Carry On Camping – quest for better campsites

Cycle  camping  in  the  UK

Camping is great – that feeling of waking up under canvas is a great start to the day. Of course, wild-camping – as in camping away from formal camp sites – is the best, but there are issues with it, too. For starters, some people prefer to have showers and toilets readily available. Also, with a formal camp site, there are no concerns about being rudely told to pack up and move on, which remains a risk in almost all of Wales and England. Scotland is different, as wild-camping is permitted almost everywhere. By contrast, in Wales and England, it is illegal to wild-camp almost everywhere, except for a shrinking part of Dartmoor.

Cycle  touring  is  big  business

I’ve written about this before, years ago. Completely up-to-date figures are exceedingly difficult to find, but a 2018 report – now five years out of date – places a value of £520 million per year on cycle tourism in the UK. At the same time, a 2007 report by Sustrans values cycle tourism, just on the National Cycle Network, at £650 million per year. Overall, cycling is around twice as profitable to the UK as the steel industry is, and the bicycle industry, overall, employs twice as many people. Whether we go with £650 million or £520 million doesn’t matter (overall, the cycling industry is worth £4.5 billion per year to the UK’s economy) the fact remains that cycle tourism is a huge, and growing market. Any campsite who ignores that market is short sighted in the extreme.

Camp  sites

Increasingly, camp sites in the UK rely on digital booking, which is great. However, these digital systems appear to have been built by people who think camping exclusively means towing a grocklebox (also known as a caravan, if you’re outside Devon) to a site, and staying at the site for an extended period of time. Tent camping they seem to think exclusively refers to enormous, multi-roomed tents. The pricing for camping is based either on a per-pitch basis, or a per-person basis. Per-pitch means that you, with your tiny little cycle-camping tent, have to pay as much as the enormous tents. Oh, and if you’re touring with friends, each of you will be charged the same as an enormous tent, and each of you will be assigned a pitch large enough for an enormous tent! Per-person charging seems more fair.

See also  Beginner's Guide To Planning A Cycling Tour

Minimum  stay

Even more annoying is the restrictive booking systems. When you try to book, it’s usually impossible to book for just one night. Some sites will flatly refuse to take your booking, even if you offer to pay for two nights, but tell them you’ll be leaving after just one night! Think about that for a moment: camp sites rent out pitching spaces. If I paid you for two nights, but leave after just one night, you can possibly rent that same space out twice, increasing your profits. Why would any half-sensible human being get upset about that?

What  we  need

Cycle tourers are high-spending tourists. When you think about it for just a moment, it’s obvious why: we burn a lot of calories, and we need to replace it. Unlike drivers, who often arrive with a boot full of supplies, cycle tourers buy food and drinks along the way. The last thing we need is to be fleeced by camp site operators who fail to understand a huge market segment, and therefore put systems in place that are hostile to cycle tourers.
We need sites that are proud to accommodate cycle tourers. That means not limiting us to longer bookings, and not restricting us to what day of the week a booking may start. We do NOT want to have to pitch our tents in between motorhomes that have diesel heaters running all night, and we do NOT want to be forced to each pay for a pitch big enough for at least eight of our tents.

See also  LEJOGLE Relay

Cycle  tourers  are  different

We need sites that understand cycle tourers are different. We’ll often arrive in the early evening, ravenous. We want to rent a tiny patch of land to pitch our tents, ideally an on-site shop to buy food from, we want to have a shower, and there’d be bonus points awarded if there’s a pub nearby. We will typically leave early the next morning. We have no interest in “deals” for 3 kids and a spouse, plus a car. The maximum space we need is probable less than 2 metres by two metres. Forcing us to rent a 12 metres by 10 metres pitch is not good use of your camp site resources.

The  WillCycle Approved  Camp  site  list

I am very far from alone in sharing these frustrations. There are many thousands of cycle tourers equally affected. As a result, I’m starting the WillCycle Approved Camp Site list, but I need your help. Please nominate sites you believe are cycle-tourer friendly, by adding them as comments? Please tell us what makes the site good, what it’s called, and what the web site is. I will approach all nominated sites (plus many others) and ask them to agree to the WillCycle Approved Camp Site manifesto, which is detailed below.

The  WillCycle Approved Camp Site Manifesto

  • Cycle tourers will not be charged the same fee as people arriving by car
  • Cycle tourers will be allowed to camp for just one night
  • Cycle tourers will be able to camp away from motorhomes
  • For a prepaid fee, it might be possible for the camp site to supply some food, if there are no shops nearby. The fee will obviously include the price of the food, plus a delivery fee, to be set by the site.
  • Pitch fees for cycle tourers will reflect the far smaller size of tents used
  • Where the site’s normal digital booking service doesn’t allow for these options, a note on the site will direct cycle tourers to phone the site
  • Cycle tourers undertake to always leave a site at least as clean as they found it
  • Camp sites will have an enforced policy of no noise after latest 11pm
  • Tent pitch areas will be flat and not boggy
  • Ideally, there will be somewhere safe and secure to lock bikes up
  • Ideally, there will be somewhere to charge gadgets (and ebikes) and the site may charge extra for that
  • Toilets and showers will be clean
  • The site will make it clear if hot showers are available, and if claiming so, there will actually be ample hot water
See also  The Wild Atlantic Way calls

Sites that agree to this will be listed in a future post of approved, cycle-friendly campsites, together with links to their web site, and contact details.


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