Author Topic: Finding campsites when on the road  (Read 2095 times)

Cudzoziemiec

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Finding campsites when on the road
« on: May 24, 2018, 02:26:50 pm »
Perhaps that should be "in the field." :D It's easy to find and choose campsites when you're planning. You can look at a map, search the internet – or ask here! But once on the move, it seems more difficult. The problem is not so much finding campsites as identifying ones that are acceptable to you and indeed that find you acceptable.

Story follows: Coming back from Long Itch a couple of weeks ago I had some trouble with this. I'd printed out a map of my route from the excellent cycle.travel website (as well as a gpx), so I looked at it and identified three potential sites, one before Tewkesbury, two just after. I went past the first one fairly early so went on to the second, which turned out to be simply a bare field with a notice and a couple of caravans which might or might not have been inhabited at that point. Well ok, I could use the "facilities" in the pub round the corner but at this point I really fancied a shower so I went on the next. This turned out to be a very large site with lots of caravans, and some static "mobile" homes, lined up neatly, but no sign of anyone in charge. No one had any idea when they would turn up, so I went in the nextdoor pub, where I was told it's a totally separate business and there's no way of predicting them. Well they must turn up in the morning, I suggested, maybe I could just pitch my tent somewhere and find them next day? Pub staff advised against this strongly enough that it was no exaggeration to call it warning off, seems the campsite owners don't like people arriving arriving without booking even when it's quiet, and I got the impression don't like tents or cyclists either. (This relates to the campsite not the pub. Also, I noticed that the site is for sale!) So I went back to the previous place, found the owner, and he very in a very apologetic and friendly manner said he was only licensed for caravans (presumably due to it being a bare field with no toilets etc) and couldn't risk losing his licence as it was his income.

By now it was beginning to get late, though still light. I looked at the map and found another campsite marked nearer Gloucester. If they also said "caravans only" or were closed or something, then I'd either camp under a hedge or ride into Gloucester and hope to get a train home (which would have been a shame as I was looking forward to riding home the next day!). Luckily, they were open and run by a friendly bloke with no dislike of tents or cyclists (and no attempt to charge caravan rates either). But I had no way of knowing that till I got there. Oh, and this one was not next to a pub!

(Tl;dr? Tried three campsites before could find somewhere to stay!)

Later, back at home, I looked at the OS map and only the first two were marked, not the one I ended up at. But mostly the problem seems to be identifying the nature of a site before you get there, rather than its existence. Booking everything in advance seems to run counter to the spirit of cycle camping for me (besides requiring too much planning for anything beyond the first day). Presumably an app is the answer; but which app? I know (cos it's linked from the cycle.travel site) of one called Archies, but what do people use? What do you do? Apps, maps, pot luck, what?
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2018, 02:39:15 pm »
maps
potluck

Take camping gear that means you can use a copse of trees or hedge if necessary. Don't camp in a field full of cows.
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Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2018, 02:44:01 pm »
C&CC have an app for finding sites (which sensibly caches its database locally), and a policy of never turning away a 'backpacker' (which includes cyclists).  That's a decent start.  Unfortunately, C&CC membership fees are rather steep (unless you're using them an awful lot, or are camping as a family), which tends to put off cycle-campers.

As someone who likes a decent shower after a day on the bike (if there isn't, I might as well be wild-camping), I must confess to being fairly paranoid about relying on just-in-time planning for this one.  I like to have a vague idea of what sites are where along a route, even if I haven't decided which to use.  You sometimes encounter areas with a surprising scarcity of campsites.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2018, 02:52:02 pm »
maps
potluck

Take camping gear that means you can use a copse of trees or hedge if necessary. Don't camp in a field full of cows.
Yep, that's it.  The whole point of carrying a tent is for me just that freedom.  Depends what it is you want of course, no good if you're looking to pitch and then go off exploring.
On a tour of more than a few days I might book every third or forth night before setting off, to have some surety of washing and laundry provision, but even then plans may change.
I've used Archies in France for finding the municipal sites where it was almost faultless, haven't tried it in the UK.  I've had reasonable success by simply asking in local shops and pubs, sometimes being offered camping pitches off site.

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2018, 02:52:16 pm »
I used to use the Alan Rogers app. It was a life saver when touring Europe a few years ago. It's no longer supported though so that's out. It didn't have offline mapping though...

I have recently installed the ASCI camping app. 9.99 for a year for all of Europe. It has offline maps and plenty of info about the sites. However, as is often the case with these things, not every campsite is on there. Particularly for the UK.

I've briefly looked at WikiCamps UK, but not really used it...
Those wonderful norks are never far from my thoughts, oh yeah!

