Fresh back from the weekend’s trip to Middle Ninfa, I thought I would do a review of the campsite as well as the trip itself.
The weekend trip began on Friday morning with a gaggle of excited kids converging on the house with an assortment of clothes, camping gear and big smiles. As I surveyed the amount of stuff to take I thought “We’re going to need a bigger car” in a Roy Scheider type of way. 90minutes of pushing and shoving finally managed to get the car packed with kit, 4 kids and one adult.
The destination for the weekend was Middle Ninfa . I decided to go for this site because it looked a little different and I really didnt want a “commercial” experience. The site itself was halfway up Blorenge mountain just outside Abegavenny so was both easy to reach and yet slightly off the beaten track. The website promised secluded pitches, a relaxed atmosphere and something a little special.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by Richard the site owner and his wife. A bit of judicious parking was required to fit me in amongst the other cars on the driveway by the main house. Upon getting out of the car, it started to spot with rain so I quickly helped Richard get the washing in from the line situated above my parked car 🙂 That done, Richard gave me a quick run down of the facilities and showed me where the pitch for the weekend was situated. He pointed to a line of trees 100metres up a 1 in 5 slope. I looked at the car and the sardines within, I looked back at the slope and then I looked at the rain threatening sky. I like a challenge. When I poked my head back in the car to tell the kids to get out, I discovered that the resident farm cat had jumped through the open window and was calmly sat in my seat.
I started the long process of taking all the stuff up to the campsite. The rain was holding off but I was more worried about my legs giving out to be honest. I had to make 10 return trips in all from the car up to the pitch and back. having done that, it was now time to pitch the tent. The room at the pitch was sufficient to fit a 5 man tent and my Unna side by side. The reason for the Unna was that the 2 girls in the group wanted to have their own tent whilst the boys and I would share the bigger tent. The pitch was big enough for both tents and also had a rather nifty rope swing attached to a branch of the tree overhanging the tents.
I paused briefly to get my breath back, sent the kids off to explore and play whilst I started to make the fire and cook tea. One of the big advantages of Middle Ninfa is that all the pitches have fireplaces and Richard can also provide very good firewood. I decided to build up the little stone ring higher with some loose stones lying about the place so that I could have a deep fire for using a BBQ-type grill over it for cooking. The fire sprang into life rather well and I was soon cooking burgers. It was good fun and the kids soon returned just as the first lot of food was ready. As soon as it was made it was devoured and I ended up doing 3 lots of cooking to feed all 5 of us. Not exactly haute quisine but good enough for camping.
That done, the kids ran off to play again whilst I banked up the fire and fashioned a seat out of a log and 2 large flattish stones. The rain that had threatened briefly earlier hadnt materialised and the evening was rather pleasant. The light started to fade and by the time it was nearly dark the kids came back and donned head torches. A procession of will-o-the-wisps made their way down to the toilet block for their nighttime ablutions. They soon returned and also retired to their respective tents. Sounds of giggling children slowly gave way to snoring as the night deepened and eventually left me to ponder on my own. The fire was crackling and giving off a warm glow, I sat on my makeshift seat and enjoyed a cider (or two) .
Its funny but time seemed to pass by quickly even though I only had my own company. Having stared into the fire and also looked out beyond Abergavenny into the distance to Skirrid Fawr for what seemed a long time, I found I was getting tired and so sniffed the air a last time and went to bed.
The next day started cold, and wet and in fact sleet started to fall. I had decided that we would go swimming in the morning with a hope that the weather would clear up in the afternoon. A trip to the local leisure centre ensured that the kids were kept occupied whilst the sleet fell outside. By the time we emerged the weather had brightened up so we spent a couple of hours mooching around the market town of Abergavenny, enjoying a spot of lunch as well. We returned to the campsite in the middle of the afternoon and the kids decided to play crocquet and frisbee (not at the same time) on the small flat lawn at the front of the site. Richard provided the kids with a variety of mallets and hoops and they played for a short while. Soon the girls came back to the tent and declared that they wanted to look around the whole campsite and find all the pitches.
We set off and walked through acres of mixed woodlands that Richard has been managing for the past few years in the hope of encouraging more coverage. I later found out from Richard that the woodland had suffered badly from squirrel damage with hundreds of trees being affected. Still, it was plain to see that Richard had put a lot of time and effort into the site and the surrounding land.
We found the first “other” pitching site, called Skirrid View (I think!) rather quickly. Lower down than our pitch but also with a variety of rope swings, the kids declared that they loved this spot.
That is until we found the next pitch, called Stone Circle. This was a lovely really secluded spot with a nice are to pitch and also a good fireplace and semi circle of stones to sit on. The kids declared this pitch the best and it was hard to disagree.
