Discover how a glamping holiday in the Shropshire countryside is the perfect recipe for relaxation with Campsites.co.uk and Acorn Ponds.
Time for a confession – I’ve never been camping!
I’ve often considered it, and my sons have been many times with Scouts and Cadets. But I’ve never been camping, not one single time.
There’s just so much about it that makes me feel apprehensive – putting up the tent, sleeping on the floor, sharing bathroom facilities. I’m generally more of a luxury hotel kind of person!
But glamping? That sounds more like my sort of thing. The idea of sleeping in a proper bed makes the whole proposition seem much more attractive.
So when Campsites.co.uk offered to arrange for me to try glamping, I happily accepted their offer. Mark was busy with work, so I decided to take a couple of days away from it all in the Shropshire countryside.
Would it be enough to convince me to start glamping? Read on to find out!
Who are Campsites.co.uk
If you fancy trying glamping but don’t know how to get started, the Campsites.co.uk website is a good place to begin. They have a massive range of glamping sites to choose from, in locations across the UK.
At the simple end of things, you’ll find glamping sites that offer a cosy place to sleep with lighting, heating and a real bed. While the more luxurious forms of glamping can offer decadent surroundings, all mod-cons and maybe even a hot tub!
And if you prefer to holiday with your pooch, you’ll be pleased to hear that many Campsites.co.uk locations are dog friendly.
I was offered a selection of glamping sites across the UK to choose from, and decided to visit the adults-only Acorn Ponds near Ellesmere in Shropshire. I’ve got to admit that I was feeling quite nervous about my first taste of glamping, and being close to home felt reassuring.
How to Find Acorn Ponds
Even after living in Shropshire for nearly 40 years, there are still plenty of places that I haven’t been before. And when I checked my route over to Acorn Ponds, it was obvious that this was going to be one of those places.
The site is quite near to the towns of Ellesmere and Wem, which are easily reached on A roads. But you will then venture down narrow country roads, some of them single track, until you reach the village of English Frankton.
Acorn Ponds is fairly close to the small village of English Frankton. Roz and Phil do send out detailed directions, and the site itself is marked on Google Maps, so you should find it quite easily by car. It’s worth downloading your route to your phone before you leave, as the phone signal in this area of Shropshire can be a little patchy.
Unfortunately travelling to Acorn Ponds by public transport is a bit trickier. The nearest train stations are at Wem (10 minute drive) and Gobowen (25 minute drive) but I would recommend travelling by car on this occasion.
Arriving at Acorn Ponds
The afternoon sun was shining brightly when I arrived at Acorn Ponds, but the previous two weeks had seen incredibly heavy rainfall over Shropshire. I was hoping that the rain would hold off for the next two days!
As I got out of my car, I was greeted with a huge smile and a friendly handshake from Phil. He owns Acorn Ponds with his wife, Roz, and together we chatted about my visit. I had never been camping before, yet alone glamping, so I was a bit apprehensive . But I was really looking forward to trying a new experience.
The site covers several acres, and Phil and Roz used to be completely self sufficient. They still have their own wind and solar power facilities, and Buttercup the cow and several chickens live on site
The recent heavy rains had left the ground quite waterlogged in some places, so Phil drove my bags down to the accommodation.
Glamping at Acorn Ponds
Acorn Ponds is currently open between April and October, and there are three different accommodation options at Acorn Ponds: the Grain Silo, the Gypsy Caravan, and the Hook-a-Duck. Glamping in the caravan and hook-a-duck costs £55 per night for two people, and the silo costs £65 per night.
Roz and Phil are currently converting a bright yellow school bus which will be the newest addition to the site.
The Hook-a-Duck was occupied when I visited, but I was given the choice between the Grain Silo and the Gypsy Caravan for my visit. I was very tempted by the caravan, but eventually decided to go with the extra space on offer in the silo.
The Grain Silo
Yes, just as the name suggests, I would be spending two nights sleeping in a converted grain silo. The silo is tucked away at the bottom of Acorn Ponds, and the door opens out right in front of one of the site’s ponds.
Roz and Phil have planted thousands of trees since they bought this land ten years ago, and so the silo feels very secluded. The caravan and hook-a-duck are only a short walk away, but you never feel like you are being overlooked, and each has its own private kitchen and bathroom facilities.
And the location is wonderfully peaceful.
