Riversidelakes

  • Electrical hook-ups
  • Campfires allowed
  • Dogs welcome
  • Good walks nearby
Spacious, relaxing, comfortable, and easily accessible. Regulars already know they have to book in advance, so newbies will need to be quick off the mark.

We’ve always believed this is one of the top campsites in the UK, but this utter gem has just been getting better and better since our last visit. The owners Maggie and Nigel are as affable as they are creative, and they don’t do anything by halves. At the beginning of summer 2010, the couple and their two sons took on this 15-acre site, along with the resident Chinese geese, duck, swan, cat, chickens – and an entire season’s bookings. Since then, both their business and their animal farm have been booming. The wild flowers and rope-tyre swings have been swaying, new little piglets grunting and, most importantly of all, the punters are smiling.

The low-key signposting (if you hit Drusilla’s Inn you’ve gone too far) does little to hint at the magic that lies ahead, where the pitches are spacious and the atmosphere is almost other-worldly, despite its convenient location not far from the M27. Once you’re in, park up and head for reception,where you’ll probably meet Maggie. The camping area comprises 12 acres of dreamy natural meadow and woodland, with three lakes enclosed by circumferential paths and thick shrubbery. All the pitches are accessible by car so you can drive and unload before parking in the car parks. Mown pathways separate the clusters of pitches and the long, wild grasses create walls in between, so that all that sedentary campers can see of their neighbours is the smoke rising from their braziers. At dusk the overall vista resembles the basecamp of an intrepid expedition into the wild unknown. There’s a stillness in the air. This is total enchantment.

Groups (quiet ones) really do love it here, booking out entire pitch clusters. Each cluster bears its own helpful name. So you can choose your spot according to your needs – great lake views, proximity to the facilities, sheltered woodland, treelined and ridgeway pitches, and isolated individual hideaways – you choose.

The facilities are top-notch: a new shower room has been upgraded so the water is always hot and there’s a sheltered area for recycling with plug points. The area beyond is full of great pubs and restaurants, though you’ll need a car or a taxi to sample the fish and chips or the Chinese and Italian establishments at Verwood; failing that you can just dial for a takeaway – many leaflets can be found on site. The narrow country lane outside of the campsite isn’t ideal for young children to walk or cycle along, but just a few miles up the road is the fabulous Moors Country Valley Park, which has cycle paths, tree-top walkways and scavenger hunt trails. A sandpit play area for the very young and a larger adventure park for older kids are the cherries on top. It’s expensive to park there but a lot of the areas are free – which is always a bonus. Take a packed lunch to enjoy in the picnic area before jumping on a steam train for a ride through the woods.

Alternatively, you can just stay put on the site: many families bring bicycles so their charges can tear along the kale and woodland paths. If they’re not doing that they’re climbing trees, playing on swings or watching their dads fish. As for everyone else, well, they’re just kicking back and enjoying the magic of the place.

Details

Facilities

Campfires in firepits or borrowed braziers. Logs are £6 a bag, which includes matches, firelighters and kindling (delivered to your tent). Camping areas include: Viewpoint, which allows parents to keep an eye on toddlers as they run up and down the meadow; Isolation spots suit single bookings and are nearest to the showers; Chill Out is in the furthest corner. Three woodland pitches offer protection from the elements among the trees: Overview looks out across the middle lake and suits small tents; and at the top the Treeline and Ridgeway clusters have views of the site and also share an eco-loo. The new shower block has 8 showers supplied with renewable energy, loos, hairdryers, a family bath and baby-changing facilities. There are 3 washing-up sinks, a freezer and microwave. Ice packs are available. New Soul Pad bell tents come with camp kitchens, mattresses, wooden decking outside and a bench table. A communal area, 2 washing-up sinks, and an electric powerpoint faces a huge firepit that groups can use. Recycling bins include a swap shop, where you leave/pick up anything that campers might use. Experienced anglers can acquire an Environment Agency rod licence to fish in the lakes (from the post office, 1 day £3.75; 8 day £10).

Suitable For

Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs, groups (not young or noisy ones) – yes.

Nearby

If you want to do more than just kick back by the lakes, the historic market town of Wimborne Minster has a farmers’ market on Fridays and flea market on Saturdays. The town also boasts a remarkable, originally Norman minster church of St Cuthberga, with a rare chained library. The Moors Valley Country Park (01425 470721) is down the road, and has picnic areas, cycling tracks, forest walks with wooden climbing structures, golf, croquet and high-wire tree-climbing. One of England’s most magnificent country mansions, Kingston Lacy, is just outside Wimborne Minster to the north-west (01202 883402), plus there’s the Iron Age fort of Badbury Rings, in what feels like a very wild and remote spot a mile or so further north. In the opposite direction, the relatively urban vibe of Bournemouth and its lovely beaches are just a 20-minute drive away.

Food & Drink

Pretty Drusilla’s Inn (01258 840297) is a right turn out of the campsite and serves a whole range of pub grub including Sunday roasts, cider-roasted hams and kids’ meals. Friday morning is market day at Wimborne Minster – great for campfire supplies. Wimborne pubs are much of a muchness, but you could try the White Hart (01202 886050), right in the heart of town, which does decent pub grub and has a small beer garden. The Long Crichel Bakery Café (01258 830852) is perhaps the best place for lunch, with lots of choice based on its own beautiful bread and delicious savoury pastries.

Opening Times

May – Sept.

Pitches

There are 55 pitches, no minimum stay, in different areas, and room for 5 campervans or caravans with hook-ups.

No availability showing at Riversidelakes.

Location

Contact Riversidelakes, Slough Lane, Horton, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 7JL

Show Map

Getting There

Take the M27 west and then the A31. Just past Ringwood take the A338 for Bournemouth but at top of slip road turn right at roundabout towards Moors Valley Country Park, Three Legged Cross and Horton.  Slough Lane is 3.5 miles after the country park on the right, after 2 mini roundabouts. Bournemouth train station is a 20-minute taxi ride away (£30). National Express run coaches to Ringwood, and a taxi from here is about £18.

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