Friday, 27 February 2009

Tour 2008 - Berkshire to Chichester - Chichester Camping and Caravanning Club Site

Moving from Berkshire to Hampshire, our next destination was Chichester Camping and Caravanning Club site. Now first of all, this site isn’t at Chichester (don’t you hate it when campsites do that?) It’s actually located at Southbourne, about 5 miles from Chichester. Another former orchard (are you detecting a theme here?) first impressions are of a fairly small, rectangular site, with closely pitched units (but within the rules), on a mix of grass, hardstand and grass pitches on mesh. In early September, all 58 pitches were fully booked, in fact, we’d been monitoring the availability online (showing fully booked), and rang up to check for any last minute cancellations. We were in luck, they’d just that minute had someone cancel. The site is directly off the A249, therefore providing easy access, and it is only 15 minutes flat walk to the coast.

Due to the excellent public transport links, this is a popular site with seniors. Getting into Chichester is dead easy as the bus stops right outside the site, and the railway station is just 500 yards flat walk away. This also make the site is ideal for motorhomers who wish to explore the area whilst leaving their unit parked up on site.

The Camping and Caravanning Club generally allocate your pitch on arrival, rather than you having to drive round several times looking for the very best pitch. We were personally shown to our pitch by a very friendly Assistant Warden “We ARE the Friendly Club, you know!” and after being assisted to pitch up (skillfully avoiding parking under a fruit tree so we didn’t have apples thudding down on the roof in the middle of the night), we followed his instructions and walked down the road, past some orchards, round the edge of some fields and then picked up the coastal footpath.

Starving by now, we happily chanced upon “The Boaters” bar and café tucked away in the middle of Thorney Island Marina – what a marvellous find. We were very very late for lunch but they were more than happy to do us freshly cooked tuna jacket potatoes with fresh salad, and it was absolutely delicious.

Exploring Chichester the next day was on the agenda. The double decker No. 700 bus runs twice an hour and takes about 20 mins into Chichester. This is an incredibly popular bus and off peak (well - we were on holiday) was crammed full of Seniors chattering away loudly to each other and enjoying using their free bus passes to the full.

Chichester is a medievel and Roman walled city and an ideal starting point is a pleasant walk on the walls to orientate yourself before exploring the city further. It’s worth spending £1.50 on the Wall Walk Guide from the Tourist Information Centre because this points out all the areas and buildings of interest whilst giving the history of Chichester as you are doing your walk. Strangely, there are parts of the wall where dogs are not allowed, but as our dog can’t read, she didn’t notice. The city is a mix of both the usual chains and unusual independent shops and a good day can be spent happily browsing.

Back at Southbourne, and this is very much Pick Your Own country, indeed, just outside the campsite is a PYO which sells seasonal fruit. Within walking distance is a Farm Shop, where fresh local seasonal produce can be purchased, making cooking meals a doddle. To make life even more comfortable, there are two pubs within walking distance. The Travellor’s Joy is just down from the site, but only searves food in the evening, whereas The Beefeater at Botham is about a mile flat walk along the road and does food all day and evenings.

We could happily have spent a week on this site, however, after a couple of nights, we needed to move on to our next destination - Brighton……..


Friday, 13 February 2009

Tour 2008 - Oxfordshire to Berkshire - Amerden Caravan Park

Next stop heading south was Amerden Caravan Park, which takes its name from the hamlet of Amerden, Berkshire. The site is tucked away in lovely Berkshire countryside, close to the M4, so some traffic noise is to be expected.

This is another most unusual campsite site. Today, so many campsites seem the same, and Amerden is a refreshing change. Originally a garden and orchard, converted into a campsite, it has a timeless traditional country feel to it. Reception is housed in a small log cabin packed with information, and the owner, Bev tells you where everything is.

There are 50 pitches for tents, motorhomes and caravans, many with hook-up, and because they are randomly dotted amongst the trees and hedges, it doesn’t seem that many. There are lots of fruit trees and mature shrubs, and several of the delightful pitches are private and fully screened (except from the front).

The toilet and shower block is fabulous – scrupulously clean, fresh, modern and heated. Picnic tables have been thoughtfully dotted around for campers' use and we spotted lots of fresh water points. There is also a kiddie’s playground. The washing up area is fabulous! The laundry and washing up area is even better than the Caravan Club’s facilities, with 3 sinks, with washing up liquid provided (how thoughtful is that?) one sink is just for washing clothes (basket provided), and drying options include a washing line and tumber drier. There is also a washing machine if hand washing is not an option.

Amerden is one of several sites listed on the Environment Agency’s “Go Camping on the River Thames” leaflet, and therefore is ideal for backpackers and cyclists wishing to follow the route of the Thames.

Right next to the site is a nice-looking B&B and campers can order breakfast in advance for a cost of £5.00 per person, For other meals, takeaways nearby include a Chinese, a Pizza place and an Indian, all of which deliver to the site (details can be found in the log cabin). Finally, if you get hungry in the middle of the night, there is a vending machine located near the washing-up area, selling crisps, drinks chocs and kids sweets – what a brilliant idea!

There are easy walks from the site along the River Thames towpath. One direction take you to Maidenhead, which takes about 40 mins whilst the other way, Eton and Windsor are about 4 miles away. We attempted to cycle to Eton on our second day. Three miles out, the male half of AvailablePitch sustained a rear puncture. Repair kit or spare inner tube? In the shed at home. We didn’t forget it, oh no, I was assured that we wouldn’t need it “never had a puncture yet”. Hah! Sod's Law in operation again.

Anyway, this is a lovely cycle ride, flat, narrow, through some pictureque wooded areas and past the fabulous expensive river-side properties, and for those that weren’t pushing their bike, was very enjoyable and highly recommended.

Image above: Pretty private pitch in the former orchard at Amerden Caravan Park. Copyright 2009

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