Both Daddy and me love camping. We like to be surrounded by beautiful nature and we always choose campsites, which are a good base for walks.
We want to pass both, the love of nature and the love of camping to Little F, so this year we’ve decided to have our first camping trip as a family. We started slowly, with a glamping trip – to make sure Little F is happy to sleep in a tent in the first place. And because we were still looking for a family sized tent on eBay.
With the glamping test passed and the tent collected, we started to look for a family friendly campsite. We didn’t have to look far, it was just a case of jogging our memory. We took Little F to Ashurst campsite in New Forest, the first campsite we visited as a couple many years ago.
The main reason we chose Ashurst, as our first camping trip all those years ago, was that it’s walking distance from a train station – we did not have a car at the time. This time the nearness of a train line became a minus in our minds. Some of the campsite runs along the train line. We needn’t have worried, the trains are quiet and their hooting before getting into the station was a great attraction for Little. He likes his trains!
The campsite is a medium size, not too big, and not too small. It has some open areas, but there are clumps of old oaks trees and bushes here and there creating separate areas. It gives an impression that the site is smaller than it is. The lovely thing is that all of the campsite is ringed by the New Forest, and there are no fences obstructing the view. If you position your tent with entrance facing towards the forest, rather than the path, you will have a beautiful view on waking and still keep your privacy.
But here I am talking about all these boring things, when the biggest attraction and the reason we chose this campsite are … wait for it … free range ponies! Within the New Forest National Park the ancient law of commoning is still observed. This means that certain people have the right to graze their animals freely and collect wood within the New Forest. It’s a great attraction for children to watch the ponies and horses calmly snip at the grass with their large teeth and fleshy lips, while swinging their tails to chase away horse flies.
A word of caution: these are wild animals and feeding of petting them is nor permitted. Watch, don’t touch!
The reason the campsite does not have fences is the ponies right of way and access. They come and go as they please. Sometimes in groups and sometimes single. It is a pleasure to have them around. Though we’ve heard stories of ponies getting into food supplies, so do keep these out of way. Human food is not good for horses and may cause colic.
Another big advantage of the Ashurst campsite is all the lovely walks around it. A lot of the walks are on wide comfortable paths, easily passable with a terrain buggy. Your standard stroller may also be fine on some of them, though you may get to point where mud or deep grooves will prevent you from continuing your walk. If you like walking with your toddler do invest in a mountain buggy. They are expensive when bought new, but we managed to get a second hand one at £40 via eBay. So do have a look around – here are some links to sites where people sell unwanted things, so equally you can buy second hand things on these sites.
During your walk you will come across other grazing animals, as it’s not just ponies who have the right of way. There are cows, pigs and deer. It’s all this animal activity, which maintains the current habitats in the New Forest National Park. There is forest, glades, marshes, heather land and open grass land – all in a days walk.
I don’t have a recollection of this from our first visit, but now that I am a little older and a mum I really appreciated the warm and clean facilities. The shower block also houses laundry and dishwashing area. Another ‘housekeeping’ bonus is a fair amount of bins dotted around the site, making it easy to dispose of your rubbish. The bins are separated into various recycling categories, which is a sign of great management and care of the surrounding area. Because there are so many bins, they are not overflowing giving out a horrid smell or attracting flies.
We found the staff to be friendly and very knowledgeable about the local area. They also have lots of flyers about local attractions and towns. You can also buy walking and cycling maps at the reception.
The cherry on top of the cake is a nearby pub – The New Forest. It’s only three minutes walk from the gate of the campsite, and has a play ground. What more a parent in need of relaxation could ask for? Well, the food is very nice too, which meant we didn’t have to cook every evening after a long walk. I like cooking outdoors, but with just one cooker, it takes a while.
If like us you don’t have a cool box, there is a Co-op about 15 minutes walk, where you can buy your supplies and ice to keep things cool. And if you forgot any camping equipment there is Argos about 15-20 minutes drive.
Ashurst certainly remains one of our favourite campsites, and it has passed the family friendly test. We will certainly be back to explore more. We haven’t ventured to the forest-edge beach yet!
PS. We have been offered a free stay by Camping and Caravanning Club in exchange for an honest review. All the opinions are my own (with a gentle sway from Daddy and Little F!).