SIX new campsites have opened very close to Shaftesbury in the past two summers as the demand for safe breaks in the open air continues to be in demand.
At least three sites have opened in the past month, taking advantage of relaxed planning rules which say temporary structures could be placed on land without planning permission for 56 days – previously it was 28. Farmers have jumped at the chance to open up more land to camping.
The rules on social distancing mean that new campsites are also granting more space for pitches, some up to 20m apart, making healthy budget holidays even more attractive. Three of the new sites listed below are on the foothills of Shaftesbury, making them within walking distance of the town – Holyrood Farm (pictured, above) is just a 10-minute walk from town.
The appeal is the relative smallness of the sites, with limited facilities – this is wild camping, by and large, with a small bill: £20 for up to six people on some sites. With five of the sites open into September (Woodfrys is open until the end of October), there’s time to book a late break. Come and explore.
A mile from Shaftesbury, it’s a new site which opened in Melbury on Aug 6, with views up Melbury Hill from one of the two fields. Owners Barney and Ellie are keeping numbers low for the rest of this season as they trial the mix of campervans and tents. It’s an adult-only site, with no under-16s: dogs permitted, bar certain breeds/crossbreeds. Facilities are limited – two loos and cold water, but no showers or washing up facilities. “This is exactly what it says on the tin. A friendly wild camping field,” says one early review (which are all positive). Reycling and waste facilities, an outdoor shower and better footpath access around the farm are all on the to-do list. £20 a night for two, last booking Sep 21.
The closest site to Shaftesbury town centre, just half a mile south of the pubs and shops. Look up to town and down across to The Blackmore Vale, Melbury Hill and Wiltshire. It’s large, with space for 54 each of campervans and tents, and has been operating just over a year. In that time, farmer Jason has added two showers, flushing toilets, a washing-up area, firepits for rent and wood for sale. It’s a working farm, including sheep, cattle – and alpacas. dogs permitted, bar certain breeds/crossbreeds. One review liked: “The site, especially its open position and views. The fact that units were very well-spaced. The shower. The exceptionally simple range of facilities which reminded me of when I started camping 60 years ago. ” £20 a night for two, last booking Sep 23.
Another new site on the southern slopes of Shaftesbury’s hilltop location, which means fabulous sunset views and out to Duncliffe Woods. It’s a Portaloo and water site, and is only opening at weekends in its first year, with just 10 spaces. But it rates 9.9 on PitchUp reviews as a ‘back to basics campfire and dog-friendly site,’ says one. At £20 a pitch, it won’t make a fortune. “But it pays for the fencing, keeps the place up together and puts a bit of money into the pot,” says farmer Alex Gibbs in an interview with This is Alfred radio. Barbecues allowed, wood for sale. Dogs permitted, bar certain breeds/crossbreeds. “For a family of five with children aged 8-13, we thoroughly enjoyed our stay – very relaxed laid back site with lots of room to yourself,” said one review. Last booking Sep 30.
A family run site that opened in 2019 with just 20 tent pitches: no campervans/RVs. It’s about three miles southwest of Shaftesbury and has loads of space to run around – the children can also hang out at a play area which has a climbing frame, some ride-on toys and a basketball hoop. There’s also an indoor games room for table tennis, darts and board games. Distancing required of course. Facilities include a communal fridge, picnic area, fire pit and wood to rent, toilet block, water supply close to the pitches. There’s no shower. Dogs permitted, bar certain breeds/crossbreeds. One review from August 2020: “Brilliant spot, kids loved animals, friendly owners, lovely dog!” From £10 a night, last booking Sep 7.
A family-run, 25 acre smallholding in Melbury Abbas, just south of Shaftesbury in the lee of Melbury Hill and Fontmell Down. The farm was only set up in 2018 and is a small scale producer of rare breed chickens, pigs, cattle and sheep. The camping site has followed, sited around a lake and water meadow fed by a chalk stream. It takes tents, campervans and caravans: there’s a communal fire pit area with seating, or fire-baskets for private use (£7.50 inc logs). There are Portaloos, washing up sinks, drinking water and electric hook-ups but no showers. Dogs welcome. The site is open from March to end October: adults £7.50 a night, children £2.50. Check availability here and then ring 01747 852383 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another brand new site (no reviews yet), the farm is five miles due west of Shaftesbury on the edge of the pretty (but pub and shop-less) village of Stour Provost. This is a ten-only site (10 pitches) on a working farm (feed the pigs!) within reasonable walking distance of a pub (the very good Ship at West Stour), fishing lakes and Duncliffe Woods. There is a toilet block but no showers or washing up facilities. Dogs welcome. £20 a night, up to six. Last booking Sep 6.