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Rushbanks Farm Campsite
Flatford Mill, famously pictured in John Constable’s The Hay Wain, may be 15 miles away but you could well expect it to be a mere 15 yards away if you come to Rushbanks Farm Campsite. The place has all the hallmarks of a Constable oil painting. The River Stour edges the grassland of the camping meadow, almost stationary it’s so slow; fat lily pads pepper along its edges and tall native trees tower along the opposite bank. There are no horses or carts, of course, and the odd campervan slightly modernises the scene. But the beauty of this campsite is that really it’s left entirely untouched – a timeless slice of countryside where you can camp with minimal fuss (particularly if you opt for one of the riverside bell tents).
Opened in the 1950’s and now run by the third generation of the Bates family, Rushbanks is the only campsite directly on the banks of the River Stour. Along with its painting-worthy aesthetics it also has some features that make it an easy choice for a Cool Camping recommendation. There’s a thoroughly laid-back atmosphere, campfires are permitted (firepits provided for the bell tents) and the local pub is not only within walking distance but also within paddling distance, with canoes available to rent for gliding the scenic two mile route.
For urban amenities it’s a 20-minute drive into Colchester town centre, but naturally it’s the rural charm of Dedham Vale that’s most appealing. The 15th century buildings in nearby Nayland, the thatched roofs in medieval Lavenham or visits to Kentwell Hall, where actors recreate Tudor scenes, all play on the timeless appearance of the surrounding countryside. It’s difficult to find a more charming riverside campsite in the UK.
FacilitiesToilets, hot showers, a children's swing and play area, outdoor sink for washing dishes, fresh water taps, chemical disposal point, recycling. Free boat launch into the River Stour (if you bring your own) and canoes available to rent. Campfires permitted with fire pits for rent and logs for sale.
Suitable ForTents, campervans, groups – yes. Dogs and pets – no.
NearbyRent a canoe and paddle to The Anchor Inn at Nayland keeping an eye out for swans, geese and deer on the banks along the way. Or take a stroll along the local footpaths – Wissington's Norman church (01206 262453) is a short and pleasant walk away. It's just over 2 miles to Arger Fen Spouse’s Vale Nature Reserve (01473 890089), a fascinating mosaic of ancient woodland alongside fen meadow and regenerating forest. It's particularly good in spring when a carpet of bluebells covers the floor. For the exact painting area of John Constable's The Hay Wain, head to East Bergholt where Flatford Mill (01206 297110; 15 miles) is now a popular tourist attraction.
Food & DrinkThe nearest pubs are The Anchor Inn (01206 262313), a traditional riverside inn in Nayland, around a mile and a half away, and The Hare & Hounds (01787 212396), a similar distance away in Leavenheath. Slightly further afield, The Crown (01206 262001) in Stoke-by-Nayland has a particularly good restaurant of the gastro-pub sort.
Late April–mid September.
It's been around for over half a century but the things that make Rushbanks such a special campsite have been here longer still. The river, the views, the cute thatched villages and the pub just down the road... no wonder camping here never gets old.
From Colchester: Take the A134 to Nayland. At Nayland turn left, sign posted "Bures." Follow the road for about 1.5 miles past a left hand lane sign posted "Wissington Church." There is a group of cottages on the left and shortly after a sign to the campsite. Turn left through a gate adhering to the 5mph speed limit and follow the farm track down to the waterside. From Bures: Take the B1508 to Bures. In the centre of the village turn right by the Church into Nayland Road. After 2 miles look for Rushbanks Farm on the left. Another 100m turn right through a gate adhering to the 5mph speed limit and follow the farm track down to the waterside.
The nearest train station is in Colchester (Colchester North; 0845 748 4950). Taxis to the campsite from there are approximately £15.
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