by Jacqueline Oliver
Home to quintessential English market towns and villages built from honey-coloured stone, covering almost 800 square miles, and across five counties, the Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and Wales, making them a perfect base for keen walkers and cyclists.
After camping for many years whilst our children were young we felt we were ready to try something slightly less basic.
Gradually the idea of hiring a motorhome crystallised in our minds and, with our children now at university, we looked around for a company who could provide the required ‘wheels’.
Local company LandCruise was the perfect choice and we chose a Swift Escape 664, 2/4 berth motor home – nothing too large for our first foray into driving something bigger than the family car.
Where to stay?
Booking a campsite in advance, even though we were travelling in mid-October, seemed a good plan. We had no idea how booked up sites would be but decided it could do no harm. The Caravan & Motorhome Club have the best selection of parks for the Cotswolds including ones at Blenheim Palace, Broadway, Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham Race Course and Tewkesbury Abbey.
We chose Moreton-in-Marsh Caravan Club Site, Gloucestershire which was within walking distance of the town, had a train station and plenty of pubs and restaurants. This campsite is fairly small but seemed to offer good facilities. On arrival we checked in and were greeted by friendly, knowledgeable staff.
The site was busier than we had expected in early autumn – we had underestimated the stamina of caravaners. We chose a quiet spot near the edge of the site and began to relax.
The campsite had scrupulously clean showers which were warm and welcoming, laundry and dishwashing facilities and the usual places to empty chemical toilets and grey waste water. The Wi-Fi was good once you got connected – £3 per day (or you could pay for access for a week or a year) or you could spend your time Wi-Fi free and talk to each other!
There is some traffic noise at this site as it is near a fairly busy road, but everything else was lovely and its proximity to the town more than made up for this. Four nights a week it is served by either a wood burning pizza van, a fish and chip van or a van selling steak and chips – ideal if you feel too lazy to cook or venture into Moreton in Marsh (5-8 minute walk – all flat). Or venture up the hill to a great bistro pub – The Horse and Groom at Bourton-on-the-Hill.
What to do and see?
Moreton in Marsh is a traditional Cotswold town with delightful old buildings built in traditional oolitic limestone. We can highly recommend The White Hart and the Redesdale Arms – both had lovely open log fires and good food.
The area around us was packed with things to do and see – visit the nearby Batsford Arboretum or Sudeley Castle and Gardens at Winchcombe which are magnificent in the Autumn, walk the Cotswold way to the highest point at Cleeve Hill, take a ride on the heritage railway, explore Bourton-on-the Water with its car museum and miniature village, climb up to the Broadway Tower, taste the local gins at the Cotswolds Distillery or go and see Adam’s farm which is often featured on the BBC Countryfile.
We travelled by train to Oxford for the day. From Moreton-in-March it only costs £10 return and takes half an hour. Although we had been before there was still plenty to see.
We largely ignored the shops and instead visited the Bodleian Library which contains 9 million books making it Britain’s second largest. The earliest collection dates back to the 13th century.
We also took a guided tour to see the Radcliffe Camera (the reading room of the library built in 1749) which is connected to ‘The Bod’ by an underground passageway. After another fab pub lunch we headed to the University of Oxford Botanic Garden. It is Britain’s oldest botanical garden and contains 7,000 species of plants – this was well worth a visit, especially as it had stopped raining!
We had a day of torrential rain, so we travelled by train to Bicester Village, a designer shopping outlet. It’s about an hour away, but has over 160 luxury brands on offer at great discounts.
How did we find the motorhome?
We showered in the site shower block partly to save water and partly because the bathroom in the motorhome we had chosen was very small. The site showers were large and hot so it wasn’t at all problematic to do this even in wet weather. However, if this isn’t for you (or you are going to be staying in places which don’t have facilities) choosing a home with a less compact bathroom might be important.
The fridge seemed slightly smaller than full size as it wasn’t as deep as a standard fridge. This might not give enough space for a family to store everything they might need but we found it fine for the two of us.
The oven and microwave are good for heating pre-prepared meals if you wish to stay in. Otherwise the motorhome had just about everything you might need. We brought our own cafetiere and packed cling film and tin foil.
Our few days away passed quickly. We found the experience relaxing and easier than expected overall. LandCruise try to cover everything with their instruction folder and there are ‘How to’ videos on most things which are sent out in advance. Unfortunately, we did have some trouble getting the heating and hot water to work. A quick call to LandCruise HQ (out of hours on a Sunday evening) provided the necessary expertise and we were up and running.
Would we do anything different next time?
We would probably choose a different motorhome design – the fixed bed does take up a lot of living space. Having said that it was lovely not to have to make the bed up each evening.
What was really useful?
Wellies – we had a lot of rain so these were vital! Taking a ready prepared meal for the first night or two was a good idea – the freezer section of the fridge kept things completely frozen. As first time drivers of such a large vehicle, taking some time to plot a route which didn’t include country lanes and tracks was a great idea. It gives you time to get used to the driving too.