we went there too. We saw the Roman Baths (well you have to, don't you) and the Crescent and the Circus...very cool. I've seen so many documentaries about them and the masonic connection.
|The 'Bush' Shower|
|The Roman Baths|
London was sticky and hot, phew! It wasn't any better at night. I had the wits scared out of me by an urban fox who clanged about the garden, before eventually scrabbling over the wall. I only read afterwards how three girls were attacked by a fox while garden camping.
The highlight, undoubtedly for my kids at least, was a day at Chessington World of Adventures. I even went on a few rides myself, although there were one or two I point blank refused. I have an inbuilt survival gene.
After 5 days or so I phoned Pillaton Pools Campsite on the off chance they would have some room for us. We wanted to go somewhere within driving distance to the ferry in Liverpool and Pillaton was a one and a half hour drive from the Ferry. I've heard so much about the site through UKCS and seen a few photos too and so it was a real treat to get in. We braved the M6 which wasn't as bad as feared and it was only a three and a half hour drive from Epsom, South of London.
|Chessington World of Adventures|
The pitch we got was No. 175, just right beside the Chase pool. Four large steps took you to the waters edge. It was absolutely idyllic, although the ground was the hardest I've ever come across to put a peg into. I had only 8 rock pegs. Most of my pegs are a variety of pin pegs. I have some plastic pegs too which are usually great but no use to me on this site. I had to use a claw hammer to insert a rock peg in every point and every guy, then use the back of the claw hammer to pull it out again, and carefully, without losing the hole - insert an ordinary peg. I then poured a little water down each peg to swell the soil around the peg to make it hold fast. I also used all of the rock pegs on strategic points. The whole process meant it took about an hour to pitch my Icarus, which is usually up in 10 minutes. We even had a bit of an audience, which I hate because I had become a bit ratty at that stage. Pitching in this ground was a real endurance, and when I removed the pegs (with great difficulty) I found even some of my rock pegs were bent which says alot in itself. We were staying four days and made the most of the Farmers market in Penkridge which is on on Wednesdays and Saturdays. There was also an excellent meal to be had in The Star, a little pub in Penkridge, but again the highlight was going to Drayton Manor theme park, we even saw an actress from Eastenders there! I don't know which one but she was always miserable and also I think married to Phil Mitchell. I suspect that doen't narrow it down much.
Apart from how difficult it is to peg a tent down in Pillaton, I'd say it's one of the best sites I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot. It's well appointed for amenities and I like the rectangles which ensure the tents are 10m apart (for fire reasons according to the propietor). They were created using one of those machines that makes white lines on a football field, with a bit of Roundup mixed in with the paint to burn the grass into lines. I've never come across the technique before, but if a site wants to have designated pitches it strikes me this is the way to do it.
|View from the tent over Chase Pool at Pillaton Hall campsite|