Tewkesbury is a medieval market town lying at the point where two great rivers, the Avon and the Severn, join forces. It’s also an ideal stopover for motorcaravanners coming from the north who are heading towards Wales or Devon and Cornwall, because it is just a 10-minute drive away from the M5.
As a result of this easy-to-access location, the Caravan and Motorhome Club campsite, which lies tucked away behind Tewkesbury’s famous Abbey, is always popular, and always busy.
Are you wondering where to go for your next trip? Then be sure to take a look at our motorhome site guide, where we reveal the standout campsites to stay at.
Wandering onto a film set
Once you arrive here and take even a brief stroll around, it is not difficult to see why the site has so many fans. A five-minute walk brings you into the centre of this historic town, which has much more than its fair share of ancient half-timbered buildings, looking for all the world as if you have wandered onto a film set.
Add to this pleasing backdrop the fine selection of restaurants to suit all tastes, as well as modern shopping facilities, and it’s really no wonder that the town is so popular with visitors.
Some Club campsites remain open all year, but not this one. The most important reason for this is the fact that it floods regularly during the winter months, owing to its relatively low-lying position and proximity to those rivers.
Luckily, the builders of the imposing abbey church next door were well aware of the problem and as a result, the Abbey often features in aerial views of the flooded town, standing proudly on its very own island!
In recent years, the campsite reception block has been rebuilt on brick piers, so it is immune from the flood waters, and many of the pitches have been redesigned with hardstanding areas or as multi-surface pitches, which are more resilient to the damp conditions.
The hook-up points have also been positioned much higher than you would usually find them, to minimise the risk of flood damage.
Having set ourselves up on one of the fully serviced pitches, we enjoyed a relaxing lunch in the ’van before setting off to rediscover more of this historic town. The first port of call has to be Tewkesbury Abbey or, to give it the full title, the Abbey Church of St Mary the Virgin. Building work commenced here in 1102 and it took the best part of 20 years to complete.
Originally built to house Benedictine monks, it has undergone many alterations and additions, like most ancient ecclesiastical sites.
Today, this wonderful building is very much a living, working place of worship, but it also offers a range of visitor attractions, from performances by visiting choirs, to tours of the splendid towers.
Taking the Abbey road
One of our favourite walks is to head towards town and then turn left at the main road. Passing the Abbey on your left, walk towards The Bell hotel, turning right into Mill Street. Two minutes will bring you to the Abbey Mill, now disused.
There has been a mill here since 1190, when the monks had a channel dug from the Avon to power their flour mill. Rebuilt in 1793 with four great paddle wheels, this was replaced by an even larger mill further upstream, and in turn, this building has most recently been used as an upmarket restaurant and apartments.
Crossing the Avon here by the footbridge takes you to a large grassy area, the Severn Ham, which is a natural floodplain for the two rivers. Visitors with dogs will love this wide open space, with plenty of room to run around and explore.
We, however, tend to follow the Severn Way footpath beside the river, which gives you good views of the fabulous riverside apartments and properties, some of which have their own landing stage. Walking as far as the ‘new’ mill (also now disused!), you can cross back over the river and continue strolling, or join one of the riverboat trips – a delightful way to see the sights.
If you’d like to embark on a tour where you can stroll by water, be sure to take a look at our guide to 10 sites for river and canal walks too, where we share a selection of beautiful walks by some of the UK’s loveliest rivers and canals.
Any one of the next roads will take you back to the High Street in the town centre, where you can turn left, back towards the campsite, or right towards the outskirts of town.
Here you will find Ye Olde Black Bear, reputed to be the oldest pub in Gloucestershire, dating back to 1308. This was closed for refurbishment when we were there, but we look forward to being able to visit again when it reopens.
The Dickens connection
There are, of course, many other historic pubs in the town – on the High Street, you will find The Nottingham Arms, The Cross House Tavern and The Berkeley Arms, to name just three.
One of the best known, though, is The Royal Hop Pole, parts of which date back to the 15th and the 18th centuries. The pub was mentioned in The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, which was published in 1836.
We have enjoyed many a good meal, or just a quiet drink, sitting in the main saloon, one of the alcoves, or even the front window, where you can watch the world go by. In summertime, there is a lovely beer garden – and all this is just a five-minute stroll from the campsite.
As you are wandering around, look out for the tiny alleyways that link one street to another. There used to be more than 90 of these historic paths and about 30 still exist. Their names can be traced back to wealthy local citizens, or the businesses that once operated in the alley.
Battle of Tewkesbury
Every July, the splendid Tewkesbury Medieval Festival provides a wide range of events suitable for all ages, in and around the town.
The original Battle of Tewkesbury, in 1471, was one of the most decisive actions in the Wars of the Roses, when Edward IV and forces loyal to York defeated the rival House of Lancaster.
The whole festival has much to offer visitors, but the main event is the large-scale reenactment of the famous battle, which involves hundreds of participants, all in period costume. Apparently, this is the largest free medieval reenactment in Europe! People come from many countries to take part or watch – it is hugely popular.
There are many other places to visit nearby, too. You can head to the north for Worcester, or to the south to see Gloucester, while slightly nearer, there’s the elegant spa town of Cheltenham.
All offer an excellent choice of shops and eateries, while Gloucester has the bonus of the old docks area, recently extensively refurbished.
The dockside warehouses are now smart apartments, while the former Llanthony Warehouse has been taken over by the Canal & River Trust, and now houses the National Waterways Museum.
The historic docks were once an important terminus for large quantities of freight traffic, with barges bringing cargo to and from the Severn via the Gloucester & Sharpness Canal. Nowadays, the waterway is mainly used for pleasure craft and riverboat tours.
There are several good restaurants in the area, and at the southern end, Gloucester Quays, an upmarket retail park. While you’re there, don’t miss the magnificent 11th-century cathedral, tucked away behind Westgate Street.
When to go to Tewkesbury
Tewkesbury Abbey CAMC Campsite is open from March to early November, although the CAMC site at Broadway (just 15 miles away), is open all year. The 2023 Medieval Festival is scheduled for 8-9 July.
Way to go
From the north or the south, the M5 provides the easiest route, leaving at Junction 9, then following the A438 all the way into the town centre, across the roundabout into Church Street, then first left into Gander Lane. From Evesham in the east, follow the A46 to Junction 9, then as above.
Where we stayed in Tewkesbury
Gander Lane, Tewkesbury GL20 5PG
The Tewkesbury Abbey site has a total of 138 pitches, of which 33 are hardstanding, and 18 of these are fully serviced with water, electricity and drainage. There is a modern, centrally located toilet block on site. There are good transport links to Cheltenham, Gloucester and Worcester, and excellent walking in the Malvern Hills and the Forest of Dean.
Find out more
Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto
If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, why not get the latest news, reviews and features delivered direct to your door or inbox every month. Take advantage of our brilliant Practical Motorhome magazine SUBSCRIBERS’ OFFER and SIGN UP TO OUR NEWSLETTER for regular weekly updates on all things motorhome related.