After plumping on the New Forest as a good first foray into family camping, the search began for a suitable campsite. My pre-baby camping preferences have always led me to the quieter, more basic campsite, chosen for scenic surroundings and/ or proximity to good walks. Facilities have never included much more than a working loo and access to running drinking water, with showers, hot water and washing up sinks a luxury. My view is that camping, especially with children, ought to bring you back to basics, closer to nature and a simpler, slower way of living and as such I was keen to avoid anything too organised, caravan dominated or stuffed full of adventure playgrounds. Maybe my opinions will change but such is my philosophy in these early days of family camping!
Pondhead Farm campsite, located just east of the bustling New Forest village of Lyndhurst, seemed to meet all of these criteria in its description as well as having the bonus of being very reasonably priced and being located on a working farm – perfect camping for an animal crazy toddler. Our entire two night stay at Pondhead Farm campsite cost us £28 (£7 per adult) with our <2yr old toddler going free. Older kids are charged at £3 a night. Other campsites I researched in the area were charging that for one night alone and extra costs on top!
Pondhead Farm is a farm first and foremost, with an onsite farmshop where they sell meat produce from their own livestock – you can buy sausages, burgers and other supplies in the farm shop although opening hours and stock levels were a little haphazard when we visited (it is a working farm first, campsite second). Best plan is if you want something, ring the bell by campsite reception rather than wait for the shop to open and leave enough time to get to the shops in nearby Lyndhurst just in case they are low on what you are after. The burgers were very good though and worth waiting for and apparently they stock New Forest venison from time to time too.
Camping at Pondhead Farm is currently only available at weekends and is fairly simple – there is one principal field available with another being opened up as demand dictates and you are free to pick your own spot to pitch your tent. To make life easier you can drive to your chosen camping pitch when weather permits and can leave your car next to your tent overnight, although driving on the campsite is banned after dusk for safety reasons – don’t worry, you can leave you car in the car-park if you need to go out. The ground in the main campsite paddock is pretty flat and level for camping with plenty of space for tearing about and ball games.
Kids will be delighted to find themselves only a wire fence away from the resident horses, geese, chickens and pigs. Of course, close proximity to the farm animals comes with its downsides too, such as the occasional whiff of pig or the cockerel who is a little hazy on telling the time of dawn… you quickly get used to this though and is all part of the charm of camping on a farm.
Washing facilities on the campsite run to two portaloos with hot and cold running water in their sinks. The toilets are kept clean and frequently topped up with soap and toilet roll, so don’t let the portaloo idea put you off camping at Pondhead Farm. There is a running cold water tap outside for drinking water supplies.
The location of Pondhead Farm campsite is fantastic. Pondhead Farm is one of, if not the closest campsite to Lyndhurst in the New Forest. As the unofficial capital of the New Forest, Lyndhurst is a bustling historic centre with plenty of tearooms, pubs, shops and the necessary store and greengrocers for food supplies. It’s also a brilliant place to use as a base to access the rest of the New Forest, with its north-easterly position making it easily accessible for those travelling down from a distance on a Friday night. Pondhead Farm has direct access to New Forest paths to both the north and south and you can walk into Lyndhurst in about 20-25 minutes from the campsite without having to go along the road. If you are looking for walking routes, the Lyndhurst Heath & Forest Circular Pushchair Walk is great for families and the route passes right through Pondhead Farm!
We really enjoyed our stay at Pondhead Farm with the campsite and facilities exactly what we had in mind. Our only reservation was that we were unfortunate with our camping neighbours and the farmer, no doubt weary after a long day at work, was not visibly enforcing the ‘no loud noise after 11pm’ rule that we were led to believe was in place from the website. Perhaps if cars were not permitted to park on the camping field overnight then people would not be able to play music at such a loud volume without the aid of their car stereos? Having said that, music wasn’t the only culprit as the kids next to us were permitted to shriek and shout in their understandable excitement at camping until gone midnight by their parents. This I think is a problem with the campers rather than the campsite itself although I do feel that the farm ought to either do more to remind campers to be respectful of their fellow guests or approach their campsite description online a little more realistically. It’s important to keep things in perspective too – out of an entire field of campers only two tents were guilty of this lack of consideration for others. We were just unfortunate that one of them chose to pitch next to us! Luckily for us, our toddler slept soundly despite the nocturnal noise.
All in all, we had a good first family camping experience at Pondhead Farm campsite in the New Forest. Given the authentic camping feel and the value for money and proximity to Lyndhurst, we would consider returning although perhaps not during the first week of the school holidays when the guests appear to be at their noisiest!
For more information on camping at Pondhead Farm, please visit their website at http://www.pondhead.co.uk/camping.html