After that we then came back upon the “main campsite” which in reality only has room for 3 pitches but it sits next to the toilet and shower facilities and also next to the crocquet lawn.
The new shower and toilet block is “powered” by a combination of photoelectric cells and solar energy via glass covered radiators (affecting a greenhouse type of heat buildup).
Having done the rounds, it was time for tea so back to Abergavenny for fish and chips. We got back to the site in the early evening so the kids went off to play again whilst I started the fire. The evening was cold but the sky gradually cleared to reveal a myriad of stars. I was glad of the fire. The kids duly trouped back and scooted into their tents as it finally got fully dark. Even less noise was forthcoming before complete quiet descended and I found myself watching the flames dancing again. Once the last log had burnt down to an amber glow I made my way to my sleeping bed and slept as soundly as I have done in many a year.
The morning was bright and sunny which made packing up easier. Still I didnt fancy the endless trudging to and from the car. Luckily this time the kids were much more helpful and we managed to carry the stuff to the car in only 5 trips 🙂 Funny how the car never packs the same way twice and I found it difficult to get everything in this time. Mind you, I discovered the remains of a car that must have been on the farm for a good number of years. I guess the driver gave up trying to pack this particular car with his camping gear 🙂
I also had chance to have another chat with Richard before setting off and he is without doubt a thoroughly nice, engaging and knowledgeable chap. I hope the campsite continues to flourish and grow in an organic sense. I would hate to see the site become too big, it wouldnt work and in fact Richard is very well aware of this. There is also a bunkhouse on site, next to the farmhouse and I am keen to try that out as well.
So we set off for home. I was grimy, I smelt of woodsmoke and I was tired but it had been a really great trip and one of my best ever with the kids. They all loved the site and chirped up that they wanted to go again.
I know I certainly do
what did you do with all the kids then? lock em in the tent and go walkies???
nooooo, I wouldnt do that! 😀
Good to hear the trip was a success! Sounds like a nice combination of camping and town life. How old are the kids, by the way? Now there will be a queue at your front door, kids waiting for their turn to go camping with you 😉
The Unna still looks lovely. I’d go and buy one if only it had a full mesh door (in addition to the nylon door). Now I’m still pondering the options. The good news is that I own a good tent so I don’t really need a new tent…
the kids are 9 (girl) and 11(boy) but they have both been camping since they were babies so are well used to dad dragging them everywhere 🙂
The unna is a good tent and fits 2 narrow sleeping mats (just) so is almost a 2 man tent and certainly big enough for 2 girls. If you wanted a full mesh door option then Sean of Oookworks would be able to adapt/modify the inner to suit so dont let that put you off! 😀
Oh… I’ve heard so much good of Sean/Oookworks that now this really started to puzzle my mind – thanks a lot 😉
I guess your kids are at a very good age for camping. My youngest one is only 3, and still needs quite a lot of looking after. But in a couple of years it will be easier. And despite her young age she is very eager to go camping! 🙂
You can always go camping whatever the age of the kids but I agree you are limited to certain things if they are very young.
My kids are now at an age where they can wander slightly further afield without me having to constantly watch them!
Nice review, thanks. I have just got back from Middle Ninfa where I spent two nights on the Woodland pitch. Apart from one couple on Deri, I was the only person there as the Lewises were on holiday, although I did chat to Rohan on their return shortly before I left. I was expecting wonderful views and peace and quiet and got both in spades. I like the wilderness and the absence of humans when I go camping and this was a good compromise. The facilities were basic but fine for me – luxury of luxuries, I even managed a cold shower (solar not triggered by the wan sunlight). I would not like to go in summer: as Rohan confirmed, it gets busy, lots of cars, and she doesn’t like it much either. So I will go there in winter only or carry on wild camping.
I did make it to the top of Blorenge as part of a short 8-miler – windswept and magnificent views and worth the climb. Passed Punch bowl on the way down and remember thinking it would not look out of place at Stourhead or other NT properties! Beautiful and tranquil.
Wishing you many more happy camping trips.
glad you liked it,
a great spot and yet not too far away from civilisation but you get the tranquility of a mountain location.
I think I’ll give summer a miss there too though!
We enjoyed your blog about Middle Ninfa and would like to use one of your images for the bunkhouses feature in our guide. Would you be ok with this ? Also I thought you might be interested in our Host a Blogger scheme which provides free accommodation to bloggers who stay in the hostels and bunkhouses in our network. all the best Sam@independenthostels.co.uk
No worries Sam. Permission granted and the idea for hosting bloggers is a great one! Cheers Dave