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Batcombe Vale Campsite, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
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Batcombe Vale Campsite, Shepton Mallet, SomersetThe first time you enter this secretive place is memorable; as the lane reaches the hill's crest it drops suddenly to reveal a breathtaking view of a veritable Shangri La. This slice of heaven, dropped into the midst of rural Somerset, is Batcombe Vale, where the camping is not so much 'cool', as 'chilled-out-to-the-point-of-being-horizontal'. Around here, rabbits scoot across the grass, buzzards soar on thermals above, and herons pose majestically on the lakesides. Listening to the plops offish in the water, you half expect the rest of the cast of Tlic Wind in the Willows to come marching out of the hedges.

The 30 pitches are on different levels: some with a glorious view, others surrounded by lush, tropical-looking vegetation.There are four small lakes, the largest of which has three colourful rowing boats just for Batcombe's campers to mess about in - Ratty would be proud. Hidden paths snake through the valley's rampant undergrowth and small jetties jut out into the water.

There are numerous genteel activities to undertake near this sheltered camping enclave. Walkers have a choice of paths radiating outwards from Batcombe Vile into the emerald swathes of landscape. Alternatively, within half-an-hour's drive-are historic places like Wells (with its amazing cathedral) and Glastonbury (you might have heard of it...). At the other end of the spectrum, there's the Fleet Air Arm Museum atYeovilton or, in Sparkford, the Haynes Motor Museum. But many visitors just stay put once they've bashed the last peg into the ground of Somerset's answer to paradise.

COOL FACTOR A beautiful and tranquil valley haven.

WHO'S IN? Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs (except certain breeds), small groups (up to 4 units, and only if there's room) - yes. Big group celebrations, noisy types - no.

ON SITE Thirty pitches; electric hook-ups; 4 lakes, 3 of which are stocked. To fish, campers must hold a National Rod Licence. You'll find excellent, eccentric facilities in a log cabin under a huge climbing plant - toilets, free hot showers, basins, laundry, and freezer. Enjoy the lakes aboard one of the free rowing boats; and the 120-acre valley is your playground. Gas or charcoal BBQs only - no campfires.

OFF SITE Petrolheads will love the Haynes Motor Museum (01963 440804; www.haynesmotormuseum.com) in Sparkford. Time flies at the Fleet Air Arm Museum (01935 840565; www.fleetairarm.com) in Yeovilton. Or why not take the train from Bruton to majestic Bath, where you can test Britain's only natural thermal waters at Thermae Bath Spa (www.thermaebathspa.com).

FOOD AND DRINK Gilcombe Organic Farm Shop (01749 813710; www.somersetorganics.co.uk) in Bruton is especially noted for its meat and can supply organic packs for the BBQ. If it's a pub you're after, give the 17th-century Three Horseshoes Inn (01749 850359) a try. It's in Batcombe -a mile's stroll from the campsite.

GETTING THERE The easiest approach is via Bruton or Evercreech on the B3081, then follow the brown campsite signs to Batcombe Vale.

[b]PUBLIC TRANSPORT
The campsite is 3 miles from Bruton train station.

OPEN Easter-end September.

THE DAMAGE Pitch plus 2 adults £ 16.50 per night; child (3 to 15 years) £ 3, under-3s free.




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