The Gypsy Camp – Essex
- Camp for 4
The camps two bowtop wagons are genuine articles, carefully restored and set among the apple trees. The bowtops are the bedrooms and the bender tent with the day bed and the wood-burner makes a great daytime living space and can even sleep a couple of extra guests. The beds in the red and green wagons are a snug 3ft and 3ft 6” respectively but they really are just for sleeping in. The camp as a whole, all let as a single private space, is a great place for families or couples travelling together to get out of the city and enjoy the countryside. From the pigs living on the other side of the orchard, to the blooming apple and cherry trees and the masses of delicious local produce, everything at Bouncers Farm seems full of life. With the coast and its many little-known beaches just four miles away and central London an hour by train, it’s an unusual and easy escape.
- Children welcome
Children of all ages are welcome at The Gypsy Camp
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Everything you need to know about The Gypsy Camp
The important stuff
- Check in is between 2-6pm
- Check out is at 10am
- A starter pack of firewood, gas and candles is included, but refills will be charged
- The free range chickens are really very free. Expect to find them everywhere!
- Apart from the shower and common room, the house and it’s garden are off limits to guests
- If you’re going to be late for check in, please let Ann know and if you’re early, you’ll be able to leave your things on site
- The beds are 3ft and 3ft 6” inches
Kids & PetsChildren of all ages are welcome at The Gypsy Camp
- Camp fire tripod
- Queenie stove (just for warmth but can heat a kettle)
- Fridge in lounge area
- All pots and pans including a traditional heavy skillet
- There is a private loo and wet-room for Gypsy camp guests in a small annex attached to the house
- Laundry and even ironing can be arranged for The Gypsy Camp guests
Heating, lighting & bedding
- All provided except towels
- Assorted board games
Bouncers Farm, Wickham Hall Lane, Wickham Bishops, Essex CM8 3JJ
Come off the A12 onto the B1018, follow it past the golf course and over the river. Bouncers Farm is on Wickham Hall Lane, you can turn left off the B1018 onto Station Road and turn right onto Wickham Hall Lane at the T Junction or miss Station Road and turn left onto Wickham Hall Lane a bit further on. Either way, the farm is well signposted from the road.
By train and then horse and cart
Ann can arrange to pick you up in her pony and carriage from Wickham Bishops, a short bus ride from Witham station.
Bouncers Farm is connected to central London by the National Cycle Network, so you can even ride all the way there from 'town'.
Eating & drinking
Eating & drinking at Bouncers Farm
Ann can deliver you a hamper of fruit, vegetables and meat from a network of small growers and farmers nearby, but she'll also cook for you, given enough warning. Come home to a slow-cooked stew or a basket of fresh produce ready for you to cook. The eggs are fresh and free range from her own chickens and the lamb comes from her own farm. She also makes just about everything that can be made out of apples; chutneys, jams, jellies and cordials to name but four. Even a cooked breakfast can be arranged (not entirely made of apples) and Ann's homemade quiches and cakes make great picnic food.
There's almost too much local produce to mention at Bouncers. Ask Ann about bacon from round the corner, fresh fruit and juice, the local bakery and even the Chigborough fish smokery.
Pubs & restaurants
The Ducane, Great Braxted (2.5 miles). A fabulous gastro pub. Chef Jonathan Brown has worked under many famous names including Raymond Blanc at the world-famous Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.
The Company Shed, Mersea Island (16 miles). A truly unusual seafood eatery. They serve only the freshest fish and fabulous oysters, but the word restaurant is banned and for good reason. The décor isn't fancy, there's no cutlery and when they say 'only seafood' they mean it. If you want wine, bread or anything else, you'd better bring it with you.
Crofters Wine Bar, Witham (2.6 miles). The chef at Crofters was voted the best in Essex for 2009. The food is delicious and reasonably priced.
Blue Strawberry Bistro, Hatfield (4 miles). Recommended by Ann and there are many pubs in Maldon serving good quality, locally sourced food.
Things to do
Things to do at Bouncers Farm
Bouncers Farm is part of the Maldon Art Trail - a cultural tour of the area including the chance to see art and talks in the orchard. This usually takes place in September each year.
Ann can also organise 'country explorer days' with herself and a local guide where you can try out everything from jam making to den building and 'mini beast hunt'. You'll need to let her know a bit in advance but it's well worth it for a fun day in the orchard.
Outdoors & active
There are a few lovely beach day trips around Bouncers Farm including the great stretches of sand at Frinton and Clacton, the classic seaside town of Walton on the Naze and, with a little local knowledge, a wealth of secret beaches just waiting to be discovered.
If Bouncers Farm somehow isn't wild enough for you, try Colchester Zoo with over 260 rare species, many of which are part of important breeding programmes.
Places to visit
Layer Marney Towers is an old Tudor house with a range of seasonal activities and beautiful gardens.
Cressing Barn Temples is a set of tithe barns that were built for the Knights Templar and are now home to St George's Day jousting among other things.
The medieval theme continues at Hedingham and Colchester castles but the church of St Peter-on-the-wall goes back much further. Its one of the earliest known places of Christian worship in the British Isles and right out on the beautiful Dengie peninsula.
Festivals & events
The Opera in the Orchard in July is the big event of the Bouncers Farm year. Book the Gypsy Camp for a front row seat.
Meet your hosts
Ann Bishop's family have been on the land at Bouncers Farm since her grandfather built the house in 1935, but Ann knows a fair bit about the nomadic life. She once made an eight-week pony and carriage pilgrimage to Santiago di Compostela, camping every night. This love of life on the road and other connections to Gypsy culture, have led her to set up the camp in all its authentic glory. Other things at Bouncers Farm
though, didn't happen with quite so much planning. Ann was given three of the Kune Kune pigs (the name means 'round and fat' in Maori) as gifts and before she knew it there were twelve. They live happily alongside Shetland Soay sheep, which will come and eat out of your hand.
All the animals at the farm feed naturally wherever possible and the Gypsy Camp itself is off-grid. Her hot water is solar powered (she's had panels for 30 years) and she composts and recycles all waste. For all her wonderful cooking, she uses only produce from within a four mile radius of the farm and her own wherever possible.
There are of course the sheep, the pigs and the horses of Ann's own, but also Kingfishers that can often be seen on river walks from the camp and all sorts of wading birds on the large sweeps of tidal beach nearby.
The beautiful 300-year-old copse gives a wonderful show of bluebells with wild orchids and bee orchids growing in the nearby paddocks. There are resident owls that can be heard late in the evening and of course plenty of other birdlife, including both kinds of woodpeckers although these are very shy and so not easy to spot. If you are early the occasional fox or badger might still be out on the prowl.