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Bouncers Farm, Wickham Hall Lane.Wickham Bishops, Essex
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If you've been searching in vain for years for a campsite that offers its own pony-and-trap taxi service, then search no more. Get within a few miles of Bouncers Farm - to Witham station, say -and, for a small fee, Ann will collect you and your fellow campers and take you clip-elopping down narrow country lanes to her lovely woody site in the surprisingly bucolic Essex countryside. Greenies will also be happy to note that there are discounts for those who get most of the way to Bouncers by some form of sustainable transport.

Bouncers Farm, Wickham Hall Lane.Wickham Bishops, Essex

The campsite is spread out across Ann's smallholding, and with just 10 pitches there's plenty of room to sprawl. The eight acres of woods are a magnet for children, who can play on a tyre swing, climb up into the tree house Ann herself played in as a girl, make dens, or explore a little hollow of bulrushes just made for hiding from grown-ups and all their outmoded ways of being. Said grown¬ups, meanwhile, might like to relax by slinging up a hammock between the 300-year-old trees.

If ever out of the woods, younger children can take part in organised mini-be&t hunts, or be led for a ride on a pony (after doing all the fun grooming and tacking up, of course). Unlike most campsites in Britain, there's a professional opera held here for two nights every July, and an art exhibition m the last week of September.

And if you want to try something a little different you can book the two gypsy caravans and bender tent and cook your supper in a proper steaming cauldron over an open fire.

COOL FACTOR The almost magical quality of the woods.

WHO'S IN? Tents, dogs (1 per family and on leads) -yes. Campervans, caravans, groups - no.

ON SITE Numerous fire pits for campfires. There are 10 pitches; a wet room with double shower and loo; Portakabin with 2 loos and a solar-heated shower; and a fridge/freezer. For children there's a tyre swing, sandpit, and tree house. Pony ride £12; mini-beast hunt £12.

Bouncers Farm, Wickham Hall Lane.Wickham Bishops, Essex

OFF SITE Learn how to sail at West Mersea with ex-Olympian Jane Richardson, or have a session at a riding school (Ann can arrange booking for both). At Paper Mill Lock (01245 225520; www.papermilllock.co.uk) you can hire a rowing boat or canoe, or go for a canal cruise along the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation.

FOOD AND DRINK The Du Cane Arms (01621 891697) in Great Braxted is very highly regarded for its food. Olivers Nurseries (01376 513239), south of Witham, is a PYO fruit farm, cafe, and farm shop. Or give Ann a shopping list before you arrive and a local independent shop will deliver.

GETTING THERE From the A12 take the B1389 into Witham and then the B1018 (Maldon Road) south towards Wickham Bishops, and turn left up Wickham Hall Lane. Bouncers Farm is on the left, after ½ mile.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Train to Witham then cycle or walk along the Blackwater Rail Trail, or take bus no. 90 (Stephensons;01702 541511) to Snows Corner, and wander up from there. Or arrive in style in the pony-and-trap.

OPEN Easter-Oct and 4 weeks over Christmas and New Year.

THE DAMAGE Small tent and 1 person £12 per night; medium tent £15; large tent £24; extra adult £4; child £3; dog £1. Pre-erected 3-man tent £20 per night; family-of-5 tent £30; gypsy caravan (sleeping up to 5) £80.

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