Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The Pig Place Campsite

Paid Top Dollar for Three Nights at the Pig Place – Left after Just One!

We love both boats and rural campsites.  To find a campsite in which to we can camp inside Voyager, our own custom-built land yacht, and watch watercraft sail by, is indeed a rare treat.

So the canal-side camping on a rustic Oxfordshire pig farm had, for us, all the hallmarks of being a perfect campsite.  Located on the banks of the rather narrow Oxford Canal, the site is justifiably proud of its water side sofas and adjacent fire pits in which to sit and sup ale while watching narrow boats glide silently by.  The Pig Place is an adult’s only campsite on a working pig farm that comes complete with a farm shop selling produce from the farm, principally; pork and eggs.

We visited in May.  Camping, to say the least, is somewhat rustic.  There are a few unsavoury smelling, portable toilets but no showers on the site.  The limited washing up area was just about adequate but would have been greatly improved by the provision of hot water.  The site slopes severely and finding somewhere flat to pitch, can be tricky.  We managed nicely enough, but then again Voyager is equipped with its EP self-levelling system.  Electric hook points are available in the centre of the field for those who have paid extra for their use and water can be obtained from a water butt located beside the farm shop.  This is not mains water and comes, instead from a borehole and, is delivered to those who need it, by gravity feed.  It is not a fast process!

The locks on the Oxford Canal are very narrow

So, is it worth £25 per night?  In a word No.  Even if you could empty toilet waste into a nice clean sanitary facility.  But you cannot!  Instead, to carry out this procedure, it is necessary first to unscrew the lid of a cess pit and pour the waste into it, trying not to spill it over the tank top or yourself.  Clean up after you using the watering can of water close by, but remember – there is no running water.  We could forgive all of this, if the price where say, £18 per night, and just put it all down to rustic charm.  If it were not for the final nail in the coffin!

We camp in the countryside to go walking, hiking, running and biking.  We love the peace and tranquilly that goes with those pastimes.  But sadly, while the countryside surrounding The Pig Place is gloriously scenic and the canal towpath truly picturesque, the ambient noise of road and railway traffic is abhorrent.  The noise of both the M40 and the adjacent main road along with, that created by the mainline railway to London, is horrendous and all enveloping.  It was this final indignity that caused us to throw away £50 we had spent booking the next two nights and leave after just one!

I feel a little cheated.  The on-site food van that cooks and serves products of the farm had closed at 5:30 pm the evening we arrived.  They must eat dinner early hereabouts because even at the weekend they do not take food orders after 7:30 pm.  I had been looking forward to a killer breakfast of home reared bacon and free range eggs eaten while sitting beside the canal but that never happened because we could not stand the noise.

Oxford and Sandy Black piglets at The Pig Place

Before we came and indeed one of the reasons we did visit was that we had heard tale of canal users getting their first waft of early morning bacon sizzling in the pan from the lock at Kings Sutton nearly a mile away and then following their noses down the canal towards the moorings the site provides

They must have smelled the bacon cooking

When Dean and Sara first moored their own narrow boat here in 2007 it was a drastically different place.  The land still sloped severely down towards the canal-side, green and inviting, but otherwise it was little more than a simple field, blotted with the odd molehill and a scattering of buttercups.

In the years since then they have turned a simple pasture into a prosperous small holding where camping and co-exist but, by their everyday actions, they seem to resent the need to accept those who camp and would clearly prefer occupants of the land to be any animal other than humans.  The Pig Place is open to all and its signage sums up the general homemade atmosphere.  Handwritten warnings are everywhere telling humans what they cannot do.  It is all very negative and even extends to the handout given to campers who register to stay.  Staff refer to this document as the edgit list and it is clear from their demeanour that they consider those who camp at the Pig Place to be brainless idiots who would, without adhering to this list of don’ts, totally wreck the site.

moored close by The Pig Place
A potential rebuild that could result in a beautiful canal barge

To be a more successful business and an even more exciting place to visit, better use of the basic product needs to be practised.  Instead of presenting pork for sale in unappetizing, badly packed, frozen lumps, it should be displayed and sold from a butcher’s counter by someone who knows and loves meat and enjoys serving visitors.  Instead of just the base product, the same shop should sell home-made sausages, free range eggs, farm cured bacon and ham and a whole range of charcuterie.  The beauty of a pig is the that the only thing you cannot eat and enjoy is the oink!  Add in local cheeses and dairy products alongside a selection of locally grown and harvested produce and you would have a real winning ticket.

Breakfast at the Pig Place

Nearby, the town of Banbury has enough independent shops and restaurants to keep you busy and the immediacy of the noisy M40 means seemingly far off cities like Oxford and Warwick are just 40 minutes or so away.  The motorways ever presence in the landscape is not only unmistakeable on the map but the ever present un-pleasant audible presence is the main reason why would not return to stay overnight.  But if the shop and café were improved, we would have every reason to stop by to shop.

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

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