“ Location: Bank Farm, Horton, Gower Peninsula SA3 1LL. „
My husband and some friends stayed at Bank Farm Leisure park over August Bank Holiday weekend in 2009. We had booked two tent pitches miles in advance as we knew they would be full over this particular weekend, so we had booked and paid a deposit in March time.
The cost was £60 for each tent with two people for 3 nights (£15 per tent and £2.50 per person each night). We paid a deposit of £15 for each tent to hold the booking. So it worked out pretty reasonable with just the balance to pay. Oh - and you also have to pay a couple of quid per night for your car, we only took one car so this was minimal.
The campsite is situated in a very beautiful area of Wales, on the Gower Peninsula. Had it not been for the absolutely appalling weather we had during our stay we might have actually enjoyed it, unfortunately despite paying for 3 nights and intending to leave on the bank holiday monday, we took a group decision on the Sunday lunchtime to leave and forsake the third night as none of us could stomach another freezing cold, windswept and noisy night of no sleep. Maybe camping just isnt for us...but here is an account of what happened.....
We left Shropshire at about 1pm with sat nav set for the gower campsite, directions on their website had warned us that sat nav would send us down a route which was 'unsuitable for caravans' but as we were driving a car we did not give it too much heed. The sun was out when we left and we were full of excitement to be going 'glamping' (apparently camping is now glamorous and trendy - or so the Guardian etc would have you believe....do not be fooled!).
Someone mentioned that the remnants of Hurricane Bill might be on its way but we laughed it off....
Three and a half hours later we stopped at a supermarket on the outskirts of Swansea to get supplies and loaded with wine boxes, disposable bbqs and plenty of nice food we rejoined the traffic and noticed it was at a standstill. It seemed that the amount of traffic pouring into the gower for the bank holiday was causing major congestion. We crawled through it for about 45 minutes before the sat nav sent us down a country lane. It was now telling us we were only about 4 miles from the destination, all was well....apart from the ominous dark clouds that had suddenly descended.
It turned out that this lane deemed 'not suitable for caravans' was like something out of a horror film. Inclines so steep you had no choice but to very carefully inch down them, so narrow as to scrape both sides of the car and twisty like nothing I have ever encountered before. And now it was raining. And then around the corner we met the rear of a queue of traffic, all of which was stuck behind a caravan which had evidently followed sat nav and ignored the warnings on the Bank Farm website.
We sat there wondering what to do for a while. The caravan was going nowhere and now there were 5 cars behind it too. Eventually someone dared to open a gate into a nearby empty field so all the cars could drive in and wait for the caravan to reverse, turn itself in the field and then go back the way it came. This took about half an hour and by now the sky was black, it was lightning and absolutely tipping it down like something out of armageddon.
I did point out this could be a bad omen but everyone told me to shut up.
Ten minutes later we finally made it to Bank Farm and were immediately heartened by the location and the views, right on the top of some wonderful rolling hills overlooking the sea. The optimism didnt last long however.
The rain was so heavy when we arrived that we had to stay sat in the car for about 20 minutes until it had calmed down enough to go and enquire where our pitches were. A nice man came out and jumped on a quad bike and told us to follow him, which we did. Immediately it became apparent that quad bikes are much better in quagmire mud than Seat Leons.
After the briefest of cursory indication that these patches of mud were in fact tent pitches off he went. It was still absolutely tipping it down. It was still thundering and lightening. I put on my brand new wellies in preparation for what was to follow and nobody was saying anything for fear of starting a panic or a row.
Adjacent to our pitches was a caravan. Just as we began to contemplate getting out of the car and braving the downpour to map out where the tents would go, a very large 4x4 rocked up and wheelspan onto our pitches, churning the already sodden ground and revved its engine menacingly. Apparently we were parked in 'their space'.
A brief confrontation followed and we moved the car and felt rather threatened. This pikey family were evidently rather amused at having inadvertantly destroyed our pitches and were then treated to a couple of hours of wonderful entertainment as we battled to put the tents up. I wanted to die. Luckily they left the following day.
It continued to rain and was so windy that putting the tents up was actually one of the hardest things I have ever attempted in my life. It took all of us, all of our strength to hold each tent down enough to peg it. By the time the tents were up the inside of each was absolutely covered in mud and we were all drenched and filthy.
