Marvellous Mendip & a ’Hole’ load of fun at Wookey
August 2019 was the first time we at Piggl had to experience the so-called horrors of holidaying in the peak school summer break. Our solution was to take our campervan away to the most basic, hard to find online, yet beautiful campsite we could find and Mendip Camp was just the campsite we were looking for.
This small, one field campsite is located on Longbottom Farm; a five minute drive away from the popular town of Cheddar in the heart of the Mendip Hills area of outstanding natural beauty. The campsite doesn't have its own website and isn’t listed on any other booking websites; we found it by searching in Google Maps and phoning up to book our pitch.
At Piggl we prefer to keep camping basic if we can and we assumed that a campsite with no website and not hot water or showers would be pretty quiet - and we weren’t wrong. On arrival there were only two tents set up in the field and we had the pick of the rest of the field to park up our Transporter campervan with a view over the farm and fields beyond. So far so good.
We were well aware that the bathroom facilities would be basic - and they weren't kidding - a converted brick shed houses male and female toilets with two cubicles on each side and one sink with a cold water tap only. There aren’t even lights so take your head torches and be prepared to share your loo with some cobwebs and moths. Outside you’ll find one dishwashing sink with cold water and a drinking water tap. That’s it. No showers. No hot water.
However, it's just this kind of basic campsite that gives Mendip Camp its charm. The campsite is lovely and quiet and surrounded by fields on all sides with plenty of walking opportunities. Campfires are allowed and we bought logs from the owner at the farmhouse and sat in quiet contemplation most evenings whilst toasting marshmallows.
A five minute drive away is the popular town of Cheddar, home of the famous Cheddar Gorge and caves. Having not been to this part of the world since childhood, we were surprised at how popular the town was. It was heaving with tourists. Fortunately, local pubs have cottoned on to the lack of parking and many of them will let you pay for a day's parking at the bar for £5 - the alternative is to drive through the town onto the parking verges alongside the road beyond.
We were also shocked to find that access to the gorge and caves was charged and you had to pay what we felt was a hefty access charge (£20 per person) to walk up into the gorge and more to access the caves. Being the thrifty campers that we are we were sure that there must be another way and there was. A quick Google search identified a National Trust footpath that began at a gate in the back of the village and looped right around the gorge - in fact we realised that the exit of this walk was actually through the very same entrance gate that you’d pay £20 to access! So, take this hint from us - do this two hour walk for free and you’ll save yourself a heap of cash by simply walking it in reverse!
On the walk you will ascend through trees then traverse around this spectacular gorge, pass the popular viewing tower, and finally, descend down the steep steps back into town - passing out through the pay gate as you do so!
Feeling very smug with our little inside knowledge we duly treated ourselves to ice cream and fudge in Cheddar before returning to our campsite for a well earnt BBQ.
Having grown up in the Bristol area, but not visited since, I was particularly excited to visit Wookey Hole - an attraction I had visited as a child and had really fond memories of. My husband has lost count of the times that I have talked about Wookey Hole; how I remembered exploring the caves and could never see the ‘witch’ stalagmite on the tour and how we must visit it soon, particularly now we were parents ourselves.
We pre-booked our entrance tickets in advance (£16.50 per adult and £13.50 per child over 3 years) as it can get busy in peak periods. We arrived early and as it wasn't too busy - headed straight for the cave tour. Tickets are timed to avoid long queues and once inside the caves you are escorted around in small groups through a maze of caves with illuminated rocks, lakes and a whole heap of history and stories. Our knowledgeable guide was a cave diver himself and had some great tales of the mazes of caves and tunnels within Wookey Hole - they even make and age their own cheese here!
When we emerged from our tour of the caves after an hour or so and our eyes adjusted to the bright sunshine we ate our picnic lunch in the lovely fairy garden. The rest of Wookey Hole is a slightly odd mix of attractions from an on site mill where they have an animatronic dinosaur valley complete with giant King Kong statue, paper making demonstrations in the old mill, an old fashioned automaton arcade, maze of mirrors, a circus theatre performance and a 4D moving chair cinema experience - we imagine a salesman visiting here every five years to sell the latest trendy attraction! That being said, our daughter loved every minute of it and, of course, you exit via the large and well stocked gift shop!
On our final day we took the opportunity to drop in on some family who live on the outskirts of Bristol at Purple Patch - a Permaculture market garden in the City. Located in the beautiful, green valley of Boiling Wells Lane, they grow and supply organically grown salad to local restaurants and also run a salad and veg box subscription. The kids delighted in running around barefoot whilst we tasted some of the freshest fruits and vegetables we’ve ever had - yummy!
With full tummies we set off for home - with a campervan full of fresh veggies. Our week in Mendip had been full of fun and adventure in our campervan and we had managed to survive our first school holiday camping trip - but we still never saw that witch at Wookey Hole!
We have been travelling in campervans for over 15 years, taking in the best that the UK and Europe has to offer. By sharing our adventures, insights, recommendations and reviews we hope to inspire you to explore more!
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