Monday, 8 August 2016

Moral dilemmas in a field in Oxfordshire

It's sad but true - I probably lack moral fibre and have a distinct tendency to compromise principle for the sake of expediency, especially if it involves saving a bit of cash. The blog is peppered here and there with slightly snarky observations and the odd prejudice about caravaners. In truth it is probably not exactly the case that they all are Tories, play golf, voted 'leave' and read the Daily Mail. Anyway my ability to assert this prejudice has recently become fatally compromised since, somewhat against my better judgement, I shelled out £48 last week to become a member of the Caravan Club.

My reasons were entirely pecuniary. Using the van in the UK during our summer break from European wanderings is a problem due to the cost of British campsites in high season. The average nightly rate seems to be around £30 per night, which given our 'reduced circumstances' is a distinct dis-incentive to getting out and about. However, the Caravan Club advertises over 2000 'certificated locations', small, informal sites mainly on farms available for less than half of the cost of larger commercial sites. Sadly these seem only available to Caravan Club members. In addition, the club offers a discount rate with Brittany Ferries and its flagship sites at £16 per night less than for non-members. We are planning to return from Spain by Brittany Ferries in December, and the CC London site at Abbey Wood is less than two miles from where our youngest daughter is living at the moment. So, we figure that by laying aside our somewhat tongue-in-cheek prejudices concerning the caravanning fraternity, we should more than make-up the £48 annual membership fee. Well that was the theory, but this has yet to work out in practice. 

Since Matthew has taken a week's holiday we decided to test out using the club's 'certificated locations' by paying him a visit. There were half a dozen of them within easy travelling distance of Oxford. However booking a site proved more difficult than we anticipated. The phone just rang out at most of them. I guess it being August most of their owners were sat in the cab of a combine harvester. The one place that did answer turned out to be booked-up for the whole month. Gill found another place, 'The Old Dairy, near Thame. It is just as inexpensive as the CC places, and it had a pitch available. So, there goes one reason for joining. Let's see how we fare with the Brittany Ferries discount.

The site is  in the hamlet of Moreton a mile or so from Thame. It's pleasantly situated on what was once an old farm. The different farm buildings, house, barn, long old, clapperboard dairy, all have been converted to residential use. It's a classic example of the suburbanisation of the English countryside. The downside is the buildings have lost their original purpose. The positive aspect is that at least so far as the external appearance is concerned, the local vernacular style has been preserved. No modern farm would have a use for a traditional clapperboard barn. It might accommodate a hay-cart, but not the monster truck tractors so loved by farmer Giles today.

In fact the houses surrounding the site are a delightful mix of styles, a picture perfect thatched and timber-frame cottage, and opposite it, a house called the Old Bell, formerly the village pub I presume. It's a lovely proportioned Regency building. A track leads from the site though fields and woods to the centre of Thame, crossing the Phoenix Way cycle track. All in all its a nice, interesting spot, and with a regular bus route from Thame to Oxford which makes it a good alternative in high season to the ACSI site at Wallingford when wish we visit Matthew.

So, were all my previous prejudices disproven? Well not quite. The place is full of caravans in the main, and I know that it's not quite normal behaviour to photograph the contents of rubbish bins, but.... exhibit A, I rest my case mi'lord.



  1. We joined the Camping and Caravan Club when we bought Bertie ( our 1997 Hymer) last year and we have rejoined this year but we doubt we will do so again. Like you our plan was to use the CS network of small sites but in fact we have used very few of these. Since we joined Britstops we have found their network of 'free' stopovers to be much more useful and better value even if you do feel obliged to patronise the host businesses. Last summer on our way north to Moray we had struck a problem with a car park in Hawick that was unexpectedly closed by a big summer fair and we had a problem locating an alternative stopover at short notice and used a cloud site at Lauder which charged at £20 to park on a field. The previous night we had parked for free behind the Anglers Rest at Kielder and our meal for two plus drinks was just £22. They had filled our fresh water tank and we had emptied our loo cassette too!

  2. We will probably perservere with the Caravan Club smaller sites until the membership runs out, then let it lapse. We simply have to accept that sites are more expensive here. The average cost per nighr on our Autumn trip of 70 days was around £9.50 per night - once you factor-in the free places we stopped. That's not achievable in the UK, and we are grounded here for a while - still - there are a few ACSI sites in the West Country - so we will head down there in the Spring I think.