When I was persuaded 12 months ago that we were going to become a camping family I had pictures in my head of little fields and basic amenities. I was really quite pleased that this is definitely not Callow Top, which is in the centre of the Peak District in Ashbourne.
Pull off the main road at the well-signed entrance and you’re met by a long driveway with immaculate grass on either side. At this point you can’t actually see the site as it’s in the distance at the top of the hill obscured by trees. There are quite a few speed bumps on the way up the drive and my advice would be to take it very steady if you’re towing.
I have to admit to being a bit concerned at the check in when we were met with a queue and signs stating that people arriving should use the left hand lane. It was a bit Centre Parcs for me but the process was efficient and although we’d arrived at a pretty busy time we were soon heading to our pitch.
Driving through the site it became apparent just how big an operation Callow Top Farm is. There are at least 7 fields occupied with a range of both caravans and tents. Each field has pitches around the outside perimeter many with electric hook-ups , then a road and another layer of pitches on the inside. The centre of the field is then left free for ball games etc which is an excellent idea.
We were on the interior ring which was great for sitting round and having a beer while watching the kids play.
The pitch itself was plenty big enough for our 8 man tent, car and trailer so a big tick there. The pitch was flat and the grass had obviously been recently cut.
So on to the facilities. Well first and most importantly there is a micro brewery on site and I’m pleased to say it’s a good one. I can really recommend the IPA and for what is effectively a captive audience, it was very reasonably priced.
Other than the brewery there’s a well kitted out kids play area, a pub (which has limited opening hours) and a bar which serves food for most of the day and held various activities for the kids including discos. Attached to the bar is the block containing the toilets, pot wash, freezers, showers and if you’re that way inclined, an arcade.
The pot wash comprised of around 6 sinks so at peak times it could get busy and I found that having a beer while you waited was a good way of passing the time (hic).
There are 14 showers which will cost you 20p for four minutes of what I thought was perfect temperature water. While four minutes was fine for me The Wife had concerns about washing her hair in the allotted time and reports that 8 minutes successfully got her and Mimi clean.
Like the pot wash the showers were very busy first thing on a morning and by 9am got quite grubby on the floor. To be fair to the staff they did their best and were always around either litter picking or cleaning but with the showers it was a bit like painting the Forth Bridge.
The site has a quiet rule at 11pm but we found that the area we were in was silent by 10pm. Looking around our field it was clear that the kids were all of a similar age which if planned by the site was a great idea as they all went to bed at a similar time.
If you fancy getting away from the site without taking the car there’s a direct path onto the National Cycle Network and a very easy 30 minute walk gets you into Ashbourne where there are bars, cafes (we’d recommend Cafe Impromptu), shops and a supermarket just in case you’ve forgotten anything. If you’re feeling a little more energetic bikes can be hired close to Ashbourne, as well as at Callow Top itself, and then how much of the Cycle Network you explore only depends on the amount of ‘pedal power’ you have.
So was I sold? This was the best trip we’ve had – not least because it only rained for one of the three days – and as some of you may have seen I declared the trip ‘acceptable’. Now OK this might not sound like high praise but you have to bear in mind just how reluctant I am. An ‘acceptable’ from me I’m sure would be a ‘fantastic’ from a more willing participant.
(Editor’s note. Thought you’d like to see proof that Husband can enjoy himself while camping, albeit with the help of wine & fire.)