Cudzoziemiec

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Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2018, 02:53:21 pm »
The one that was just a field had a C&CC sign, as well as a Caravan and Motorhome Club sign. He didn't ask if I was a member of either but he wasn't prepared to risk his caravans only licence (by which I presume he meant some kind of local authority licence to run a campsite rather than a listing with either of those organisations, but I don't know).
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2018, 02:55:49 pm »
Don't camp in a field full of cows.
Or  field that might become full of cows early next morning!
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2018, 03:00:44 pm »
http://www.ukcampsite.co.uk/    is a useful link to have on your phone,  as is the C&CC app.  Check facilities first.   I once turned up at a site to find it only catered for caravans & had no loos. 
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Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2018, 03:01:38 pm »
In the olden days we bought a book before the trip with campsite information for the area.  More recently I've used ukcampsite.co.uk either for forward planning or on mobile.  Also visited tourist information offices, some of whom are helpful. 

Depends a bit how much risk you're willing to take - normally easiest to get riding early in the morning, and then start to look for campsites mid-afternoon.  But there is a risk of running out - we have had to force long days, and also camped discreetly in sites which appeared closed for the season.

Other trick is to be willing to make phone calls in the morning.  Rather than set out with three sites in mind, just ring them and find out.  Personally, I dislike making phone calls enough I'd rather get on my bike...

[Don't really do this at the moment coz of youngish kids - I want to know for sure if I have somewhere for them to sleep rather than wing it, but it does take some of the freedom away]

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2018, 03:03:46 pm »
Bringing up Google maps & typing campsite in the search field works as well.
Not fast & rarely furious

tweeting occasional in(s)anities as andrewxclark

Kim

  • 2nd in the world
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2018, 03:05:11 pm »
The one that was just a field had a C&CC sign, as well as a Caravan and Motorhome Club sign. He didn't ask if I was a member of either but he wasn't prepared to risk his caravans only licence (by which I presume he meant some kind of local authority licence to run a campsite rather than a listing with either of those organisations, but I don't know).

It'll be a local authority thing.  I'm not sure how those rules work, and whether lightweight tents have a different status or what.  Probably varies from authority to authority.

I'm guessing the C&CC status was 'listed' which AIUI means it's in their database and gets to put up a sign, but that's about it.


Interestingly, I've had some of the warmest welcomes at Certified Sites that are extremely caravanny.  Snobbery about tent campers does happen, but is sometimes inverted when it comes to backpackers.
To ride the Windcheetah, first, you must embrace the cantilever...

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2018, 03:14:31 pm »
I can remember rocking up at a C&CC site after a very sweaty day , and the owner looking down her nose at me & saying it was members only.   The look on her face when I produced my membership card was worth the annual fee  ;D
Not fast & rarely furious

tweeting occasional in(s)anities as andrewxclark

Porkins

  • Formerly Nick H. And a long time ago etc, Eurostar
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2018, 03:38:24 pm »
For a wild shower I've used an Ortlieb water bag with shower valve. It was pretty good.

If there's not enough water there's always the pits 'n bits range. Haven't tried those yet. http://www.pitsandbits.co.uk/

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2018, 03:45:42 pm »
Cudz.

I am surprised you could not find one near Tewkesbury as I live not too far from there and the area has many campsites. I don't know your routing from Long Itch but you must have passed close to Hayles Fruit Farm campsite or the C&CC site both near Winchcombe.

My policy is to ask around in the area if looking for a site with facilities. Many times someone has directed me to an unlisted campsite or somewhere where I could camp.
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Salvatore

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Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2018, 04:02:33 pm »
This turned out to be a very large site with lots of caravans, and some static "mobile" homes, lined up neatly, but no sign of anyone in charge. No one had any idea when they would turn up, so I went in the nextdoor pub, where I was told it's a totally separate business and there's no way of predicting them. Well they must turn up in the morning, I suggested, maybe I could just pitch my tent somewhere and find them next day? Pub staff advised against this strongly enough that it was no exaggeration to call it warning off, seems the campsite owners don't like people arriving arriving without booking even when it's quiet, and I got the impression don't like tents or cyclists either.


Sounds familiar. Red Lion? I'm sure I stayed here on my way to Long Itch from Chepstow two or three years ago. The owners were perfectly civil to me, but distinctly odd. It gets 2/5 on tripadvisor,  53% of reviewers rate it as "terrible".

I use OSM when I'm overseas, 'find accommodation/campsite' on my etrex 20. I also had Archies on my phone. Both equally good/bad - there were instances where both said there was a campsite, but there was none, and there were campsites of which neither knew anything.

For the UK last year I succumbed and became a member of C&C club. It was probably worth it for the ease of finding sites with their app.

For the Netherlands https://www.natuurkampeerterreinen.nl/ wins hands down. 
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

mr ben

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Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #15 on: May 24, 2018, 04:03:26 pm »
Yeah I'd like to be more spontaneous too but last time I did that and it was a bit stressful and I also ended up stopping really early one day because there was a site and I didn't know when I'd find another.  So next time I will be more organised and look up some potentials, although it is pretty time consuming.  Some of them are marked on OS maps, some (not the same some) are on my large scale road atlas I use for touring, some have one of those brown tourist signs...for looking up in advance I use ukcampsite.co.uk and then follow up to find out if they are actually open and do really take tents.  Edit: my phone is now too old for installing current apps  >:(

Re asking people, I have had some luck popping into an outdoors shop (Grassington), also speaking to an old chap sitting at the side of the road (Pocklington), but the most useless, albeit hilariously so, was when I went into the Tourist Information office in Settle.  IMHO campsite location is not an unreasonably touristy question, but the two members of staff, one of whom even lived in the direction I was headed, had no idea whatsoever.  They were so determined to be helpful that they kept me half an hour, without imparting any information.  I seem to remember helping another customer connect to their wifi while I was there, that would have pushed them over the edge.
I sat in my tent this evening - a small green hole - and pondered on my short stature, love of food and ale, hairy feet and the unlikeliness of being an adventurer.

