Sidmouth Folk Week 2009: The Bulverton Campsite.

aerialcampsite.jpg (173778 bytes)

Taken from Multimap, the size of field 2 can be estimated at about 444 by 167 yards or 15.3 acres. In the old days, most of this was covered in motorhomes, caravans and tents, as was field 1. Allowing 25% of land area for roadways and other infrastructure, and 60 sq. yards per pitch, field 2 might accommodate about 925 pitches. Field 1 has more infrastructure and a size of about 220 by 125 yards, so might accommodate 320 units on 70% of its area. Allowing for imperfect use of land, maybe 1000 units in total could be accommodated on the estimated 21 acres. 60 sq. yards per pitch is just over 23' by 23' - adequate but far short of Caravan Club standards.

Licensed sites are generally allowed around 25 static caravans or 30 mobile caravans per acre - where calculated acres excludes ponds and lakes etc. on the site. If these standards were applied, and 25% of land taken for roadways etc, only about 470 units could be accommodated in total. 

Img_3953.jpg (84616 bytes) Field 1 of the main Bulverton campsite, viewed from the walkway down from the Bulverton marquee.

The private Corehill campsite to the north of the A3052 can be seen beyond the houses, at the top centre of the picture. This is a quieter site, and with good access to Waitrose. Otherwise - it would seem to have few attractions, apart from less mud.

Other, more established caravan and camping sites some miles from Sidmouth are preferred by many folkies - which is a shame because the festival loses campsite revenue. Thorn Park campsite has run its own 'fringe festival' events since 2009.

Img_3955.jpg (93483 bytes) Slightly different view of field 1.

The walkway down from the Bulverton (foreground) doesn't look too trodden or treacherous but great care was needed, even on this relatively shallow slope.

Img_3957.jpg (109683 bytes) The slope up into field 2 from field 1. This does not have a stone base and can rapidly become impassable.

Apparently, difficulties of access precluded some of the best motorhome and caravan spaces being filled in 2009.

This was curious - the festival website had stated for months that all motorhome spaces had been booked. So where did they all go? Presumably on field 1 with tents being taken on wheelbarrows into field 2.

Who would be a campsite manager?


Img_3958.jpg (100917 bytes) The top end of field 2.

These are some of the most highly prized motorhome spaces along the main road, with only gently sloping pitches and excellent views - and none of them filled in 2009.

What  a pity!

Some better forward planning for difficult weather might have resulted in a higher occupancy of motorhome spaces and much additional revenue for the festival.

A similar photo from 2010 shows this area as it should have been!

Img_3959.jpg (89237 bytes) The main part of field 2 - and on a steep slope.

In previous years this was covered in caravans - and therefore unsafe because of all the tents located lower down the field.

Sensibly, most drivers parked their cars across the slope - as they had been told to do in 2008.

In severe weather one year, cars were apparently removed because they were starting to slide down the hill even with their brakes on - which seems a tall story even for this campsite!

Img_3960.jpg (106844 bytes) The WC and shower blocks on field 1.

These were beside the main access track, which had a stone base and remained passable for the WC emptying lorry (right of picture).

However, the disadvantage of this layout is that people wanting a shower had to walk across one of the most used and muddy areas of the site.

Many had no qualms about taking a large quantity of mud into the showers - and leaving it there for future users. There were some complaints.

Img_3961.jpg (90639 bytes) The lower part of field 1.

On Caravan Club and other permanent sites, outfits have to be 3 metres apart to provide fire-breaks. On temporary sites, there are fewer rules.

Some festivals (for example Chippenham) mark out pitches in advance. Their site is one of most organised in the UK.

At Warwick, site notes say that outfits must be 3m apart - but the festival could not operate if this was enforced.

As a compromise, Warwick use 6 metre wide roadways, so (they claim!) two fire engines can get to an incident side by side!

Img_3962.jpg (84992 bytes) The second field, viewed from the first - which is here at a higher level.

This lower corner of field 2 is quite flat - suitable for motorhomes or tents. But you have to get there, which is via the slope from field 1 and then down the steep parts of field 2.

On wet grass or liquid mud, even a slight slope can defeat a caravan towed by a two wheel drive car.

In the sunshine, it all looks idyllic!

A disabled attendee commented it is not really suitable for everyone. Many campsites are less demanding!


Img_3964.jpg (74273 bytes) As if anyone would have tried?

After Tuesday's rain, most people were simply grateful their car was still where they had left it.

The festival has sought views on making the campsite a 'no car movement' zone even in good weather.

This would certainly make it safer - many drivers do not obey campsite speed restrictions - and not only at Sidmouth.

The slope on parts of the Bulverton campsite makes fast driving particularly dangerous when on wet grass or mud.

Img_3966.jpg (52637 bytes) I was informed that these two visitors had flown in the previous night.

They appeared to have adapted well to their new home in a small pond adjacent to the campsite managers office - and this was after several days of reasonably good weather.

Perhaps they had had enough of the heat wave in central Europe?


Higher resolution jpgs of most 2009 photos are available upon request - email.

Img_3967.jpg (92952 bytes) Campsite manager Issy Fremont (on the left) and Clare Symms, one of her colleagues. Girls will be girls, and this pair insisted on a photo-shoot in the campsite foot spa.

The cheerfulness of these stewards seemed to epitomise the whole atmosphere of the campsite.

Even campers who were hanging up soaked mattresses to drip dry seemed remarkably sanguine. The sunshine probably helped.

The water was tested daily for bacteria and suspended solids by EDDC's Environmental Health Officers. The results have not been published - which is perhaps just as well.

A few (edited) comments on the mudcat website about conditions on the campsite and the imposition of car movement restrictions. Dated 10 August 2009.

I would have liked to have made a run to a launderette (if Sidmouth has one!) to clean up some mud infested clothes (and it weren't just mud). Apart from that, having a bus pass meant that I didn't feel much need to use my car.  In the circumstances, the restrictions were both necessary and reasonable.

But I would be lying if I said the mud didn't spoil my camping. I'm not blaming the organisers for the rain! But:

I was at the top and getting to and from the bus stop was an expedition. I didn't visit the on-site catering because it was such a bind getting there and back, not helped by slipping up on my *rse in the mud on Tuesday night. Similarly I avoided coming back on the campsite during the day because of the unpleasantness getting back to the tent. And, since I was stewarding, I needed to be a bit presentable when I got into town.

Just getting to the nearby loo block was a problem because it meant crossing a roadway constantly churned up by the service vehicles and always slippery. Then coming back into the tent with ankle deep mud, and it wasn't always mud - hard to see at night. Then once the tractors started operating the ruts became too deep for cars to use the roads, and held the water to keep things unpleasant for pedestrians even though it was beginning to dry out.

Similarly getting to the showers and fresh water was a long and dangerous trek, I slipped a number of times.


Finally, a round of applause for the camp site stewards. They had a difficult and often unpleasant job and did it cheerfully.

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