England's Green & Pleasant Land Vol.3
Woodside Country Park
Camping, Herefordshire UK
I love camping so every few months now we try and get away for a few days to explore something new. This year we found a lovely place near Ledbury and the Forest of Dean where the scenery did not disappoint.
My husband, Phil and I have recently taken up cycling as a hobby so naturally we wanted to find somewhere where we could practice our totally noobish mountain biking skills (going around Grafham is fair enough but we wanted to go that little bit further!) so for my birthday a combination of cycling, walking and adventure was on the itinerary.
Growing up I had visited most of what the UK had to offer, every year my parents and grandparents would go away for 2-3 weeks and take my brother and I on an adventure which allowed us to see what beauty the UK really has to offer. From Scotland to the Lakes, Northumberland, Snowdonia, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset we saw it all. Almost 15 years on from that I have the opportunity to show their fantastic scenery to Phil as being South African he has never seen it before.
The campsite Woodside Park is set near the town of Ledbury near Hereford. A three and a half hour journey from home, it is truly a place of beautiful scenic countryside with rolling hills and patchwork fields. The site itself is family oriented and is split by a road with the campsite on one side and lodges and camping pods on the other. There are 2 large lakes that you can fish in and a few smaller ones and has a conservation area with mowed weaving pathways of grass which you can walk between which is a lovely stroll at dusk and very peaceful.
There are various ways to stay here by either staying in a tent or caravan which has electric and non electric pitches, crafted lodges, camping pods or by staying in the bunkhouse. The pricing for the camping we had was very reasonable for an electric hookup. If you would like to book the lodges we should be able to! They vary from sleeping 2-6 people depending on your needs but will be subject to availability.
It is in a beautiful part of the Herefordshire countryside and if you fancy a walk the town of Ledbury is about 2 miles from the site with a nice high street which has a few good places to eat. There is also a fishing and tackle shop if you need anything. If you are bbqing and you need to pick up some necessities there is a Coop and a Tesco's nearby. I would suggest you go to Coop and get their £4 Chimichurri steaks. You get 2 in a pack and for the price and flavour they are the best steaks I have ever had, especially on the bbq!
The surrounding areas are also very beautiful. The site in in the middle of the Malvern Hills and the Wye Valley which attaches to the Forest of Dean. All of which need no introduction as their scenery speaks for itself. They really are areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Our first full day was met with a visit to the Forest of Dean and what a stunning place it is. The scenery really is breathtaking and in some cases you could be in Canada! The tall fern trees really are quite something and there are quite a few path choices that you can take. You can either walk, run or cycle. The family route it is about 10 miles the long way and roughly 5 for the shorter cut through. I highly recommend cycling it! The path all the way around is fairly flat and is suitable for many. It was great fun and you can also hire from the Pedalabikeaway rental which is next to a shop which you can have snacks and coffee. There are also random points around the trail which are points of interest, have great views or cafes for refreshments. By the lake we stopped at there was also a GoApe centre which their zipline seemed very popular!
After a days cycling it was a 40 minute drive back to the campsite, both there and back we were in awe of my surroundings and there were so many cute little villages we passed through. On our return we were rather frustrated that Phil couldn't go fishing as there were 30 people by the lake with blow up inflatables and kids jumping in the large pond. It was very disappointing as we had picked this site so he could go fishing and he ended up not fishing at all (thankfully he only buys his licence when he needs it or it would have been a waste)
The great thing about this site though is that you can use bbqs. We bought ours from Aldi for £19.99 (I think they have sold out now, though widely available in other places but it was the best £19.99 I have spent!) You can also rent these subject to availability from reception from £5. Phil cooked us up some dinner, which was amazing. Again our Chimichurri Steaks didn't disappoint, some yummy sausages and veggies cooked in tin foil which were perfect!
The camp site also has outstanding toilet facilities. The new toilet block is very clean, well presented and has great showers which are free to use. There is also a freezer for your ice packs which always comes in handy.
We were lucky that there was someones birthday when we were staying there, they had a live 2 man band there in the evening singing and playing their drums and guitar; they were very good! They had almost the whole campsite around them and everyone was have a drink and a good time. It was a great atmosphere.
