Watercress Lodges Campsite Hampshire

Our bank holiday adventure at the Watercress Lodges Campsite in Ropley

We are still very much novices when it comes to family camping trips and like them to be easy. So, when the Travelbetter kids started asking to go camping again this year we knew our first, and possibly last, camping stay of the year would be at Watercress Lodges Campsite in Hampshire.

Plus, the campsite sits on top of the famous watercress railway line and we knew this would provide a fun day out for the family over the weekend.

Family Camping Preparation and Planning

Before I dive into our camping trip to the Watercress Lodges Campsite I think it is worth talking about planning.

Now, we always stress the importance of planning when it comes to a family holiday as we believe a little bit of time spent planning always helps you trip go smoother, reduce stress and then travel better.

But for camping this goes double, or maybe even triple!

So, in the weekends and days before our trip I checked through our camping equipment to make sure we had everything we needed and that it was all in working order.

For example, I tested all our camping lights with new batteries and discovered a couple that no longer worked.

I checked and washed all the camping plates, cups and bowls and made sure we had a couple of sharp knives.

I tested our camping stove and made sure we had enough gas canisters to last the weekend.

And I spent far too much money on some delicious and indulgent camping food!

Our camping weekend at Watercress Lodges Campsite

Watercress Lodges Campsite is only about a twenty-minute drive from our home so on Saturday morning we were able to make all the usual lesson and club commitments for the kids before heading off to the campsite.

Once there we surprised ourselves by getting the Travelbetter tent and awning up in about an hour and twenty minutes and this is a new Travelbetter record and gave us a great confidence boast for the weekend ahead.

We then got the inside of the tent setup with our shelves, table and chairs, camping mats and other camping comforts.

After this we did what campers do. We enjoyed the outdoors and lit the BBQ for dinner.

But then something went wrong.

Unfortunately, we had a bit of a problem with the instant light BBQ. It was a small and compact pack of charcoal briquettes where you light the bag and after fifteen minutes should have glowing coals to cook on.

However, this bag had sat in our garage for possibly two years and the lighting treatment had obviously worn off and only a small portion of the coals got hot enough for cooking. This gave us a bit of a problem as a small corner of the BBQ was not going to be big enough to cook our sausages on. Luckily, Travebetter Mum had an idea and handed me the Pringles.

Initially I thought this was to tell me not to worry about the sausages as we had plenty of other food but no. Clever Travelbetter Mum was confident that the Pringles contained enough energy (fat) to get the remaining coals going.

We put a few into the hot coals and some on the not so hot ones and impressively they sparked into life and were soon burning brightly and fiercely and got the remaining coals going and enabled me to cook our dinner.

Who would have thought that Pringles crisps would make substitute firelighters!

We enjoyed our dinner and continued to play outside in the warm evening before getting ready for bed and cooking up some s’mores over the gas stove. The kids love these fun and gooey snacks but be warned they do provide a sugar hit so there was a bit more running around before the kids finally crashed out and fell into a deep sleep and we weren’t far behind.

After a surprisingly good night’s sleep the local birds and early morning sun woke us up around five am and we all dozed on and off for about another hour before getting up and thinking about breakfast.

As we stepped outside our tent we were greeted with a glorious sunny morning and the sounds of the volunteers at the railway getting the engines ready for the day. Nothing too loud, just a nice background noise mixed in with the birds and sounds of the kids playing.

With the lovely bank holiday weather, the campsite was very busy and not long after rising you could just see groups of families all sat outside their tents enjoying breakfast which was a really lovely sight. For our breakfast we went for the traditional bacon but it took forever to cook as we only had spray oil which is partially water based and really didn’t catch well on our camping stove. We realised that when you go camping you really need some proper cooking oil or better still bacon with a good rind of fat so you can dry fry it. We had neither so it seemed to take forever to get the bacon to crisp up and once ready no one was really interested in it anymore.

However, all was not lost for breakfast as Travelbetter Mum was on form for this trip and came up with the bright idea of taking a homemade pancake mixture with us so we could have fluffy American pancakes on our first morning. We choose American pancakes as it has a thick mixture so less chance of spilling or leakage in our cooler bag.

The pancakes cooked up really well on a dry pan and when topped with a bit of syrup were a big hit with everyone.

