Saturday, 31 January 2009

Tour 2008 - Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire -Swiss Farm International

Why Swiss Farm International we wondered? The answer is because the site attracts many overseas tourists - mainly from Holland and Germany.

What an absolutely delightful place Henley-on-Thames is, and how convenient is Swiss Farm? - just an easy pleasant 10 minute level stroll into the town. No Regatta whilst we were there, but we did go on a boat up the river and heard all about it from our delightful compere.

Swiss Farm International caters for a wide range of campers and caravanners including an area for Park Homes (in a separate part of the Park), static caravans, many seasonal pitches, and plenty of touring pitches which, in our opinion, are the nicest. They even have pitches to cater for the largest RV.

Whilst this is a large site with loads of facilities, it is also a designated quiet site, so you never feel overwhelmed. Radios are not allowed (hurray!) and no noise is allowed after 10 pm. Great stuff. The gorgeous outdoor swimming pool, complete with lots of sunbeds (not bagsied by the Germans!) looked inviting, however,as the summer weather was cold and wet whilst we were there, sadly we just had to look longingly from a distance. There is a huge field dedicated for tents, with its own shower/loo block, but tents can also use the grass pitches with hook-up if desired.

The best pitches? Numbers 1 - 15 on the very back row, overlooking fields with panoramic views of cows.

This an extremely well run and managed site, run by Joseph Borlase, and we wished we could stay longer, both to explore Henley-on-Thames and a little further afield, using either the buses which run from the town, or on the boats - trips or self-hire, so we will be back in the future. It was time for us to move on to our next destination...........

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Tour 2008 - Banbury, Oxfordshire - Twilite Leisure Park, Banbury

One the the most fascinating campsites we’ve visited is Twilite Leisure Park, near Banbury, Oxfordshire, owned and carefully run by Jim and Barbara Thomas.

The site has a fascinating history, which is told pictorally on a “storyboard” at the entrance to the site, and Jim is happy to talk about the hard work which has been put into converting this historic site into a truely thriving leisure park. This is a genuine family business, with three generations of the family living and working on the site.

In the 1940’s Jim’s parents were farmers, and bought the land and properties for £500, the centre of which was The Red Lion pub which they ran from 1940 until the mid-50’s, as well as continuing farming. After they died, the site fell derelict and remained so until 2000, when Jim commenced an ambitious programme of regeneration of both the site and the adjacent wharf on the Oxford Canal.

At the heart of this site is an unusual industrial heritage feature - two original brick kilns. Indeed, part of the site was originally a brick and pipe works, and the unusual bowl shape of the site is a direct result of the extraction of clay. This provides a well-sheltered and atmospheric campsite. There are 17 pitches to choose from, of which 12 are used at any one time. The pitching area is all hardstand, in a curved shape around a grassy central area which can be used for recreation activities. Tents are permitted to pitch in this area, however, as the soil is heavy clay, it can be quite damp in certain weather conditions. The site has a separate male and female WC at the moment, but there are plans to convert one of the brick kilns into a shower and loo block at some point in the future.

A lovely feature of thie site is it’s canalside location, with up to 5 narrowboats in residence at any one time, providing a friendly mixture of “outdoor folks" using the site together.

Banbury is approx an hour's flat and gentle walk along the canal, past fascinating bridges and many narrowboats, both moored and chugging along, until you arrive right in the heart of Banbury, with its history, canal heritage and shopping centre.

Located within very easy distance of the M40, this site is ideal for a weekend break or longer stay, and the hardstand pitches and electric hook-up make it perfect for out-of-season and all year round camping.

Image above: Twilite Leisure Park, Banbury, Oxfordshire. Copyright 2008


Monday, 5 January 2009

Motorhome Tour 2008 - Canals, Cities and Rivers

Our Scottish Island Hopping Tour last September was planned with meticulous attention to detail. It had to be, to fit in everything we wanted to see, and ensure we caught the right ferry on the right day to the right island.

This year we did something we've never done before - set off without a plan of what we were doing or where we were going. Eeck - that's what happens when you leave planning to the male half of AvailablePitch! "But we DO have a plan - we're doing the South East this year - Brighton, Kent, around there ............." Right, that's OK then.

As for many UK holidaymakers in 2008, the weather wasn't the best. And heading south seemed to make sense given the weather forecast. Mind you, not sure why we took any notice because they never seem to get it right. Prevailing weather was cloud, and whilst parts of the UK had floods, we avoided the worst of the bad weather, it was just soooo gloomy all the time.

Anyway, we ended up travelling down via Oxfordshire and Berkshire, passing through the South Downs, then West and East Sussex, round through Kent and back up north via Cambridgeshire. We stopped off as we wished, stayed as long or short as we wanted, using and the Camping and Caravanning Club's online availability to find a campsites with vacancies for the night(s) we wanted. And it actually worked very well! The next few blogs will cover our travels, where we stayed and what we did. Out first stop was at Twilite Leisure Park Banbury, Oxfordshire.............

Image Above: Twilite Leisure Park, Banbury, Oxfordshire. Copyright 2008