Otter Camp – Cotswolds, Gloucestershire
- Shepherd's hut for 2
Tents can be pitched alongside
Otter Camp consists of two shepherd's huts, one of which is your bedroom and the other the bathroom, plus a fisherman's hut, which is your lounge and kitchen. The three are hidden away together in a clearing, with the riverbank and the woodland forming natural boundaries to the front and the rear.
As you wind your way along the leafy path through the trees and walk across the narrow footbridge over the river to reach Otter Camp, it's easy to imagine you've strayed into the Swallows & Amazons novels.
The shepherd's hut that serves as the sleeping quarters has a comfortable full-sized double bed and a traditional woodburning stove. The second shepherd's hut, just next door, holds the modern bathroom, with shower, toilet and basin. And the fisherman's hut, with its comfy chairs and wind-up radio is a great place to curl up with a book and shelter from the midday sun.
A ladder on the bank gives access to the river for paddling or swimming, and you can fish for trout – though you'll be competing with the eponymous otters, who can occasionally be glimpsed playing in the water.
- Children welcome
- Pets welcome
Children and pets are welcome, though dogs must be kept on a long lead as sheep and cattle graze nearby.
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Everything you need to know about Otter Camp
The important stuff
- Check in is at 3pm
- Check out is at 10am
- There is a river just in front of the site - although it isn’t very deep, parents should keep an eye on children playing nearby
- Please do not walk amongst the newly planted trees
- Kids are welcome at Otter Camp, but there is only the double bed
- Dogs are welcome at Otter Camp, but must be kept under strict control as there are cattle and sheep grazing nearby
Sleeping arrangementsTents can be pitched alongside
Kids & PetsChildren and pets are welcome, though dogs must be kept on a long lead as sheep and cattle graze nearby.
- Campfire and gas stove
- Gas fridge
- An outdoor sink with hot water for washing up.
- There is a solar powered shower and flushing toilet in the bathroom hut (a few feet from the main hut)
Heating, lighting & bedding
- All towels and linen are provided
- Wood burning stove in the hut for heating
- Solar lighting
- A selection of books
- Board games
- Wind-up radio
Thatched Cottage, Whelford, Great Farm, GL7 4EA
The nearest train stations are Kemble (30 minutes drive) or Swindon (20 minutes drive). Taxis from either station can be arranged.
From the M4
Leave at Juntion 15 for Swindon. Take A419 North. After travelling down a steep hill, continue for approx 2 miles until you see a turning marked Castle Eaton. Take this right hand turn, and continue to Castle Eaton Village. Turn left, signposted Kempsford. Continue on this road until you come to a T junction, turn right and continue to Kempsford. Follow the road round the village until you see a left hand turn for Whelford. Follow this road past RAF Fairford and when you see a red phone box, take the turning for Whelford. The Thatched Cottage is the only Thatched House in the village, and is on the left hand side, just past the village hall.
From the M5
Exit at Junction 11a and head towards Fairford on the A417. Once in Fairford, turn right opposite the Marlborough Arms, signposted Whelford. Continue for approx 2 miles, and once you pass through the 30mph hour signs, turn right, just in front of the church. The Thatched Cottage is the second house on the right.
Leave Lechlade on the A417 heading towards Fairford. After around 3 miles, take the left hand turning just past the shell garage. Continue on this road, over a bridge and into Whelford. Take the right hand turn signposted RAF Fairford, and then take the first left. The Thatched Cottage is the second house on the right.
Eating & drinking
Eating and drinking
All three camps are stocked with the staples - tea, coffee, biscuits, milk and condiments.
Leonie can put together a hamper of delicious local food for breakfast or for a picnic, and - for the ultimate fine dining experience - a five course meal delivered to the camp can be arranged.
There is a firepit for traditional campfire cooking, as well as a gas stove.
Lechdale (4 miles by car, but a lovely 2 mile ramble from the camp, through the Cotwolds countryside)
Colleys, Lechdale - café by day, restaurant by night. Their puddings are out of this world - try the bread and butter pudding or the amaretti tiramisu!
The New Inn - the beer garden backs onto the river
Fairford (3 miles - another nice cross country walk)
7a Coffee Shop - a nice friendly café with good locally sourced food
Restaurant Allium - an award winning restaurant - well worth a visit. They also do wine tastings
Kempsford (1.5 miles)
The George - a friendly local pub
Things to do
At your camp
You can paddle in the river that runs through the farm, or, subject to the appropriate licence being held, it is possible to fish for trout from the banks of the river. There is a fishing rod and some books on fishing in the fisherman's hut at Otter Camp, which guests are welcome to use. Swimming in the river is possible but at your own risk - please supervise children at all times.
The hut is on the edge of the largest area of Gloucestershire uninterrupted by roads and there are miles and miles of beautiful walks. Just ask Leonie about hiring bikes and horseriding.
Out and about
Easily walkable, Fairford and Lechlade are both thriving riverside Cotswold Towns. Lechlade has many antique shops and a good selection of pubs and cafes. Fairford has a good range of shops, pubs, coffee shop and restaurants. There is great shopping at Cirencester which is fifteen minutes drive away.
Or a bit further afield, Go Ape! at Wendover Woods with tree-top high wires, crossings and wind-in-your-face zip wires.
Meet your hosts
A bit of family history
Since arriving at Great Farm, a family-run farm on the edge of The Cotswolds, the Otter Camp hut has been used by Jonathan and Leonie's children as a rather superior wendy house. When Canopy & Stars first visited, archaeological remains of this bygone age could still be observed - children's socks and books were found in the woodburner (more innocent, we're assured, than the Hansel & Gretel tale it brings to mind!).
The shepherd's hut which now serves as the bedroom at The Otter Camp hasn't always led such a sleepy existence though. It is over a hundred years old, and before retiring to its peaceful riverside position, the hut first provided shelter from the elements to shepherd's on the Berkshire Downs. After that it served a stint as a mobile milking parlour near Liddington... transporting the milking equipment, rather than the cows! It fell into a sad state of disrepair as somebody's garden shed, but was rescued by Leonie and Jonathan, and given a new lease of life - the interior has been completely refitted by a boat maker...
It's a similar story for Nightingale Camp. Since the closure of a nearby railway, the carriage that now forms the sleeping space has sat mournfully at Great Farm waiting for its moment to shine. That moment is finally here.
Most recently, Leonie & Jonathan have been inspired by the discovery of two Gypsy bowtop wagons to create a third camp - tucked in a field near the river, Barn Owl Camp is great for families.
Wildlife and environmental policy
Great Farm is run along environmentally friendly lines. The sheep, cattle and free range hens are managed in a natural low input way as part of the Countryside Stewardship Scheme and no artificial chemicals are applied to the grassland. No hunts or shoots are allowed on the farm, and the wild birds are fed in winter.
Leonie and Jonathan have cultivated hedgerows, copses and meadows which are home to owls, buzzards, badgers, foxes and a resident herd of roe deer. There are beautiful old fashioned river meadows full of wild flowers, and kingfishers and, of course, the eponymous otters, are often seen along the River Coln that runs alongside the camp.
Within five minutes walk of the camp is the Whelford Pools Nature Reserve, which is designated an Site of Special Scientific Interest and is an important site for migratory birds.
The electricity for Otter Camp and Nightingale Camp is provided using solar power, whereas Barn Owl has mains electricity.