Monday, 28 July 2008

Looking for a Last Minute Camping Pitch?

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Image: Seal Shore Campsite, Arran. Copyright 2008


Thursday, 24 July 2008

Brand New Park - Newnes Touring Park, Ellesmere, Shropshire

Just up the road from both Emral Gardens and Plassey Leisure Park is Newnes Touring Park, a brand new adult only touring caravan park owned and run by Robin Bebb. There’s something of a family thing going on in this part of the world, because Newnes is owned by another member of the Brookshaw Family (albeit by marriage) - see earlier blogs.

We didn’t stay on Newnes, but Robin had invited us to stick our nose in whilst we were in the area, have a look round and hear the story of how the site came to be. Situated in the tiny hamlet of Newnes, where Robin and his ancestors have farmed for generations, The Newnes is a medieval name for "the new ones" which comes from the old English "neow-ones" and is said to relate to new people being put in the property formerly occupied by Welsh rebels.

This is one of those increasingly rare new privately owned sites and it occupies an enviable elevated position above the town of Ellesmere, Shropshire, with far-reaching views over the Shropshire countryside toward Wales. Robin has worked very hard, and jumped over many hurdles to get his site up and running and it was great to see it fully booked.

The pitches are laid out around the edge of a large camping area, backing onto mature hedgerows and trees, and despite being open, is south facing, which means loads of sun and shelter from the prevailing wind. There’s a huge amount of space in the middle so there’s no chance of your view being spoiled by someone pitching in front of you.

Hook-ups are provided for each of the 10 pitches which are to the highest safety standards, and plans are in hand for a shower, toilet block, washing up and information area to be built this season, which will make this site just perfect.

The attractive town of Ellesmere is within 10 minutes walk from the site and Wikipedia has this to say about the town: "Ellesmere lies on a spur of the Llangollen Canal, which eventually terminates in Froncysyllte, Wales. It was originally known as the Ellesmere Canal. Thomas Telford was overall director of its construction. Work lasted from 1793 to 1805 with the aim of reaching Ellesmere Port, but never got that far due to costs. During its construction, Telford lived in a house next to the canal in Ellesmere, which still stands today".

Just as we were leaving, Robin let us into a secret – a cottage nearby is allegedly the former home of Dick Whittington who lived there before he and his cat donned their backpacks and headed south for the streets paved with gold in London. So now you know!

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Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Emral Gardens - a Little Jewel of a Site

Emral Gardens Touring Park, Bangor-on-Dee, near Wrexham, is beautifully set in the grounds of a former stately home, Emral Hall which was sadly destroyed in the 1930's when the running costs became prohibitive in the post-war years.

This is our sort of site - set deep in the heart of the country. Classified as a "hideaway" site, the 3 minute drive down the single track access road (with passing places) assures you that this is going to be a peaceful place.

Until last year, Emral was a Certificated Site of just 5 pitches. Then permission was granted for a further 15 pitches, making it a 20 pitch site for the 2008 season.

A mixture of seasonal, deluxe and grass pitches for caravans, motorhomes and tents are on offer, most with hook-up and some backing on to an ornamental pond which was originally part of the moat around the Hall. Near the entrance to the site is a delightfully rustic toilet and shower kept scrupulously clean by owner Julie Broad, who is often pottering about the site doing odd jobs and chatting to guests. Nearby is a large log cabin housing reception, information, games, a relaxing area and TV for campers (particularly people in tents), indoor washing up and fridge.

The site is located so far away from the road that the only noises are the birdsong and the occasional hum of the mower keeping the site neat and tidy. The extensive grounds, including a stream and woodland, are a delight to explore and a two mile cross-country walk heads towards Bangor-on-Dee, a delightful little town with shops, pubs, and many circular walks possible.

This is a site for rest and relaxation. Entertainment is provided by the resident peacock, penhen and pea chicks, and guinea fowl who strut their stuff, together with the birds in the runs near the site entrance.

To get the most from this site, a car is useful, however for the two nights we were in residence we were more than happy to soak up the sunshine, stroll round the grounds and take the occasional walk into Bangor-on-Dee.

Run by the same family that own Plassey Leisure Park just 5 miles away, campers can enjoy a choice of two Parks, totally different in character but equally excellent in their own special ways. What more could you ask?

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Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Plassey Leisure Park, Wrexham

It's easy to see why The Plassey Leisure Park keeps winning awards from the minute you arrive up the sweeping drive. Staying here is like being a special guest on a private country estate. The welcome is warm and slick. Once checked in, you follow a warden on a buggie, who guides you to your pitch and ensures you are safely settled in.

It all started over 40 years ago, when Mrs Brookshaw Senior spotted caravans heading past the family dairy farm on the way to Wales, and thought "I'll have a piece of that!" She stuck a sign at the entrance and started taking touring caravans on what was then just a farmer's field. Since then this 250 acre site has evolved into the 5 star luxury park of today, still family run by the Brookshaws. It includes a 9 hole golf course and driving range, a luxury heated indoor swimming pool, sauna, covered badminton, pool and table tennis (all free), children's playground, lots of open spaces for games, and many walks on the estate - perfect for visitors with dogs.

This isn't just a caravan park, however. At it's heart is an award-winning craft centre, museum and visitor's centre, a tearoom and a high quality restaurant, all of which have been carefully created from the former Victorian model dairy, seamlessly incorporating many original features into the design. This provides an unusual and attractive reason to visit Plassey Leisure, whether as a camper, caravanner or tourist.

Plassey is a Park for everyone of any age, from tots to seniors, and there is always something to do, whatever the weather. Open all year round, tourers have a choice of 120 touring pitches in different meadows (and there are a further 100 seasonal pitches). 12 staff lovingly look after visitors' needs, tend and patrol the Park and keep everywhere spotlessly neat and tidy.

The site was almost full when we visited, mainly with families, and the loudest noise we heard was birdsong. If you can tear yourself away from the site, there are many attractions in the area of both English and Welsh varieties, ranging from the dizzying heights of the Pontcyllyte Aquaduct (free to walk across for those with a head for it), NT properties of Erdigg House and Chirk Castle, the delightful town of Llangollen and slightly further afield, the cities of Chester and Shrewsbury.

John - a huge thank you both to yourself and your lovely staff for making us so welcome. We thoroughly enjoyed our brief stay on your Park - and congratulations on being voted Practical Caravan's Top Site for 2008!

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