Family Camping Trip at Watercress Lodges│Review

Although we have done a fair amount of travelling with the children we have never taken them camping. So, last Bank Holiday weekend we booked a couple of nights camping at Watercress Lodges near Alresford, Hampshire. (NB I’ve put more details of where we went, and what we did at the bottom of the post). We took a tent but there are lodges available if you’d rather not spend a night under canvas, or some tipis and safari tents if you’d rather not take your own tent.

We were able to pitch up from midday, and arrived at the campsite just after 1.30pm on Saturday 26th May. The site was basic, as campsites tend to be, but was well maintained and clean. There were plenty of toilets, sinks, and shower cubicles in the shower block, and the washing up area was undercover with washing up bowls and liquid provided (although we had brought our own). There is also a freezer in this area where you can put any ice blocks you might need to freeze for your cool box. 

By the time we’d got unpacked, and the tent up, we didn’t have a lot of the day left, but decided to explore our surroundings a little. The campsite is alongside Ropley Train Station (it’s literally separated by a line of hedges and trees) so we pottered down to see what we could see. At Ropley there’s a small climbing frame, a bridge relocated from King’s Cross which appeared in a Harry Potter film (where Hagrid gives Harry his Hogwarts Express ticket in The Philosophers Stone), a miniature railway, and plenty of trains! Do make sure you visit the website and check what is open and what is running on the day you are planning to visit though. You might be unlucky and there are no trains running, or you might be lucky and it’s an evening when a Gin or Real Ale Train is running - if you don’t have children with you that is. 

A friend of mine, by coincidence, had visited the area the weekend before us and recommended The Cricketers as being a super family friendly pub. After a busy day of packing, and unpacking the car, and putting up a tent, we decided to cheat a little and head to the pub for some food. It was a short drive away but worth the drive. As the weather was so good we sat outside to eat fish and chips, and the children had a play in the excellent playground. A very nice way to spend an (early) evening.

The following day we made the most of our National Trust membership and paid a visit to Hinton Ampner, just a 10 minute drive from the campsite. The website told us that the house wasn’t open during our visit because of some electrical work which was taking place, but we weren’t too worried as the kids tend to tire of looking round the houses pretty quickly. However, it appeared to be open on the day. As it was the first weekend of Half Term Hinton Ampner were holding a hedgehog themed family trail, so we paid £1 donation to take part. We were a little early to enjoy the 100 types of roses in all their glory, but the ones we did see were incredibly beautiful already. There were plenty of peonies and wisteria too,  you know, if you wanted those all important Instagram shots.  I have to say, it wasn’t one of my favourite National Trust visits, but it was nice to have a walk around and the children were kept happy with a Jude’s Ice Cream. Apart from a minor tantrum from the boy, it was a nice morning out.

In the afternoon (after the kids had a little nap in the car) it was time for that all important train ride on the Watercress LineTickets were a little pricey, £40 for the 4 of us for the day, so if we were to do it again we’d probably have bought tickets earlier in the day and got a few more train journeys out of them. As it stands, we just travelled down from Ropley to Alresford. Then back up the line to Medstead. Whilst in Alresford we had a bit of time before our return train so had a walk around the town, and popped to the pub for a quick shandy (a lemonade and a juice for the kids!). I have to say, the guards on the train were so incredibly lovely. They were chatting to the children about trains, let my daughter clip her ticket, and one guard even showed my so some video clips of his own model railway with all his Thomas trains in action, which they both loved.

For our second evening we used our camping stove to cook some pasta and had a couple of drinks sat outside our tent. The children ran around playing with a beach ball and the sticky catch mitts we’d brought with us.  The campsite wasn’t fully booked when we visited (there had been cancellations due to the horrific weather forecast) so there was plenty of space to play, and lots of other children were doing the same.

We had to leave the campsite by midday on the Sunday, although the campsite owner spoke to us and told us not to worry about rushing off as they weren’t fully booked the next day. We weren’t sure about the weather forecast so after some breakfast we packed up the tent whilst it was still dry. We did a final bit of train spotting, and my daughter found a painted rock at the station, before heading back to the campsite for a quick picnic lunch prior to the drive home. 

Overall we had an excellent camping trip, and we are excited to go again, but the questions every parent would want answering - was it hard work and how was the actual sleeping? “Yes”, and “not fantastic”, would be my responses to those. Yet I’m still looking for potential camping spots for another trip this summer. Yes, camping with an almost 4 and 2 year old was pretty hard work, but let’s be honest, so are most holidays with under 5s. However, the hard work was worth it for 48 hours spent outdoors, enjoying some of their favourite things (trains, running and pasta!) and a having some quality time together. We’re a fairly “outdoorsy” family so this kind of trip really suits us, although I expect it might have been a little different if the weather had been bad.

Right, the sleep thing. I could probably write a whole post just about this, but I’ll try keep it short. The major factor that effects how well you sleep (adults and children) during a camping trip is the weather.  We had an awful forecast for the weekend - storms, rain, and more storms - so I’d packed for the worst. Luckily, the forecast was wrong - you know, for a change! Although we had a dry weekend, it was extremely windy on night one. The tent was shaking about and it was quite loud, but it was very warm. I think the children and I all slept hanging out of our sleeping bags both nights. It was also very light in the tent during the evening, which made dropping off more difficult. However, once they fell asleep (10pm for night 1, and 9pm for night 2) they were out for the count and we barely heard from them all night. They also slept until a fairly reasonable hour in the morning. On the second day we even got a “lie in” until 7.30am. So, although bed times were a bit of a pain in the backside, and I had to pop into the tent to tell them to stop messing around more times than I can count, it could have been a lot worse. On our next trip I’ll definitely still pack with the expectation of cold nights though, I think we were extremely lucky on this occasion.

Do you go camping with your family? What campsite do you recommend we try for our next trip?

Where we stayed
Dean Farm
Bighton Hill
SO24 9SQ

Where we ate
Jacklyns Lane
SO24 9LW

What we did
Hinton Ampner House
Hinton Ampner
SO24 0LA

The Railway Station
Station Road
New Alresford
SO24 9JG