We were on the starting blocks on the 4th July, booked into the Caravan and Motorhome Club (CAMC) Site in Borrowdale with an arrival time of 10.00! Since that heady first night back in our much-loved campervan we have slept happily at seven different campsites. We made the decision to stay local in the north-west of England for the first month and luckily for us this includes the beautiful Lake District where we could catch up on some much-needed fell walking.
I noticed each campsite has adopted a different way of making their site’s facilities safe for visitors. Here’s a roundup:
No facilities, no problem!
Our Devon Tempest campervan can be self-sufficient, it has a toilet, sink and shower in its modest bathroom. This means we can stay on sites with no facilities at all. Borrowdale and Dockray Meadow in Lamplugh in West Cumbria are two sites in the CAMC stable that never have a facilities block. Of course, you don’t have to use the facilities when they are there, but if we’ve paid for them it seems a waste not to! At Borrowdale and Dockray Meadow we did find that with no system to negotiate to get into the toilets and showers, staying on both of these sites was a calm and relaxing experience. They are both always peaceful sites and the walking options from Borrowdale in particular are hard to beat. They are ideal places to stay for anyone cautious about being away in their ‘van as social distancing is easy when everyone is staying on their pitch.
We also had a couple of nights at a site that is part of the other club’s network, Ravenglass Camping and Caravanning Club Site. This site normally has a facilities block but has chosen to keep it closed and only open the washing up sinks this season, however, it is charging it’s usual fees, making it much more expensive than the former two sites. Nevertheless, this small site among the trees and on the edge of the pretty coastal village of Ravenglass is a lovely place to stay.
Using your common sense
Delamere Camping and Caravanning Club Site did have its facilities block open. They asked campers to use common sense to ensure it never got too crowded and this informal way of managing people worked really well. There were never more than three people in the toilets and showers and the wash-up area was always quiet, even though the site was full. Hand sanitiser was available outside the toilets and showers too. We like this site as you walk through the perimeter fence straight into the extensive network of walking and cycling paths that Delamere Forest offers.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club’s wristband system had reached me via Twitter before we got to Troutbeck Head CAMC Site. Not surprisingly, there were lovers and haters on social media. Wearing our colourful wristbands we felt like we were at the swimming pool and found it a bit of a nuisance to remember to take a wristband to the sanitary block. Once there it seemed there were always more wristbands hanging up on the three hooks than there were people in the facilities as people forgot to take their wristband away. I found the tension of wondering if someone else would pick up my particular wristband while I was showering somewhat incompatible with a relaxing holiday.
A simple approach is often best
Our first independent site was Sykeside at Brother’s Water near Ullswater. This is a long-standing favourite site, surrounded by high fells. Not surprising for a great campsite, they had taken a sensible approach to social distancing and had installed a board outside the male and female toilet doors with four occupied / vacant signs and a sliding mechanism. There was no need to remember to take anything with you, you slid one row to occupied as you went in and slid it back to vacant when you came out. There was sanitising gel available too and paper towels in the washrooms. Sykeside got lots of ticks from me.
Hillcroft Park near Pooley Bridge is a large campsite with a mixture of tents, motorhomes, caravans and static caravans. Their sanitary facilities are modern and airy with good roomy hot showers that are kept sparkling clean. They introduced a sort of clocking in system, giving campers a card with their pitch number on. You were expected to put this card into one of the ten slots by the door. As a well-behaved camper, I took my card the first few times I used the facilities and popped it in one of the slots. It soon became clear that no one else was bothering with this system and so I gradually went native. It turned out this wasn’t a problem, common sense prevailed and the facilities never felt too crowded.
What works best?
This is no exhaustive research study, although if anyone wants to give me a grant to visit a more comprehensive sample of the UK’s campsites I am your woman.
From the sites we have visited, it seems to me that the systems that worked best don’t involve anyone having to take anything with them to the sanitary blocks as these are generally forgotten or left behind. The common sense approach at Delamere was the simplest way to manage numbers and it seems that campers have common sense in spades. The occupied / vacant boards at Sykeside were another good option, giving nervous or cautious campers the information they needed to help them feel confident about entering the facilities.
Has anyone found a different system that works better?