“ Alternative camping at Alders Caravan Park / Address: Home Farm / Alne / York Y061 1RY „
Since last summer when the boom hit I have desperately wanted to go 'Glamping', I am absolutely camping-phobic I hate it so much it's disgusting slumming it for the sake of a night under the stars and so this really appealed to me as a way to go have fun without the atrocity of being dirty and unwashed... my girlfriend harped on about Glamping for months and as it was her birthday recently I decided to take her (I know, slightly selfish gain for me too!). I began my Glamping mission by visiting http://goglamping.net/ and was astounded by the prices. Sure, some of the sites including the Yurts and Tepees were phenomenal, with four-poster beds, luxurious interiors and open wood-burning stoves inside the 'tent', but there was no way I could justify the money. Plus, August is very busy and most reasonable-ish places were fully booked. So, I decided to go and find somewhere else to Glamp. I had a look around Google and found http://www.thepod.info/ which is Glamping on a whole other level - a more basic level, with all the excitement of camping, but in a warm wooden insulated pod. I had already booked a night in a hotel near York so I had a look for a pod in the surrounding area (there's an interactive map on the site) and I found The Alders Caravan Park, with two new pods for 2011. More importantly, it was only £30 and allowed a single night stay in August AND it had availability so I decided to give it a whirl. Booking was a slow process! You can't book online and so you have to call up and book over the phone. I emailed over some questions and received prompt responses and then a few days later called up to make the booking. To secure a pod, the Alders require a £20 deposit regardless of the number of nights you plan to stay. I paid in full as it was only for the one night, but if you are going for a longer period you can pay by cash or card when you arrive on site. I much prefer online booking, but I guess it was the tiniest of inconveniences having to make an actual, real life phone call! We arrived late after spending a day shopping in York. I'd called to let the site know we would be arriving at approximately 7pm and this was no problem - 'check in' is totally flexible just let them know what time you are arriving, even if it's early in the day, they will do their best to accommodate you. Similarly, check out is flexible too, if they haven't any other guests arriving you're welcome to stay up until tea-time. The site owners were there to greet us as we pulled up. They have a little reception building which is crammed with locally produced goodies like preserves, sweets, biscuits and a limited selection of 'basics' like milk and bread. They also sell large, fresh, free range eggs which are £1 for 6! I think that's a complete bargain and we left the next day with a dozen. You're required to pay a £20 refundable deposit too on arrival, or you can leave your card details on a pre-authorisation form. I think they may have suffered some vandalism in the past and actually told me that one of the first guests in the pods smashed a window and didn't report it, so they'd introduced the deposit scheme. You also need a couple of pounds to give as a deposit for shower tokens - if you're staying in the pods. There are two shower/toilet blocks and the one nearest the pods is the newest and requires a returnable token each time you use it. If you return the tokens at the end of your stay you get your money back (which is what I used to buy my yummy eggs!). One of the owners drives you round to your pod, so you can follow him in your car (or hitch a ride if you're not driving!), you access the site via Home Farm, which is gorgeous, free range hens, cows, horses and sheep, greet you as you pass. It's all immaculately cared for too - neat little hedgerows, flowers and trees make up the scenery; you can't help but take a deep breath and suck up the clean, country air! When we arrived at the pod, the owner opened up for us, gave us our key and turned on the electric, wished us well and made his way back to the farm house. The pod itself is impressive. Easy for an adult to stand up in, with headroom, and with enough space for two double airbeds and a little walking room too, they sleep up to four people. They are built from wood and have electricity running to them with a lamp and heater supplied. There is an interior roller blind to add privacy or shade to the double patio doors. The pod is insulated with sheep's wool to keep warmth locked in when it's cold and too keep the place cool in the summer. There's a double patio door leading out on to a small veranda, which is easily big enough for a couple of chairs and a small table. Outside of the pod, there is a parking space and a large picnic bench to enjoy al fresco dining in style (no sitting on damp grass woop!). They also thoughtfully included two large flat logs, for disposable barbeques to sit on, so that you don't burn or damage the bright green grass. Inside the pod we pumped up our airbed and added pillows, sheets and a duvet. We took some champagne to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday, fresh bread, olives and cheese and we spent the evening playing cards and we set off a Chinese lantern - all very romantic and relaxing. If we had wanted though, we had ample space for ball games, a game of rounders or cricket and the grounds are so inviting for long, lazy summer walks. Instead we took the boring route and sat on the porch under the stars! The toilet block wasn't what I expected at all. As well as having separate ladies and men's toilets, it also had a laundry area with an iron and ironing board, showers, a pot wash area and a bookshelf filled with all sorts of books, newspapers (not old ones either!) and magazines that people had donated. There were plenty of children's selections on there too. Little touches like that make places for me. The showers and toilets were incredibly clean, smelt of lovely air freshener, with posh hand wash and well stocked hand towels. No scratchy toilet paper either, which has usually been my experience of campsite toilet blocks... When we left the site the next morning after a great night's sleep, we had our deposits returned and the owner was genuinely sad we were leaving so early. She asked us what we had planned and offered up some ideas of places to visit locally. I must admit, I was sorry to be leaving, I could have spent the week there getting some serious R+R in a beautiful setting and without the discomfort of actual camping. The site is located in Alne, just outside of York - there's a load to do in the local area and you're only a short drive from the Park and Ride schemes serving the city centre. The pods are open March until October, and cost £28 - £30 per night, depending on season. They don't allow pets, but do offer a discount of 10% for 3 nights or more mid-week holidays or 7 nights inclusive of a weekend. Disabled access is limited, particularly through the small porch doors. The Alders can be contacted via email or telephone and their website plus more information can be found at www.thealderscaravanpark.co.uk/pod.htm. I highly recommend them for either a relaxing or an outward bound short or mid length break. Thanks for reading!