“ Address: Beaulieu Road / Brockenhurst / Hampshire / SO42 7QL / England „
What would your perfect campsite look like? Mine would have space -lots of it, some privacy (maybe some shrubs/trees near the tent), nobody bothering me, decent value-for-money facilities - oh, and some ponies!
I had never thought of ponies being in the list of 'must haves' for a campsite before I went to Roundhill Campsite in Brockenhurst, The New Forest. I had hoped to have a back-to-nature experience and the ponies really made this happen.
Information about Roundhill Campsite
Roundhill Campsite is one of the Forestry Commission's really lovely campsites. It was once a WW2 airfield and you can see evidence of this if you explore the bike paths on the campsite which leads to other local destinations. Some of the paths are grey concrete strips - which very likely were small roads for wartime vehicles. This also links to the WW2 remnants of the nearby beach at Lepe County Park where thousands of troops set off for France and the D day landings. I suppose many supplies and troops were airlifted onto the site before the fateful departures. Being in those disused wartime areas made me feel quite thoughtful about all those who set off and never returned.
The campsite is termed 'open heathland' and 'commoners' (those living in the New Forest) have grazing rights for their animals on the heathland - hence plenty of ponies and foals trotting about. The space has many groups of trees and shrubs that break up the heathland and provide little bits of privacy for those who camp near them and valuable shelter for the ponies in poor weather.
The Campsite is easily withing cycling and walking distance to the small town of Brockenhurst which has really good facilities for those on holiday; cute pubs, a bike shop, a hardware/camp shop, a Tesco Express, a bakery, small restaurants and a chip shop are amonst its numerous attractions. It is also within cycling distance of lakes and the villages of Beaulieu and Bucklers Hard. There are many things to do in the near vicinity - and you can leave the car behind if you are equipped with a bike or walking boots.
Getting to The Campsite
The campsite is in Hampshire, just past Lyndhurst. To get to the campsite, heading south on the B3055, turn on to the Beaulieu Rd and head east for two miles. The campsite is well signposted (on the right).
We arrived at the campsite and were promptly given a list of rules at the reception which we were told were very important. These included, no campfires (only charcoal barbeques), tents must be at least six feet apart, no feeding of ponies and no-absolutely no - petting of ponies. My heart sank. We were then told to keep all of our food out of the tent as the ponies were very clever and could unzip tents, enter and scoff all your available treats. I could hardly contain my excitement at the thought of delinquent ponies paying us a visit in the tent.
We went off to camp and found a great place by a few trees. It was a Friday evening and the campsite had a 'no vacancies' sign at the gate. Even though it was full, we were still able to find a decent spot - and, in fact, the Friday night was the fullest we saw it. I think many people were long weekend campers and had arrived on a Thursday. By the Sunday afternoon there were many more spaces. I would advise to book this campsite and never just turn up.
Staying on the site
The next morning, two lovely ponies turned up at the tent. They showed no interest in rampaging through our tent and mostly just nibbled grass around our pitch. I was delighted and broke my first rule and stroked a gentle white mare. There were lots of other campers who also found it impossible not to interact with the ponies despite lots of cartoon signs depicting savage-faced ponies biting humans. All ponies I encountered were quiet and kept themselves to themselves. None ever entered my tent at all; no delinquent ponies helping themselves to beer, bowls of cereal or putting the kettle on. This is not to say other people have not experienced this. I think the campsite operators were keen not to be liable for any damage.
There were also very touching sights of foals sleeping on the grass with their legs outstretched -with an attentive mother protectively standing over the foal.
Later on that day, we lit a charcoal barbeque in our secluded pitch. This is when I broke yet another of the rules and ended up putting some of the plenteous sticks and bits of gorse on the barbeque. It's hard not to when you are sitting with a beer and the setting sun. It seems like a human impulse to mess about with fire. Anyway, we were very careful. Certainly more careful than other campers with their roaring non-barbeque fires that I encountered over the week - now and again.
As I'm admitting to breaking rules - I also fed the ponies a carrot or two. My partner helpfully suggested that I should just wear a necklace made of carrots and wander about with it!
The facilities at the site were, in the most part, good. I found it refreshing to find a campsite that offers full recycling availability. I have been use to sites that just direct you to dump all your unsorted rubbish into a bin. Roundhill had specific large bins which were clearly labeled and it made it very easy to do the right thing.
Toilets and showers seemed to be plentiful. There were three blocks - so it was easy to get to the one nearest to your pitch. I never had to queue for a shower and the water was just the right temperature and everything was suitably clean. Unfortunately, there was only one coin-operated hairdryer in each block . Also, the space for people to pass was limited so when you were using the hairdryer you were a bit of a nuisance for everyone else who wanted to use the washbasins.
I cycled to and from the toilet block, left my cycle unlocked outside. It was very safe.
I only saw one disabled toilet shower facility in one block. I did not see inside it but the ramp that led up to the door seemed impossibly steep. I could not imagine pushing an adult up the ramp and I certainly could not imagine someone wheeling themselves up the ramp. A heavy motor powered wheelchair may have found it easier. My advice is that if you have a disability and wish to visit this campsite, make some detailed enquiries first. I have worked with wheelchair users and I know if they had encountered this ramp they would have had something to say
Another niggle about this campsite is the amount of money that visitors to the camp had to pay just to come on site and pay a visit to friends who were camping. We had two friends who were on holiday at nearby Bournemouth and they came to visit. They were shocked that they would have to pay around £5 just to pop in. We solved this problem however by getting them to park in a nearby car park and secreting them in the back of our vehicle for the short trip onto the campsite. Certainly, there are many ways to feel naughty whilst staying on this site!
A final, very small niggle, is that generators are allowed to be operated from 10am -12pm and from 2pm - 4pm. This bugged me as there was a caravan with a noisy generator near me. Perhaps it is a good idea to check who is camping near you. There are no electric hook-ups on site.
We stayed at this campsite in the peak season and paid around £15 a night. It is usually £17 a night but we were advised, on booking, to buy a 'Forest Experience' card which would give us a discount and also allow us to have a refund if we should have to cancel. I bought this as I thought it was worth it. The card lasts for a year and can be used for discounts at 'Go Ape' also.
The amazing holiday I had cost around £250 all in (petrol, food, beer etc) for two people. I think that represents good value in a recession hit time. The experience at Roundhill was completely positive despite all those (I'm sure very worthy) rules. I would like to note that, despite being virtually read the riot act on arrival, no one bothered us at all during our stay. This is just how I like it.