Acorn Ponds sits in the middle of rural Shropshire, surrounded by farmland. There’s nothing to disturb your peace apart from the sound of the nearby sheep and the dawn chorus in the morning.
Inside the silo, there’s a double bed and a large comfy leather sofa. The room is decorated with pictures of Acorn Ponds and the narrowboats that Roz and Phil used to live on.
And a selection of rugs cover the floor of the silo, so it really does feel very homely.
Roz and Phil ask you to bring your own sleeping bags or quilt with you, or you can pay an additional charge to hire linen.
The silo has electric lighting and a sky light in the roof, but no plug sockets. I took a battery pack to charge my phone, and relished the opportunity to spend a couple of nights away from my laptop!
As I mentioned above, you’ll have your own private kitchen and bathroom facilities when you stay at Acorn Ponds. The silo’s kitchen is a few metres away, and was created from a extra layer of the silo itself.
There’s a barbecue outside, and inside there’s a gas camping stove so you have options for cooking. The kitchen has running water, and you can ask for ice packs to go in the chiller box.
Roz and Phil provide tea, coffee and sugar, as well as cleaning supplies. So there’s no need to pack up your entire kitchen when you visit Acorn Ponds. But as the nearest supermarket is five miles away, it’s a good idea to bring some provisions along with you for your first night.
There is also a chimenea for when you want to make the kitchen feel cosier. You can either bring your own firewood, or buy a box of firewood for a reasonable £6.
Now, I have to admit that one of the things that has always put me off camping is the whole bathroom issue.
I’ve heard many stories of having to walk across a field to go to the loo in the middle of the night, or even worse, having to use a bucket in the tent. Call me a princess, but that just doesn’t appeal.
So the fact that glamping at Acorn Ponds means having your own private bathroom facilities really helped to convince me to give it a try!
Each of the private bathrooms has a caravan style loo and a shower that’s powered by gas. The silo’s bathroom is few metres away from the silo itself, and surrounded by trees and bushes so that it feels very private.
Yes, it did still feel a little odd at first, which was only to be expected as I’d never camped before. But by the time I left Acorn Ponds I was totally comfortable with the facilities there.
Let’s just take a quick look at the other places you could stay at Acorn Ponds.
The Gypsy Caravan
I was very tempted to stay in the Gypsy Caravan. It’s a traditional bow-topped caravan that dates back to the 1950s. Set in its own secluded area of the site, it feels like a very cosy place to stay.
Inside, Roz and Phil have maintained the caravan’s traditional decor with its beautiful hand painted decoration.
The caravan has electric lighting, and a cosy double bed. And of course you’ll have the use of your own private kitchen and bathroom.
When I was a young girl, I really wanted to sleep in a gypsy caravan, and staying here would be a very romantic glamping experience.
As you walk through the caravan, it rocks gently from side to side. I can completely understand why visitors always say that they sleep incredibly well in the caravan.
The Hook a Duck
You might not be quite sure what to expect from the Hook-A-Duck. But basically it’s a vintage fairground stall that has been converted into a cosy yurt-style tent.
There’s a double bed as well as a chair and a cosy sofa to curl up on. It has electric lighting as well as its own bathroom and kitchen .
The Hook-A-Duck was occupied when I visited Acorn Ponds, but the occupant had said that I could take a look inside. It looks very cosy and ideal if you’re looking for a yurt for your glamping break.
Sleeping in a Grain Silo
I’ve mentioned above that this was my first experience of glamping, and I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. After dinner in Ellesmere, I returned to the silo to settle down for the evening.
I’ve lived in Shropshire since I was five, and thought that where I live now is peaceful. But even I was surprised by how quiet it was at the Silo.
Sleeping ‘outdoors’ did feel a little exposed at first, but I felt more comfortable with it on the second night. It’s definitely something that I could get used to doing.
As the sun slipped down, all that broke the silence was some gentle birdsong and the occasional bleat of a nearby sheep.
Snuggled up under my duvet, I watched as the light levels fell, and felt myself getting sleepier and sleepier…
I usually wake up quite early so I was surprised to sleep until 7.30 the next morning. I had been toasty warm in the silo’s very comfortable bed, except for my face which was a little chilly. But I guess that’s pretty normal for camping though!
