With spring supposedly sprung, Tom had been keen to get out in the camper van for a few weeks. Up until yesterday I had been able to put him off, but with the sun shining, my bad weather excuse would work no more (I don’t mind admitting to being a “fair weather” camper) and we set off on our first camping trip of the year, a last minute trip to Fen Farm.
As we live within an hour of Mersea Island, we had been there before and wanted to go back for a better look around. The Fen Farm website promised a good setting and some decent facilities and so we phoned up to book for Saturday night.
On arrival, we found the reception office easily and were given a map of the site and told that we could choose a spot in either of three fields. There are four fields for tourers in total and further space given over to static caravans. Each of the fields have water and electric points scattered around (and included in the price – £22/night at this time of year). We chose to set up camp in Berry Field which was quiet at the time of our visit in May. This may have been due to it being furthest from the toilet block as some of the other fields looked busier, but it wasn’t a long walk and it was in the right corner for the footpath to the pub which is helpfully marked on the map.
This site has no club house (which is fine by us) and no shop on site, although gas is available and there is a mobile shop which calls on Saturday and Sunday mornings. There is also a small shop in the village, which we didn’t use as we were only staying for one night and had remembered to bring everything that we needed. We did however check out the local pub, the Dog and Pheasant, which is a short walk away for a pre-dinner drink. It looked to be serving a reasonable range of traditional pub food in the evening but we didn’t try it. The site does have some childrens play equipment in one of the fields and we were told about this when checking in so we could choose whether or not we wanted to be near to it.
Previously, setting up camp has involved three steps. Number one: park; Number two: raise roof; Number three: connect electric hook up. This time however there was a step four: putting up the awning. Having watched the people next to us (who we assume were, like us, quite new to camping) struggling to put up their awning, we weren’t too worried that we would look like novices and up it went in only half an hour with no problems. There was a brief moment where we were worried that we hadn’t remembered how to solve the problem that has arisen the previous and only other time that we had put up the awning which involved matching the coloured ends of the poles to coloured tabs on the flysheet, but this was quickly remembered and we were pleased with our efforts. Time then to check out the local area.
The site is by the sea, although it is the static caravans that enjoy the sea view. The path to the sea from the site is well sign-posted and walking past the static caravans makes you realise just how big Fen Farm is, however due to its layout over several separate fields, it didn’t feel too big. If you were there on a busy bank holiday weekend, it might feel different though.
On arriving at the sea, you can walk left along the coast to Cudore Grove Country Park, which is a nice walk with views over to the mainland or you can turn right. We didn’t do this walk this time, but the coastal path this way heads towards West Mersea.
So it’s a nice site so far and it’s close to the beach for some good walks, but what about the all important toilet and shower facilities? Well they are pretty good – updated in 2005 according to the website. For the time that we visited, in both the ladies and gents, there seemed to be plenty of nice clean toilets and six or seven separate shower cubicles with changing areas and shelves and hooks to avoid having to leave your clothes and toiletries on the floor. The showers are operated on a timed push button system and were a good temperature. The block itself is heated and the piped in music is a nice touch. There are proper hairdryers in the toilet blocks which we didn’t use. These require 20p coins. I didn’t use the hairdryers, instead prefering to leave my hair to dry naturally and then tidying it up with the straighteners that we figured would run on the electric hook-up. I have proved that camping doesn’t have to mean bad hair which makes me happier about the ten day trip booked for the summer.
Looking at our rating system, this site scores 3.5 out of 5. This is on a par with the other sites that we have visited so far. It gets marked down for not having its own shop, for the site itself not being particularly attractive (though not unattractive either) and for it taking ages to get someone to answer the phone when we tried to book (we nearly gave up!).
All in all, a succussful trip and a good start to the 2010 camping season. I think we will probably return to this site in the future and would recommend that others give it a try.