Bellingham, Hexham, Northumberland NE48 2BS
It all started with an irate local bobby one night in 1972. Presented with yet another duo of wayward Pennine Way walkers knocking on his door in the late hours asking for accommodation advice, the camel’s back broke. The then local constable appealed to Tom at Demesne Farm in the twilight hours to take them off his hands and put them up for the night. The farm’s bottom field became their overnight home. Next, came a sign, then more tents and it all grew from there. Thirty-six years later, Tom, the family and the farm are still here, playing host to to a regular influx of walkers and campers.
Demesne Farm’s patch of flat green sits on the outskirts of the sleepy blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village of Bellingham, right on the doorstep of the Pennine Way. With only one field given over to campers, the site itself is not that large. But it feels bigger than it is as it looks out over a wide expanse of rural England that glows golden as the sun falls: a heavenly view. The place is first and foremost a haven for walkers and cyclists who, after a long day spent tackling the Pennines, may well be in need of a pastoral pillow on which to rest their weary heads, and a nice little village (pronounced ‘Belling- jum’) where they can put their feet up. It’s only a short wander for a mug of hot cocoa and a sticky bun.
The farm is very popular with groups and can get quite busy in the summer months, but there’s an overflow field to ease any congestion. The facilities reside in a partially converted barn inside the barnyard and there’s also a handy bunkhouse should you need it, should the local weather turn sour. In nice weather, though, it’s a great and authentic farm experience – really rustic with proper farmyard smells and lots of animals in residence (though the rest are shielded by the dry-stone walls and left strictly to the professionals). You’ll notice that they’re used to – and completely unperturbed by – the presence of campers, especially the inquisitive brood of chickens, who will scrabble around your guy ropes and take a peck out of everything in reach. But it’s touches like these that make Demesne Farm such a firm favourite with all who visit.
From the campsite you can head out along the near-endless Pennine Way, which passes by the site’s gate. Or if you’re in the saddle, then Bellingham sits on the Reivers Way cycle route as it cuts its way from Tynemouth in the East to Whitehaven on the West Coast. Bellingham itself has little to offer. Kielder Water is the main draw here, a mere eight miles away across the moors. As Northern Europe’s largest artificial lake, its 27 miles of shoreline boasts a multitude of activities: (first take a deep breath) there’s windsurfing, sailing, canoeing, fishing, cycling and walking, lake cruises, miles of self-guided walks and ever-expanding mountain-bike trails throughout the forest. And, now, breathe again. Walking around Kielder Forest’s moss-carpeted innards you stand a good chance of coming across the minute, tufted ears of the embattled native red squirrel. The dense forests here are the species’ last real stronghold in the UK, with 75% of the UK’s populace residing here.
These days, policing the locals doesn’t involve walls and forts, just a few friendly bobbies on the beat. It may not be a hotbed of crime, but one fine officer surely deserves a medal, for services to camping..
The Owner Says
Campsite and bunkhouse on a working farm