Are England’s Campsites Full?

In this almost-normal summer of 2021, most people are staying in the UK, ‘staycation’ has come to mean going on holiday in your own country and the media is packed with stories about overflowing car parks at beauty spots and there being no room at the inn. So if you haven’t booked a pitch for August, can you still find anywhere to park your campervan in England?

We returned from our Scotland and Ireland trip in July with nothing planned for the months ahead. Reading the media reports about the burden on our tourism infrastructure, even with few tourists arriving from other countries, I became concerned. It also seemed as if everyone had taken up camping and pop-up sites were appearing to take the strain. Had we made a massive mistake by not booking anywhere for July and August months ago? In this mayhem what were the chances of finding a free pitch anywhere within 200 miles of home. I had nightmares about being confined to Morecambe again, not because of Lock Down Four this time but because of my own lack of organisation.

I should have remembered that you can’t believe everything you read or hear in the media!

What I find strange in this new Covid-19 world, where social distancing has become socially acceptable, is that the small campsites for five units that come under the umbrella of the Caravan and Motorhome Club, the mysteriously named Certificated Locations [CLs], are not full to bulging. I thought, being small and usually in the countryside, these sites would be many people’s first choice. Of course, they have their fans but during July we have stayed on a couple of these and both were booked just a few days before we set off and both had availability.

Even though the school holidays had arrived, we had three nights at a lovely CL, Pool Bank, near Otley in the hot weather [top photograph]. The site was full but that wasn’t surprising given the exceptional sunny weather.

Buoyed by this success and keen to have a few days of hill walking I rang a favourite CL in the Lake District, Upper Hawthwaite Farm [middle picture]. I tentatively asked if they had a couple of nights free over the next two weeks. We could be flexible and were willing to consider any dates. I had taken in all the media reports about the Lake District being over-crowded this summer and was surprised when I was told they had space on any night. We not only got a pitch last minute, when we arrived there were still two pitches free!

CLs do take a bit of an effort to book. You often need to ring to book, pay in cash when you arrive and many have no facilities. I welcome the website and app that is now offering online booking for a selection of CLs. This is the future and I hope that this will eventually include most of them and make booking easier. But for 2021, booking a CL can take a bit more time but they are certainly worth the effort.

There are rumours that there have been more no-shows at campsites this year and reports that some people have double booked campsites, deciding at the last minute which to go to. This seems a lot of effort to me, it’s time consuming enough deciding on one site, never mind two! Talking to one campsite owner for a September booking, they explained they weren’t taking deposits but asked that I ring and let them know if we were unable to come along. I replied, ‘Of course, I would always do that.’ She then explained that just that weekend [one of the hot ones] they had four units who were booked and had not turned up. They were upset as, due to the good weather, they could have filled those pitches many times over and had turned people away. Is this why we are seeing free pitches at campsites?

After my success with CLs, I then booked a couple of nights on The Larches, an adult-only campsite in the north Lakes. This isn’t the cheapest campsite but it is a well-run and friendly site that was ideally placed for a couple of hills we wanted to walk up. Amazingly they had space for us even though they are limiting numbers due to Covid-19. This year they are giving every unit a treat with their own private shower room in the facilities block.

I don’t know if adult-only sites are more or less popular in the school holidays. We only look for them at this time of year and I expected to struggle to find availability but have been pleasantly surprised. It seems only fair to me that we stay out of the way of families who can only take their holidays when the schools are out and not compete with them for pitches on sites that welcome children. This is a bit like the rule that states you shouldn’t go shopping in the supermarket during lunchtime when you are no longer working! Or is it just me that thinks it is only fair to give those workers who are dashing to the supermarket in their short lunch break a bit of space?

Our final night in the Lake District was a free overnight spot. Again, with so many people out and about in their campervans we wondered if we would find a space. As you can guess we had no problems.

After now booking another campsite for mid-August I am thinking that the claims that England’s campsites are full doesn’t seem to stack up in the north of England. I wonder if it is different at the seaside or in the south of England.

Author: Back on the Road Again Blog

I write two blogs, one about my travels in our campervan and living well and frugally and the second about the stories behind the people commemorated in memorial benches.

6 thoughts on “Are England’s Campsites Full?”

  1. We’ve surprisingly found spaces available too – on CLs & campsites and not all of them in the north. Deciding to go to Cheltenham next week for daughter’s birthday, then have a couple of nights in the Cotswolds, there was enough late-booking space available with the C&MH club – even a choice of sites. But the CLs definitely have it with low occupancy, space, no need for facilities if you use your own, and some lovely locations. Carry on Camping says I, with the wicked laugh of Sid James ringing in my ears and Barbara Windsor losing her bra in a keep fit session (not that my experience of camping has ever been quite like that!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I’ve never experienced anything quite like Carry on Camping either! Thank you Joyce, good to hear it isn’t just the north where there is space. I’m amazed the club sites have space, I hadn’t even looked at those. I guess the media like a story.


  2. I have booked August and September breaks in both CAMC locations and CLs and not had any problems. Don’t get me started on the accuracy of mainstream media reporting . . .

    But here’s a new one you might be interested in. Bumped into an acquaintance in the supermarket this morning who was thrilled to tell me they have just picked up a new (to them) campervan. A well-regarded conversion a ‘standard’ panel van this vehicle is a 2019 and has done 8,000 miles. They brought it from a trustworthy and established dealer located between you and Kendal . . . I asked what on earth had happened for this van to become available at a time when motorhomes are “apparently” in short supply and the story is that the first owner has had it a couple of years and is so sick of “campsites full of newbies” that they are giving up for a couple of years. Shakes head . . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good to hear you’ve been able to book pitches. And what a strange reason to sell a van. I don’t think I have noticed an influx of newbies and I’m not sure it is a problem anyway. There must have been other reasons! Anyway, lucky for your acquaintance to pick up a good buy. Will they be trying to look as if they have years of experience behind them on a campsite 🙂


      1. I agree and thought it sounded like a strange reason, but there are many strange people around!
        The dealer is well established and (I believe) trustworthy, and they have also had the van checked over by someone who has been motorhoming for 30 years and is an electrical engineer.
        Our friends are very experienced tent campers so I doubt they will look like newbies 😊, I reckon they are good to go and I only have a little ‘van envy’!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think dealers with a good reputation want to hang onto that and it sounds like they have done all the right things. The van envy thing can hit any of us when we least expect it, although I am yet to find anything I love quite as much as our layout. We occasionally mull over changing our ‘van but nothing else quite hits all our buttons.


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