Usually, weekend wanderings in our motorhome take us to areas two or three hours’ drive from home – far enough to feel ‘away’ without spending the entire weekend driving to and from our destination.
The best motorhome sites offer great locations, with plenty to do in the surrounding area – but who says you need to travel far to enjoy a stay at a well-situated campsite? Recently, I realised we have a wide circle of potential touring spots and interesting places, all just an hour or so away.
One of these is the National Herb Centre, in Warmington, which is just a bit too far for a relaxing afternoon out, but closer than we would normally consider for a weekend.
Being keen on ‘growing my own’, to coin a phrase, I have long wanted to visit, but never quite got around to it. Until a few weeks ago, that is, when we decided to spend a weekend at Fir Tree Campsite, near Banbury, just over an hour’s drive from Buckinghamshire.
Fir Tree is a fairly small, relatively basic (but very clean and friendly) campsite which regularly hosts music gatherings, car rallies and other events. It sits on the edge of the pretty Warwickshire village of Warmington, only a 10-minute walk from the National Herb Centre.
As well as an array of culinary and medicinal herbs (including the cola plant, which actually does smell like the fizzy drink), the National Herb Centre has a good selection of traditional garden plants, a gift shop and a small bistro/coffee shop.
Looking for local wildlife
When we were all shopped out (how many plants can you transport in a motorhome?), we followed the shortest of the three nature trails leading from the centre into the countryside, looking out for rabbits, foxes, badgers and deer along the way.
Later on, we continued walking along the main road from the Centre to one of the two local pubs, The Falcon. Here we discovered a pleasant beer garden in which to while away an hour or so, before giving in to the temptation of a shoulder of spring lamb from their excellent menu.
We had something of an ‘aha!’ moment here, when we realised this was previously called the Wobbly Wheel – a pub we had driven past before, when taking the scenic route to the Cotswolds and the Peak District, because the road runs almost parallel to the M40.
A chat with the friendly barman revealed that the Wobbly Wheel suffered a major fire in 2013, resulting in an adjoining hotel having to be pulled down. The current owners totally refurbished the pub and the garden, and renamed it The Falcon.
The next day took us to another destination that has long been on our bucket list of places deemed just a little too far away for an afternoon out.
Burton Dassett Hills Country Park is only a 10-minute drive from the campsite – but do be aware that a few of the approach roads are a little narrow and twisty (although usefully, there are plenty of passing places).
This is great dog-walking country if you’re touring with a pet, although our Willow stayed firmly on her lead because there were lots of sheep wandering around. There is a small beacon and some quarry remains to explore. An Iron Age settlement and a Saxon cemetery have also been found on the hills here.
On our way home, we decided to make a brief detour into Oxfordshire, to visit the village of Cropredy, famous for its annual music festival, founded by folk group Fairport Convention more than 45 years ago.
Less famous, unless you are a member of the boating fraternity, is the village’s charming marina, hidden away on the South Oxford Canal. Here we found the Old Coal Wharf and Canalside Café, which has to be one of the prettiest settings you could imagine for a café. We couldn’t resist sitting in the sunshine for a while with a cuppa and a cake, just watching the world go by.
If you’re looking for lunch, The Saucy Hound has a menu including burgers, vegetarian and vegan food. There are also a couple of craft sellers at work in this interesting corner of Oxfordshire.
Then it was a short wander along the canal to work off a little of that cake, and a quick stop at the bridge over the River Cherwell, whose claim to fame is as the site of a battle in 1644, in the Civil War. Few things beat staying at a campsite with a river or canal walk in the vicinity.
With his wartime capital of Oxford only some 30 miles away, Charles I felt under threat from the Parliamentarian forces, who were camped across the river, so he marched his army out to face them. Defeat for the Parliamentarians led to the creation of the New Model Army.
The following morning, we headed to the town of Banbury, but not before taking a walk in the countryside immediately surrounding the site. There are a couple of pleasant walks leading out from the campsite through local woodland, perfect for Willow to burn off some energy before we headed for the town.
