Middle Woodbatch Farm

UK England West Midlands Shropshire Bishop's Castle

  • Campfires allowed
A lovely, small site, far from city life, and with hearty home cooking on tap

You might find it hard to place Shropshire on a map of the UK. Not many people live in West Midland’s little-known county on the border of England and Wales – Shropshire boasts one of the lowest populations per square mile in England – and the rest of us, the tourists, are largely unaware of its colourful past. More than 20 hill forts tell of the county’s battles during the Iron Age (600BC); then there are over 30 castles dotted alongside numerous abbeys, lakes and canals, which, if walls could talk, would regale us with many a tale of feuding battles.

Bishops Castle is a small medieval market town in the Shropshire Hills. A local population of artists, musicians and craftsmen adds a slight bohemian edge to the tiny high street. Several arty shops offer attentive service and will encourage your custom, before waving you off to one of the local pubs to toast your purchases with a pint of own-brewed ale.

As you pootle down the mile-long lane that leads towards Middle Woodbatch Farm, you’ll find the countryside comfort of being sandwiched by leafy hedgerows extremely calming. Steven Austin grew up on this working farm, which has been in his family since 1936. Along with his partner Mary, he now raises cows, sheep and hens and in 2006 the couple opened their first camping field, where they greet arrivals with the warmest of welcomes.

The Austins operate a policy of admitting only 10 tents or camper vans at a time. You could even get the field to yourself in low season, where you’ll see the Shropshire Hills roll out before you like a sea of green grass, as sheep graze like buoys bobbing in the breeze. Children will like the farm animals, which include a pet pig and a magnificent dapple-grey mare called Molly. Then, there’s all the sheep, which Steven might well need help herding.

The family is busy all year round. Lambing on the farm – a hit with young and old – takes places in April. Whilst in June, a burgeoning international walking festival attracts regular and repeat custom, so book well ahead. Other local activities include a Michaelmas Fair, Real Ale and Food Festival and a Tandem Triathlon; there always seems to be something going on.

If you’re not a keen campfire cook, or fancy a treat after a long day’s hike, you can prebook a two-course dinner sourced from regionally produced or organic products, either to eat in the farmhouse kitchen or to take back to your tent. Mary also knocks up full English breakfasts for a fiver. If you’re on a budget, though, just buy some farm eggs and rustle up something yourself in the campers’ own purpose-built kitchenette.

For an ultimate escape within easy reach of cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, South Shropshire is low in human traffic and high in spiritually enriching nature. It’s an enviable paradise for locals and an ideal camping climate for the rest of us.

Details

Facilities

Two large shower rooms (£1 donations requested) are newly built and comfortable with non-slip, cushioned flooring – proper camping luxury! A basic kitchenette is equipped with a microwave, fridge and kettle. Two large shower rooms (£1 donations requested) are newly built and comfortable with non-slip, cushioned flooring – proper camping luxury! A basic kitchenette is equipped with a microwave, fridge and kettle.

Food & Drink

Willo Game (01588 650539) are wild game wholesale dealers based at Bishop’s Gate, the heart of pheasant countryside. They sell seasonal produce such as venison, partridge, rabbits and award-winning boar and apricot sausages all over the UK, including three of the village’s pubs (Castle Gate, The Boars Head and the Three Tuns Inn). At the end of the winding road is the Six Bells (01588 630144), a former coaching inn dating back to 1670, which serves own-brewed ales. Take a torch if you’re walking, or the hosts may give you a lift. It doesn’t serve food on Sunday or Monday evenings.

Open

Mar–Oct.

Location

Contact Middle Woodbatch Farm, Woodbatch Road, Bishops Castle, Shropshire SY9 5JS

Show Map

Getting There

It’s off the A488, accessed from the A49/A489, 22 miles south of Shrewsbury, 18 miles north east of Ludlow. Head to the bottom of town along Station Street, turning right at the Six Bells and then first left. The farm is signposted from there. The Secret Hills shuttle bus runs from April to October (01588 673888).

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