Sunday, May 16th, 2021

Goodbye Clifton Hampden Hello Benson Waterfront

Campsite at Clifton Hampden

With the sudden, and rather sad, closing of the camping site at Clifton Hampden the only other site close by that combines both river frontage with camper and caravan pitching is Benson Waterfront some 8 miles further downstream.

Nestled in the picturesque little village and civil parish of Clifton Hampden, is just over 3 miles east of Abingdon, Oxfordshire.  The campsite sat alongside a farming community, in an area that rests peacefully on the north bank of the River Thames. The river’s pathway is filled with 17th century thatched cottages and the sweet scent of honeysuckle.

The site closed somewhat suddenly and reasons behind its closure differ.  It has been claimed that the local council, motivated by complaints from residents, caused it to close, while others say the trust that owns the land is seeking to develop it for house building.

Clifton Hampden allowed camping on the banks of the River Thames.
Closed now to camper vans and caravans, the once bustling Clifton Hampden campsite

Clifton Hampden less than 2 hours drive from London and just 13 miles from Oxford allowed camping on the banks of the River Thames.  It was well run and the wardens Moo and (Mutton) Geoff were always helpful and welcoming.  Facilities were to say the least rather run down but that probably reflected the desire of the owners to save money and move on to better things.  If someone with an entrepreneurial spirit were to buy the site and get it open again, these facilities would wash up well and could go on to give years of life.

The campsite was always very well maintained with nice short grass and a few trees and shrubs adding to the landscape. The road bridge crossing the river is visible from the pitch was not that noisy, but it is true that sometimes traffic noise from the road outside the site could be a little invasive.  That aside, just sitting in or beside your van looking across the river and watching the herons, ducks, swans and passing boats was a delight.  I could have spent hours there just watching.  The frantic antics of some of the less talented boaters as they endeavoured to navigate their craft in the fast-flowing current that gushed under the bridge, merely heighted the enjoyment of the stay.

On the other side of the road and adjacent to the campsite is the Barley Mow, a wonderful old pub made famous in the book Three Men in a Boat a comedic masterpiece, written by Jerome K Jerome about three young men, increasingly given to thoughts of hypochondria, who decide to embark on a journey along the river Thames.

The Barley Mow is a welcoming thatched country tavern that serves traditional pub food and seasonal dishes that cater for the whole family has graced the banks of the river for more that 650 years and is packed with original features.  Visitors have admired and enjoyed this country inn for centuries, including renowned writers like Jerome K. Jerome and Charles Dickens Jnr.  Stepping inside this glorious, thatched tavern is like taking a step back in time. The pub’s original feature include, low oak beams and an old fireplace, so large it fits across two different parts of the pub.  It is an ideal setting for couples seeking a relaxing and romantic meal together by candlelight.

In Anglo Saxon times Clifton Hampden was known as ‘tun on a cliff’ (town on a cliff), a name allegedly given because of the rock face that stands above the rest of the village. Perched on the top of this cliff, just 5 minutes from the campsite, is the historic Church of St Michael and All Angels, a chapel of the Dorchester parish until the 19th century.

It seems somewhat ludicrous that in the time when caravanning and staycations are booming and with demand for quality campsites at an all time high that this one at Clifton Hampden should close.  It has, despite the protestations of those who used it regularly, and so, unless the owners have a change of heart, the only other campsite close by now that allows vans to park on the river front is Benson Waterfront.  See you there.

If you have a favourite campervan site that has great facilities and something out of the ordinary to recommend it please do drop us a line or leave a comment below

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