Website: http://www.sleningfordwatermill.co.uk | Phone: 01765 635201 | Postcode: HG4 3HQ
This was a site chosen for a specific purpose, and recommended to us by a work friend when asked about the area. I bought Tom vouchers for his birthday earlier this year to visit treetopnets, a trampoline park in the trees. We chose to visit the Ripon branch and plan a camping trip around our booking. We did some research for sites in the area, and I asked a friend who camps regularly with his family (and incidentally just this year made the jump up from tent to folding camper ), and he recommended Slengingford, as they visit the site each year, originally trying it as a result of 2 other colleagues recommending it.
We were attracted by this loyalty, the site’s picturesque location, and the opportunities it had to offer for using our kayak – there is a river onsite (the River Ure). We were put off somewhat by the size of the site and the sheer number of questions we had to complete for the booking form, which was so full of rules and regulations that it felt like a test of how serious we were about camping! My friend assured me that although it was a large site, the way it is divided up gives a much smaller feel to the different areas, and that whilst you do get a lengthy recitation of “important information” at check-in, it does go someway towards reassuring you that it’s not the kind of place you’ll get a lot of anti-social behaviour.
So, after managing to navigate the booking questionnaire and receiving our confirmation details, we looked forward to our trip. It was then almost cancelled when our eldest came out in chicken pox the week before, but although we did rearrange our booking at treetopnets as he was too tired to enjoy it, we were able to take him to the campsite for a relaxing break anyway.
On arrival at the site we understood the references to the “Island” from the website – a part of the site is encircled by the river and accessed by a narrow bridge. There is a separate hardstanding field behind the main reception, on the other side of the river. Whilst the site is picturesque once you get to the Island, it has a less attractive entrance road lined by large seasonal caravan pitches which are pitched right up to the road.
We got ourselves checked in, and directed to our chosen pitch. We were in the Horseshoe, a small paddock that accommodates 15 pitches. We’d opted for a pitch separated from the adjacent pitch on one side by a tree, and were informed the pitch on the other side was not booked that weekend. We were alongside the single track road through the site. So far so good, plenty of space around us, we thought. We quickly learnt even whilst we pitched that the tree’s location meant there was a break in the fence and a natural path beside it down to the river, the main attraction for everyone in the site, and particularly older children and teenagers in the evenings. Cue plenty of foot traffic and meetings/partings at the “junction” immediately adjacent to our tent. It was past 11 on the first evening that I was still trying to settle our youngest whilst a group lengthily parted ways just inches from us. I’m told by others who’ve been there that we were lucky it wasn’t also a climbing tree, of which the site has a few!
We were generally happy with the location that first evening though, and were settled quickly. We weren’t far from the facilities block, which was clean and housed 4 toilets and 3 showers in each of the male and female side of a wooden chalet style building.
We were pitched in the Horseshoe, which is named for its shape, towards the “open end”, meaning most people entering and exiting the field went past our tent. The wider end of the field was occupied by two separate groups of 4/5 families each. What this meant was that they utilised the field shape to set up all of their group games, swingball sets, volley ball nets and cricket matches in the centre. This left us feeling very much on the edge of “their camp”, and as though we were intruding as soon as we stepped away from our tent. This was a little intimidating and also frustrating as we were repeatedly kicking back balls, handing over frisbees, and generally having our young children’s play space crashed into by older children, in addition to the river path alongside us. It wasn’t awful, but it soured the experience for us a little and left me feeling as though I might not be a very nice person for resenting children at play!
Interestingly, when I shared this experience with my colleagues after our trip, they were really surprised. However, my friend has since visited the site for the first time with his folding camper and therefore didn’t have his usual spot in the non-electric, pitch-where-you-feel area, but chose instead the Horseshoe. He had a very similar experience with groups of campers and we felt on reflection that this could be symptomatic of the shape of the area, and that perhaps it would be better for the field to be given to groups exclusively so as to reduce this for individual campers.
On the Saturday we headed into nearby Ripon to purchase some essentials and have a mooch around. We were impressed by the real ale collection in the Booths supermarket, getting distracted from groceries by filling the trolley with many new local beers to try at home! The city is small and attractive, reminiscent of a number of other Yorkshire towns with its central market square, and we enjoyed strolling around its bustling shops.
We returned to the site for a picnic lunch, and then got everyone kitted out for an afternoon beside the river. This is a major selling point for the site. There are some white water parts, a large still stretch with a sandy beach, and a further deep stretch towards the end of the site that seemed very peaceful. We took fishing nets, and entertained the boys by catching tiddlers in the rock pools and at the water’s edge. We also got some good use out of our kayak, taking it in turns to do circuits of the still stretch. We avoided the white water given ours is inflatable, but there were some traditional kayaks heading down the small waterfalls. It was a beautiful setting. The high bank on the far side was pitted with swallow nests, and the birds were very active. Added to that the fact that the whole site was well populated by wild rabbits, and it really felt idyllic.
The day we spent there was warm and fairly cloudy. It was fine for the boys to spend several hours getting wet in uv swimwear, so not a cold day, but equally not strong sunshine that would limit the time we wanted to spend there. I would imagine, though, that on a truly hot summer’s day it would have been a much more crowded, less pleasurable location.
We all had a warming shower afterwards up in the family bathroom near reception, just off the Island, before coming back to camp for a barbecue. Later we took an evening stroll around the whole site, which was lovely. There were many paths leading through wooded areas and along the river, and it was nice to meander around.
We did notice that the toilets and showers we were using up by the Horseshoe were the only facilities on the Island, and that they were actually quite a walk for a large part of the site.
The ability to select your pitch location on this site is very definitely a bonus, particularly for returning visitors. You need to make sure you know where everything is and choose wisely.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay. We even considered a return visit when we went to our rescheduled treetopnets session, but in the end just did this as a day trip due to other commitments. The site was larger than we prefer, and a little more commercial. It had its downsides in layout, but we could overcome those by selecting a pitch carefully. We would recommend it for families, and for its proximity to attractions such as treetopnets and Lightwater Valley.