If castles are you thing you are surrounded by them. Eastnor, Goodrich and Hampton Court Castle to name but a few are the more interesting ones and the prices aren't too bad for entry. The day after our cycle ride we visited Goodrich Castle and had a wonder around. It is quite intact for a castle built in the 13th century and was very interesting. There is quite a lot to see and read and there is also an accompanying narrated tour if you would like to learn about the castle in more depth which you can get from reception. The small shop which is by the entrance although quite expensive has some really cool stuff in it for souvenirs and it also doubles up as a cafe with seated areas outside. The little house martins were also very entertaining! They nest all over the castle and if you stand under a nest long enough you may be lucky enough to see mum and dad bringing food for their little ones during breeding season.
After our castle visit we decided to go for a trek. There is a path from Goodrich castle that is roughly 8 miles which is NOT for the feint hearted.....!! We found it quite tough as the path itself wasn't clearly marked and being summer it was quite overgrown in places. The path follows a large chunk of the River Wye in which we saw people rowing down quite frequently. They are available to hire from neighbouring places for approximately £35 for 2 people for the day. There were times to which I thought we wouldn't make it back and that we were so terribly lost! We found the route on the AA website so thought it would be a good idea, and although the scenery was incredible when we reached the highest point, there were times when we were walking through fields of sheep looking for a way out. The only thing we had to go on was tiny arrows on fence posts which weren't that clear and when it started to rain I almost lost all hope, I even had visions of us being air lifted out by helicopter or something! Yes, it was that bad! Clearly when it stated "arduous ascent" on the path itinerary I didn't think it was going to be that bad.... oh how wrong was I! It was a very hot and humid day and about 3/4's of the way back we ran out of water, again a big mistake. We really did bite off more than we could chew with this walk but reading through the description of the walk it made it sound like it was just a leisurely walk. Thankfully Phil's phone was working I managed to get on googlemaps and copy a rough path from a map I had on the AA website. Once we reached the top we could see the castle and made out way (very slowly) down the troublesome narrow paths to the bottom to find the road leading back to Goodrich. I was SO happy to see the car! We can laugh about it now but at the time I was quite scared!
When we got back to the campsite it was late on Sunday and most of the people had packed up and left by then. There was only 4 tents left and it was very peaceful. We made a fire, had dinner and went for another wonder around. We started by the lake by us by which time the swans had migrated down from the other lake and started following us around! We strolled up to the conservation area by the other lake. It's very pretty up there and you can get some very dramatic sunsets at the right time of day.
All in all Woodside is a fairly good campsite. It is a great place for children to make friends and a lot of space for them to run around. If you are after peace and quite, this may not be the place you are after; unless perhaps you were staying in one of the lodges. However, this is a family site and also during school holidays so that would have had an impact. The facilities we found to be great, we like to be clean when camping so the site not charging for the use of showers was great for us. The washing up facilities were also great and lots of space as well as the ice pack freezing is great if you don't have an electric hook up. I would recommend this site if you are going to use it as a base and go off to do your own thing and explore for large sections of your day. As far as fishing is concerned we were disappointed. The smaller lakes looked quite stagnant to the point where you couldn't really fish in them and the people jumping in one of the lakes really was quite frustrating. Having said that, it was a great weekend and despite being lost in Goodrich for a few hours, it was a blast :)
- The facilities. Excellent new amenities that are exactly what you want on a campsite.
- Central location for many activities and things to see. A close town, supermarkets and lots of places to go for days out within an hours drive is always a plus.
- The scenery. Cannot fault it, to sit outside your tent to views over the rolling countryside is blissful in itself.
- Great for families. The site is very family friendly and there were many occasions where children all over the campsite were playing football and joining in for other activities.
- Clean site. Everything here is neat and tidy, the grass is mowed and looks like a snooker table on the top site by the lodges. And down by the camp site it is very well kept as well.
- Fishing not great. This may be a case of us visiting at a bad time but we weren't impressed during busy times with lots of children jumping in the lake. If you go for fishing, this is a deal breaker.
- Bad for people who like quiet. This may seem odd seeing as I just said its great for families, which it is, but for people who like to keep themselves to themselves and don't like children running around their tent this may not be the campsite for you. This is oriented for family camping after all and you would be better off trying to find an adult only site.