A very helpful welsh lady had stood in the doorway to her caravan on the other side from the pikeys, watching the entire process whilst nursing a cup of tea (the cow) and told us every 20 minutes or so that it was 'not tent weather'. I would later reflect that we should have listened to her and packed up at that point.
By 9pm we had managed to erect the tents and light two bbqs. However, the gusts of wind threatened to blow the embers straight into the tents every 10 seconds or so and it made for a very stressful cooking experience (the rain had briefly stopped at this point).
Thank the lord for wine boxes.
At about midnight it suddenly went a bit quieter (the site was absolutely full and there were lots of groups of young people about). Apart from the dogs. They bark intermittently the whole time and it seems to be the law that every group has at least one. But anyway, the shouting and music had died down and we decided to get some sleep.
It is worth mentioning at this point that we were not too far (about 100m) from the toilet block and these were usually clean and tidy and had plenty of sink areas and shower cubicles. Before bed I donned a fleece and a woolly hat over my pyjamas and put my wellies on to trudge across to the loos. Boy was I missing my en-suite and central heating at this point.
Back in the tent my husband nearly knocked himself out on a torch I had hung from the centre of our living space and switched off. I would have laughed if I didnt think he would have lost the plot and potentially gone to sleep in the car.
5 hours later dawn was already breaking and we were getting woken up by the wonderful combination of dogs barking, a child shouting 'ROXY!!!' over and over (the name of his dog) and people trudging past our tent to go to the loo. It was raining again and blowing a gale. We slumbered on and off for a few hours.
At 9am the sun made its only appearance of the weekend and we cautiously unzipped the tent. With the sun out the views were pretty awesome and I can see why this site is so popular in this respect.
At 9.30am the sun went back in and the heavens opened again. The wind picked up and we had to resecure all the tent pegs. Our pitches were unfortunately right on the crest of the hill and therefore took the full force of each gust off the sea. I can honestly say that continual flapping of bits of tent is the most annoying sound in the world after about 24 hours. Give me white noise any day.
I had given up trying to stop getting muddy at this point, it literally was impossible.
I decided to go and try out the showers, thinking a hot shower would probably put me in a better mood and warm me up. Unfortunately this was not on the cards.
I had two major problems with the showers here. Firstly there was a distinct lack of any hot water. It did not seem to matter what time it was (I tried again that evening and also the following morning I went early at around 7.30am) there was tepid water at best, everyone was moaning about it in the bathrooms and it seemed to just be the norm. Secondly, you can only access the tepid water in 10 second bursts because the showers work on these annoying buttons which every time you press them let out some water then stop. Like service station sinks. Not good.
So, we got in the car and decided to go to nearby Worms Head and Rhossili bay (see my review of those places for more detail) and at least it broke the day up some.
Saturday night was an identikit replay of Friday night. Dogs barking, music etc, tent flapping constantly in the wind, pouring rain, cold food for tea and thank the lord for wine boxes. We were all wearing all of our clothes to keep warm by now, we had huddled in one tent, lit dozens of tea lights and used sleeping bags to create warmth. The problem was that you would just get it to a nice cosy temperature when someone would inevitably need the loo and the whole thing would be ruined by the tent being unzipped for a few minutes.
Fun it was not.
Sunday morning dawned. It was still windy and raining. In almost silence we sat around eating flapjack and feeling cold and miserable until my husband and I put on a team effort to craftily sow the seed of an idea that we would not be entirely upset to leave one day early. Looking at the papers it was clear the weather was set in and it actually only took about 10 seconds to get consensus that we should just go home.
Four hours later I arrived back at our flat and there was a small fight over the shower and the kettle plus a mammoth dash for the thermostat. The word 'camping' is now banned in our home and we do not talk about what happened that weekend. I really did feel like Withnail in the 'we have come on holiday by mistake' scene.
Anyway - as for a review of the site, here is a brief synopsis and it must be remembered that our stay was skewed by the extreme weather:
On site shop, bar and restaurant which were a lifesaver for us as somewhere warm and dry.
Absolutely wonderful views over the sea, better from some fields than others.
Great location, convenient for Rhossili and Worms Head and also for shops etc.
Clean toilets and sink areas.
No hot water in the showers and annoying timers on the water.
Tent pitches become mudbaths in the rain.
Quite a noisy site with large groups and lots of dogs.
We did think it was good value for the bank holiday weekend though and we were very unlucky with the weather. I do not think we will ever attempt camping by choice ever again personally though. Life is too short to spend my weekend freezing and miserable and sleep deprived.