After breakfast we had a couple of hours before the trains started so we played football, catch, and various other games all the time enjoying the outdoors. I was impressed by just how much energy the Travelbetter kids had and how much fun they were having outside. In fact, it made me worry a bit that back home they are not getting outside enough and perhaps I need to cut back on some of their screen time.

Around 11am we strolled to the station and caught the Watercress Line steam train to Alton. We rode the train to Alton and then back again to Alresford where we grabbed lunch at Pizza Express and took a stroll around the market town before catching the train back to Ropley station. Once back in Ropley we visited the education centre and marvelled at the wonderful collection of trains in the engineering bays.

Learn more about the Watercress Line.

We got back to the campsite around 4pm and after a few welcome minutes of sitting down the play began again. But as both Travelbetter Dad and Mum were flagging the kids looked for new play pals and here I was very impressed by Travelbetter Boy.

He had spotted two brothers playing football and I could see he was itching to join in with them. So, he bravely went up and started speaking to them and after only a few minutes was joining in the football and other games with the boys. In fact, before we knew it he was sat down by their tent learning how to play chess.

As the weather was still sunny and hot I drove over to the local BP M&S Express store and picked up some more BBQ food and a few other treats for our dinner and this was again followed by s’mores. But on night number two the novelty had worn off a bit and everyone was just ready for bed.

The next morning, we were up around the same time as the day before and took our time enjoying breakfast, packing up the tent and and letting the kids play with their new friends before returning home.

If you are interested in cooking s'mores on your next camping trip or just for a fun treat then check out this post on s'more the British way to learn how. We wrote this article following our camping adventure at Abbotstone Wood where the Travelbetter team first experimented and enjoyed this tasty treat.

How much does it cost to pitch a tent at the Watercress Lodges Campsite?

Prices vary throughout the year so always check their website for the latest information. For our May bank holiday break the cost to pitch the Travelbetter tent for two nights and taking the kids with us cost a total of £60.

If you are wondering why I said the cost of taking the kids, it is because they actually add a small charge for taking the little ones.

Now, while I get that they use the facilities etc it does feel a little bit cheeky to add on a child charge (tax) especially as there is no playground or specific children’s facilities at the site but overall we were happy at the price of our stay.

Booking the Watercress Lodges Campsite was very easy via their website and we received instant confirmation. If you would like to stay there but don't fancy camping or own a tent don't worry. The site also includes a couple of glamping options and six comfortable looking railway cottages.

Layout and facilities at Watercress Lodges Campsite

The facilities at the Watercress Lodges Campsite were above average for a campsite in the UK meeting all functional needs and being nice and clean.

This included a small covered area to wash up you plates, a small freezer for ice packs and a large shower and toilet block. This block also contained an additional large cubicle with toilet and shower for disabled people, and a seperate baby area.

The actual camping ground is on a long stretch of flat and thankfully stone free grass that is roughly two tents in depth but still allows for some play space inbetween the tents for the kids.

Location and how to get to Watercress Lodges Campsite

Watercress Lodges Campsite is located in the village of Ropley in Hampshire just outside of Arelsford and roughly 10 miles from Winchester.

It is best reached by car via the A31 which can be accessed off junction 9 of the M3 or via the M25 and A3 if you are coming from the east.

How Family Friendly is the Watercress Lodges Campsite?

This is a difficult one to answer but on overall I would say yes that the Watercress Lodges Campsite is family friendly.

I think I struggled to answer this for two reasons, one being the child charge and the second being the lack of a playground or similar. There is a small plyground next door at Ropley railway station but this is locked up once the trains have finished for the day around 7pm.

But, there was a good amount of open space for children to play in, no signs saying no ball games etc, and plenty of other campers had their kids with them and they all looked pretty happy.

They also had useful steps in the toilet blocks so kids could reach the sinks easily which was a really nice and thoughtful touch.

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In summary

Overall the Watercress Lodges Campsite is a great place to take the kids for a short camping break and spend a day riding on a lovingly restored steam trains at the Watercress Line.

Plus, it also makes a great place to start if you are new to family camping as it is a nice and easy location to pitch a tent, has really good facilities and has plenty of nearby shops and restaurants.

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