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Foxholes Castle Camping, Montgomery Road, Bishop's Castle, Shropshire
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Foxholes Castle Camping, Montgomery Road, Bishop's Castle, ShropshireIn a world too often characterised by blandness and uniformity, the creative touches with which Foxholes Castle campsite abound are a balm to the soul.Take the full-sized knight, for instance, who looks out over the owners' castellated roof, his raised sword defying all-comers. Then there's the metal sculpture of a fox skulking around a hedge, the Easter Island head (no campsite should be without one) popping up in the middle of a field, and the little Buddha adorning a quiet corner. These quirky bits and bobs all jumble together to give this large campsite (it covers 10 acres of a 28-acre smallholding), within kissing distance of Bishop's Castle, a very human aspect.

The site is divided into four fields, each with its own character. The top field is a tents-only affair, and has the distinct feel of a hilltop Iron-Age fort, only without the ramparts or information board. There's a slightly more sheltered half-acre field for those who prefer a cosier pitch, a touring field reserved for caravans and campervans, and a slightly out-of-the-way field, which has been largely left to meadow with just a strip around the outside mown for camping (if you're a fan of goldfinches, this is definitely the place for you — they're outnumbered only by the butterflies). And if you forget your tent, a comfy six-bed bunkhousc in the farmyard awaits.


There's also a choice of view. You can have hills, hills, hills, or hills.There can be few campsites the length and breadth of England that enjoy such a vista: the foothills of the Cambrian mountain range, the famous bulk of the Long Mynd, Stiperstones - in whose Roman lead mines Wild Edric is said to be buried with his soldiers, ready to fight should England ever be endangered - and a cornucopia of other bumps, knolls, and mounds besides. With an almost 360-degree panorama, it's as near to heaven as a hillophile is ever likely to get.

Walkers are very well catered for, too, with several long-distance footpaths running close by. The Shropshire Way, meanwhile, actually runs right through the site on its giddy 139-mile loop around the county's finest scenery. For the less ambitious, the attractive small town of Bishop's Castle is a five-minute stroll away, with its artsy community and two excellent microbreweries. The only disappointment is the town's name -the eponymous castle is only a wall now, and if you want to see a bishop then you'll just have to bring your own.

Foxholes' owners, Chris and Wendy, are trying to make the site as eco-friendly as possible, and so aside from encouraging recycling, they have just built a new facilities block whose showers are heated by solar power and whose loos are flushed by rain water. They're also on a mission to make the site as wildlife-friendly as possible, and they've certainly had a great deal of success in attracting birdlife - as a minute spent listening to the seemingly constant riot of birdsong from the trees will confirm. And while you're there, do throw a few coins into the open hand of the Buddha statue. Chris and Wendy have no idea who started this tradition or why, but every so often they scoop up all the money left there and send it off to the Air Ambulance service.

Foxholes Castle Camping, Montgomery Road, Bishop's Castle, Shropshire


COOL FACTOR Views, views, views (and wildlife).

WHO'S IN? Tents, campervans, caravans, dogs ('must be well-behaved, but we love them'), big groups, (well-mannered) young groups - yes.

ON SITE Washing machine drums on legs are provided for campfires (it's £3 for a bag of logs). The number of pitches is somewhat variable, but there are thought to be 'up to 100'. No hook-ups. The wash-room building is brand new and immaculate inside. Designed by the owners themselves, it is fitted with solar panels providing hot water for the showers and a rain collection facility for loo flushing. There are 7 toilets (4W, 3M), 9 showers, and 3 separate wet rooms (each also with a loo - one of them kitted out for use by people with disabilities). While there's no playground, kids have plenty of room for playing games, and the top field is especially good for kite flying. Ice packs can be popped into the fridge/freezer available to campers. There's a sink for washing-up and hot water with which to do so.

OFF SITE For a small town, Bishop's Castle (www. bishopscastle.co.uk) is a happening place. Each year it plays host to a May Fair (weekend after the first May Bank Holiday); a walking festival (second week of June; www. walkingfestival.co.uk); stone-skimming championships (last Sunday in June; 01588 638818); a carnival (first Sunday in July; 01588 650446); and a beer festival (weekend after the carnival; 01588 630144) among others. If you fancy flying above them all, treat yourself to a paraglide (07774 856056; www.leavesleyaviation.com). Or merely leave the crowds behind by tackling a section of a long-distance footpath.
The Offa's Dyke Path (see www.nationaltrail.co.uk), Wild Edric's Way (see www.ldwa.org.uk), and the Kerry Ridgeway (see tourism.powys.gov.uk) are all within striking distance, the last of these doubling as a cycle route (www.ctc-maps. org.uk) if you're a pedaller rather than a plodder.

FOOD AND DRINK The Castle Hotel (01588 638403; www.the-castle-hotel.co.uk) has a reputation for excellent dishes created from locally sourced produce, and contains some wonderful gardens at the back. (See Middle Woodbatch Farm p208 for details of local pubs.) There's a farmers' market in Bishop's Castle town hall the third Saturday of every month, and an ordinary fruit and veg market there on Fridays. Sol Delicatessen (01588 638190), at the top of the High Street, is full of delicious nibbles and lush liquids with which to wash them down.

GETTING THERE Approach Bishop's Castle along the A488 that runs just to the east of the town. Turn west along the B4384 (Schoolhouse Lane) and first right up the B4385 (Bull Lane). Foxholes Castle is about half a mile along here on your left.There are lots of signs to the campsite in the vicinity so, if in doubt, follow the fox.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Either take the train to Church Stretton and shuttle bus to Bishop's Castle (April-September; www.shropshirehillsshuttles.co.uk); or train to Shrewsbury and bus no. 552/553 to Bishop's Castle.

OPEN All year.

THE DAMAGE Adult £6 per night; child (under 13 years) £2;dog - £1.



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