Acorn Ponds lies close to two Shropshire towns – Ellesmere and Wem. I decided to spend my time in Ellesmere, and headed over there for a wander before breakfast.
Ellesmere is a market town is full of quirky independent shops, delicatessens selling delicious things to eat, and fascinating antique shops.
The town lies close to several glacial meres, or lakes, in the North Shropshire countryside. The largest and best known of these is simply called The Mere.
Glacial meres were formed by large pieces of glacial ice, deposited during the Ice Age. The Mere is one of the UK’s largest glacial lakes outside of the Lake District, one of nine to be found in this area.
A mere is a lake that is shallow by comparison to its breadth, and the Mere covers a space the size of 17 football pitches.
It’s a beautiful place to sit and watch the many birds that live around the water’s edge, perhaps with an ice cream if the weather is good.
The Boathouse cafe and restaurant is a short walk away. You can enjoy breakfast and lunch there as well as a delicious assortment of snacks and drinks.
As you walk around the Mere’s edge, you’ll also come across children’s playgrounds and formal gardens. You can also hire a rowing boat to take out on the water during the summer months.
The Canal Basin
Head through Ellesmere town centre, and you’ll soon come to the canal basin. Ellesmere lies beside the Llangollen Canal, and a short arm stretches through to the wharf you see above.
The canal was designed by famous engineer Thomas Telford. He lived in Ellesmere, and his ‘rivers in the sky’ at Chirk and Pontcysyllte can be seen nearby.
If you go for a walk along the towpath, you’ll see a large number of narrowboats moored alongside. Many of these are holiday makers who are hiring the boat either for the day or for a longer holiday.
Combining a few days on the water with a short break at Acorn Ponds would make a very relaxing Shropshire holiday!
Places to Eat
There are plenty of places to eat in Ellesmere, and you’re sure to find something to suit your taste and budget.
On my first night at Acorn Ponds, I headed into Ellesmere for dinner and ate at the Red Lion. This is a former coaching inn which dates back to the 16th century. It would originally have been a welcome break for travellers, whose coaches would have entered through the main bar entrance you see above.
The pub now offers traditional pub classics as well as burgers, steaks, sizzler plates and a large selection of desserts.
Every table was full when I visited, so it’s worth booking ahead. After a short wait at the bar, I ordered this massive veggie burger with a huge portion of chips. It was excellent value at less than £8!
The next morning, while I was exploring the town, I had a late breakfast at the Cherry Tree Cafe.
This is a charming little cafe, and the friendly staff made me feel very welcome. Their menu includes a range of yummy breakfasts, lunches and light snacks, plus some very tempting home-made cake.
Gluten-free options are available, and I really enjoyed a fantastic veggie breakfast while I sheltered from a brief rain storm.
Other places worth trying include the Black Lion, which is just a short walk from the canal wharf, and Meze, a Greek restaurant which had a very tempting menu!
Other things to do near Acorn Ponds
As well as being a very peaceful place to get away from it all, Acorn Ponds is also a great base from which to explore the North Shropshire countryside. There’s certainly plenty of good walks around the area, including the nearby meres.
To the West, Oswestry is about 30 minutes drive away and this market town is close to both Chirk Castle and Whitington Castle. You can also visit the British Ironworks Centre, with its fabulous sculpture park.
Or why not head southwards and visit Shropshire’s beautiful county town of Shrewsbury. It’s around a 30 minutes drive away from Acorn Ponds. There’s plenty to see there, from the castle and regimental museum, to taking a boat tour down the River Severn.
First Time Glamping – is it for me?
I had a wonderful stay at Acorn Ponds, but the big question is – would I go glamping again?
It’s true to say that it took me a little time to get used to some aspects of glamping. Although the Shropshire countryside is very quiet, I became aware of every little rustle outside my door once I was tucked up in my bed. And yes, it did take me a while to get used to the outdoor bathroom.
But by the end of my visit, I felt very comfortable in my surroundings. That was helped by the wonderful Roz and Phil who were absolutely perfect hosts. They were very thoughtful and friendly, and I really enjoyed chatting with them during my visit. I loved spending time walking around Acorn Ponds, it’s such a beautiful place to stay.
Would I try glamping again? I am sure that a few days on a glamping site would be a great family holiday with the boys. And it could make a very relaxing break for Mark and me on our own.
So that’s a resounding ‘Yes’ from me!