Banbury is, of course, famous for its cross – the meeting point of roads coming from Warwick, Oxford and Shipton-on-Stour. Today, the site of the cross is marked with a statue of the ‘fine lady upon a white horse’ mentioned in the nursery rhyme, Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross.
You’ll also find plenty of historic streets to explore in this pleasant market town, as well as the more modern attractions of the Castle Quay shopping centre. There’s an interesting museum on the canalside, where visitors can learn more about the Civil War, life in Victorian Banbury and the history of the canal. And there’s the canal itself to wander along –here we came across Tooley’s Boatyard, the oldest working dry dock on England’s waterways.
There is more local Civil War history to discover, too, if you have a special interest in that era. Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn, one of the oldest pubs in the town, was supposedly frequented by Oliver Cromwell and it is said that he planned the Battle of Edge Hill in the Globe Room at the inn. The site of the action, and the country park of the same name, are around a 15-minute drive from Fir Tree Campsite.
As usual, all of that walking, shopping and history made us rather hungry, so we set about finding a meal. Both Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn and the highly recommended White Horse were very crowded, but we managed to find a table at the Cromwell Lodge Hotel, for pie and chips.
Exploring on your doorstep
Later on, back at Fir Tree, we discovered that a rather intriguing Mystical Owl Evening was being held, but unfortunately, we didn’t have tickets. So we missed out on seeing these wonderful birds flying at night. Never mind, we wanted an excuse to come back, anyway. Instead, we spent a very peaceful evening playing cards and reading.
We still have so much more to discover in this as-yet untrodden corner, and will definitely be doing so before too long. It just goes to show that you don’t have to travel far from home to have a thoroughly enjoyable weekend away, virtually on your doorstep – with the benefit of not having to spend too long in the driving seat.
But soon it was time to take the short journey home, the motorhome sink loaded with herbs waiting to be planted up in our garden.
The end of any trip is tinged with sadness, but this one even more than most. After 17 years, our faithful Hymer Camp (affectionately known as Chunky, for reasons now lost in the mists of time) is hanging up her steering wheel.
She’s taken us from St Austell to St Tropez, from Mont St Michel to Caernarvon Castle, come face to face with the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and let us attend music festivals in comfort.
She kept us warm in snow-covered Lille, and was our home-from-home in bustling cities such as York, on vineyards and cider farms, beside lakes and in the grounds of stately homes – to name just a few of our many adventures.
But she’s now 20 years old and ready for her well-earned retirement. I am really sad to end this era, with all of its wonderful memories, and can’t imagine touring without her.
But move on we must, so I take a deep breath, say goodbye, and add that we pick up our new (to us) Chausson Welcome in a couple of weeks, to begin a whole new chapter. Thank you for so many years filled with fun, adventures and memories, Chunky, it’s been the best time!
What you need to know before a tour to Warmington
How to get to Warmington
We took the M40 to J11, then the A422 and B4100 to reach Fir Tree Campsite.
Where we stayed
Fir Tree Campsite
Fir Tree Farm, Warmington, Banbury OX17 1JL
- Tel 07983 144 681
- Open All year
- Price From £15
Fir Tree is a secluded campsite with good road access and views over open countryside. The site has hook-ups and hardstandings, a shower and toilet block and a washing-up area. There are two fishing lakes. Pets are welcome; there is a large dog-walk next to the site, with public footpaths leading across the countryside.
The closest bus stop to Fir Tree Farm is on School Lane, just a 10-minute walk from the campsite. There is a further stop by The Plough Inn, in the village centre.
Parking in Warmington
The National Herb Centre has a large car park, but its proximity to Fir Tree Farm means this won’t be needed, unless you have a large amount of purchases! Burton Dassett Hills has a couple of pay and display car parks. Cropredy has a small canalside car park.
After more travel inspiration? Then check out these guides:
- Sue Greenwood embarks on a tour of Worcestershire.
- Andria Massey heads to Brecon to explore some charming villages and glorious countryside.
- We share 10 of our favourite campsites for fishing
Images: Susan Taylor
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