The summer seems to have finally arrived here in Dorset and each weekend recently has seen the team heading out to do something outdoorsy. Last weekend Lucy, Lee and Charlie headed off to do some wakeboarding, and I headed out for my Birthday (say ah everyone). We went off for a little local camping to a campsite that continually gets rave reviews, both online, and in the guidebooks such as cool camping. It’s the campsite at Batcombe Vale, just outside Shepton Mallet. We pootled along on Thursday evening and the campsite already had a huge plus heading it’s way, the sun was shining, and was due to shine for the entire weekend. Whatever you say about a campsite, a bit of sunshine on it makes a huge amount of difference. The real test of a campsite is how it fares without the sunshine, and it’s here I think that Batcombe has a serious advantage.
We crested the entrance to the campsite and were faced with what has to be one of the best vistas in Somerset. You have a long, steep sloping road down in to the vale and campsite itself with views of both the site below, and out towards the hills opposite. The welcome was warm and genuine from Gary & Barbara who run the site, Garry setting off at a brisk pace, leading us up the winding road to the top of the campsite. The site itself is beautifully laid out, each pitch separated discretely with some tactful planting in most cases. It’s not the largest of campsites, so booking is pretty much essential on the weekends, but it also means that it’s quieter and more natural than a few others out there.
We had the top end of the site to share with just a few other canvas dwellers. Having preached about stealth camping recently, we were travelling light. The tent went up quickly, enabling us to bask in the late evening sunshine.
We had found out from Gary that he brewed his own Scrumpy, and so headed down to grab a bit. I love the West Country and it’s Cider. The home made scrumpy you get on the farms and campsites is a world away from the stuff you get in the supermarkets and in pubs though. Usually it is sold in 5 litre plastic Jerry Cans, that get strapped to the back of battered 4 x 4’s. The taste is also akin to rocket fuel with a percentage that would put some vodkas to shame. Garrys brew was a lot more mellow however, and tasted beautiful with a golden silky brown colour and texture, so we supped back and looked around at our home for the next couple of days.
The campsite was just as stunning as our initial view had led us to believe, with a boating lake at the bottom of the site. Multi Coloured boats gave it a feel of English summers gone past, paths wandering in and out of reeds by the side of the lake, and secret paths leading to hidden picnic tables. For the walkers & cavers out there the site is on the eastern edge of the Mendips, so you have access to some stunning walks and caves. In particular, the East Mendip way runs close to the campsite. They had several lakes for fishing and there were plenty of paths leading to the local villages as well, so the weekend saw lots of wanders.
I love my wild camping, but Batcombe is as close a site as I have found that generates those same feelings. It’s an utterly perfect example of a campsite where nature does the talking. If you’re down this neck of the woods, stop in and make it your base. You won’t want to go home.