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2018, 04:20:14 pm »
I use a mixture of C&CC app, ukcampsite and OS maps.
Quote from: Kim
^ This woman knows what she's talking about.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #17 on: May 24, 2018, 05:19:04 pm »
This turned out to be a very large site with lots of caravans, and some static "mobile" homes, lined up neatly, but no sign of anyone in charge. No one had any idea when they would turn up, so I went in the nextdoor pub, where I was told it's a totally separate business and there's no way of predicting them. Well they must turn up in the morning, I suggested, maybe I could just pitch my tent somewhere and find them next day? Pub staff advised against this strongly enough that it was no exaggeration to call it warning off, seems the campsite owners don't like people arriving arriving without booking even when it's quiet, and I got the impression don't like tents or cyclists either.


Sounds familiar. Red Lion? I'm sure I stayed here on my way to Long Itch from Chepstow two or three years ago. The owners were perfectly civil to me, but distinctly odd. It gets 2/5 on tripadvisor,  53% of reviewers rate it as "terrible".
Yes, the Red Lion. Perhaps the pub staff were just being over-cautious or maybe they'd heard some horror stories.

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I use OSM when I'm overseas, 'find accommodation/campsite' on my etrex 20. I also had Archies on my phone. Both equally good/bad - there were instances where both said there was a campsite, but there was none, and there were campsites of which neither knew anything.
Hang on, there's a find campsite feature on the etrex? How did I not realize this? <goes to investigate etrex>.
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2018, 05:22:16 pm »
Interestingly, the Red Lion is not on ukcampsite.co.uk nor is the one at Ashton (which I didn't even look at, so perhaps it no longer exists except on maps), and the one at Haw Bridge is described totally differently to what I saw, including saying it takes tents (and has showers and is connected with the pub, which it didn't seem to be when I called).
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2018, 05:37:02 pm »
Other trick is to be willing to make phone calls in the morning.  Rather than set out with three sites in mind, just ring them and find out.  Personally, I dislike making phone calls enough I'd rather get on my bike...
Yeah, that sounds sensible. But then you need a way of finding the phone number...
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Salvatore

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Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #20 on: May 24, 2018, 05:46:13 pm »

Hang on, there's a find campsite feature on the etrex? How did I not realize this? <goes to investigate etrex>.

On mine it's Where to?>Lodging>Campground.

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Yeah, that sounds sensible. But then you need a way of finding the phone number...
I recall that Archies (a file of POIs) has telephone numbers for each campsite.
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur

Cudzoziemiec

  • Solar powered, tea fuelled cycle-wol
Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #21 on: May 24, 2018, 05:53:19 pm »

Hang on, there's a find campsite feature on the etrex? How did I not realize this? <goes to investigate etrex>.

On mine it's Where to?>Lodging>Campground.
Mine's also an eTrex 20 but it must be a slightly different model or maybe it's dependent on the mapping, because it has no submenu after Lodging (which brings up a long list of hotels and motels).
The earth is vast and beautiful and contains many miraculous places. (Chekhov)

Phil W

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #22 on: May 24, 2018, 05:54:35 pm »
Hang on, there's a find campsite feature on the etrex? How did I not realize this? <goes to investigate etrex>.

Depends on the mapping but you can certainly do that with Garmin maps derived from OSM data. They are in there as POI within the maps.

Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #23 on: May 25, 2018, 08:36:05 pm »
The caravans only thing is down to waste. I.e your caravan must have a toilet as there isn't one on the site. There is one near here which is annoying as opposite the local river that's suitable for canoeing (technically it's a navigation not a river or canal).

Salvatore

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Re: Finding campsites when on the road
« Reply #24 on: May 26, 2018, 11:06:53 am »

Hang on, there's a find campsite feature on the etrex? How did I not realize this? <goes to investigate etrex>.

On mine it's Where to?>Lodging>Campground.
Mine's also an eTrex 20 but it must be a slightly different model or maybe it's dependent on the mapping, because it has no submenu after Lodging (which brings up a long list of hotels and motels).

2 things to watch out for with the Etrex 'find campsite' method;
1) It only shows the nearest (I can' remember how many - 20 or so?), so you can't find one in the morning and make it the day's destination.
2) It displays a direct-line distance, which may be much longer than the on-road distance. Not so much of a problem in the UK, but in Norway (and I speak from experience) a campsite 10km away might be the other side of a fjord and a range of mountains, (although wild camping is legal if often impractical).
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et avec John, excellent lecteur de road-book, on s'en est sortis sans erreur