Abbey Home Farm
The Chester-Master family don’t always do things the easy way. “To make a farm pay nowadays, most farmers concentrate on one venture,” Hilary explains. “We are doing the opposite”. And she’s not just talking about the way 1,500-acre Abbey Home Farm seems to produce every food you can grow in the UK on site, from honey to halloumi. It’s also a reference to the award-winning farm shop, the educational courses and the vegetarian café with a menu that changes daily as it follows the progress of the surrounding garden. This is not just a farm. It’s an entire organic enterprise.
In addition to this agricultural activity is Abbey Home’s thoroughly low-key and off-grid campsite. Or rather, campsites. After all, why challenge yourself with running one when you have the space to manage several? The main ‘Green Field’ site is popular with families, who love the space – only accentuated by sweeping views of the surrounding pastures – and the car-free safety afforded to children. It's rustic to say the least but that's certainly part of the charm. To wash, for example, you can heat water over the campfire then use their quirky bucket mechanism to take a shower in their wooden shower huts.
Alongside the Green Field is a smaller meadow for campervans and those desperate to pitch accompanied by their vehicles, while, elsewhere, you’ll find a shepherd’s hut, a yurt and a four-yurt camp for groups. Perhaps our favourite site is the aptly named ‘Magical Glade’, an exclusive hire spot in the woods a whole mile away with space for about three small tents. Since the wood was only planted in 1991, the trees are still relatively small, giving campers the best of both worlds: sheltered seclusion and sunlight.
Wherever you’re lucky enough to pitch, you’ll have to start by checking in at the farm shop, the hub of all things at Abbey Home. Head grower Andy chalks notes on a blackboard inside, so that guests know what’s going on in the 15-acre vegetable garden that surrounds the building, and you’re welcome to wander through it all on weekends. There are also tours of the wider farm on their summer open day, though, at other times of the year, you can follow the well-signed farm trail yourself, heading to a beautiful totem pole by the campsite and on past fields of short-horned cattle, sheep and chickens before entering the woods and returning down an old railway line to the shop.
The diversity and seasonality of the farm means there is always something new and changing. ‘Sprouting Broccoli and Spring Greens cropping well’, reads one of Andy’s chalk-board notes in April. ‘Good year for soft fruit and Strawberries,’ in July. This propensity for change seems to have seeped into the varied courses and activities offered and, more recently, even into the running of the campsite. Almost 20 years after the farm first became certified organic, the next generation of the Chester-Master family are beginning to take the reigns of the site. While the camping will still be an off-grid, campfire-friendly and eco-friendly affair, plans are apparently in the pipeline for a few new welcome additions. Whatever happens you can be sure it won’t be done the easy way. But no doubt it will be set about with the same laudable aim of making the countryside and the environment a better place.
Main site with room for around 20 pitches (10 minutes’ walk from the shop/café), ‘magical glade’ for two or three tents only (25 minutes from the shop/café), plus a shepherd’s hut, a yurt and a four-yurt camp. Composting loos, timed water taps, firepits for hire (limited number) and logs for sale. Only one proper shower (gas powered, £1 per use), though you can heat water in a kettle over a campfire and wash using the shower buckets in the cubicles provided! A variety of courses are available (see website for full details).
Tents, small campervans – yes. Caravans, dogs – no.
You are in Roman-remains territory, so it’s mosaics-a-go-go: Chedworth Villa (01242 890256) is less than 10 minutes away by car and has some of the best examples. If it rains, Cirencester is only 5 minutes away by car: For creative kids, the Pick a Pot and Paint ceramic studio in Blackjack Street (01285 650405) is worth a punt, while younger ones love the indoor soft play area at MagicLand (01285 885570). The Corinium Museum is also in Cirencester (01285 655611) – one of the nation’s largest collections of Romano-British bits and bobs in what was the empire’s second largest British town. It has been recently renovated, with interactive displays and the opportunity to dress up as a Roman soldier. You’re also on the edge of the Cotswolds, with Cheltenham and Stow-on-the-Wold within half an hour’s drive.
Food & Drink
You’ll regret bringing any food with you. Buy it here. The farm shop and café produce deliciousness: milk and meat, fruit and veg, cakes and even ready-meals. All organic, of course. There’s also a good selection of restaurants in Cirencester. The Hare and Hounds pub at Foss Cross (01285 720288), 4 miles away, has an upmarket dining room, where children’s meals aren’t your bog-standard deep-fried offerings.The Village Pub (free house), Barnsley (3 miles) – yes, the pub is actually called that; it’s very pretty and a swish gastro affair to boot (01285 740421).
The yurts are open Easter–October. Green Field camping available all year (book online or turn up in shop hours).
It's organic, free-range, homemade, raw, healthy camping on the farm. The place to come for a whole lot of natural goodness. You'll almost feel guilty for driving here the place is so green. Why not cycle? Walk? Or glide in a solar powered plane?
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The Owner Says
We have several options for staying here at Abbey Home Farm and hope that you'll find something that suits your fancy. Our 4 Yurt Eco Camp is great for groups of 18 or less, while our Single Yurt is perfect for couples and small families. The Magical Glade is for groups if 8 or less and is nestled in a young coppice which allows for both privacy and sunlight! Our Green Field campsite is a large field hugged on two sides by dry stone walls and is our main public campsite. We think that all of the options are particularly excellent for getting up close and personal with nature and in keeping, the amenities are rustic. We also have a Hut by the Pond and Shepherds Hut, both off grid and perfect romantic retreats for two.
If you find yourself needing a bit of luxury, The Organic Farm Shop and Cafe are just a 5 minute walk from the main campsite, (a longer walk across the fields from the Huts, Single Yurt and Magical Glade). And since we are a farm- we take food very seriously here. The shop sells 100% organic veg, soft fruit, dairy, bread and meat all produced on the farm, as well as everything else the conscientious shopper could ever need. The cafe is inspired daily by the large kitchen garden surrounding it, serving very seasonal food. It also happily caters for people with diverse food needs (vegan, gluten free etc). Why not join us for Lunch on Sunday when we have our farm-raised meat as a treat?
If you are interested in getting involved with some farming activities we have several ways in which the whole family can do that too! Kid's Farm Days (in the Easter and Summer holidays) are a chance for 8-12 year olds to learn about organic farming and food production whilst really getting their hands dirty on the farm. Or if you are after tailor made activities for the whole family, we can definitely come up with something interesting.
Here at Abbey Home Farm, we are committed to re-establishing the connections between nature, farming, and meeting human needs and believe that, as farmers and land stewards, we have a responsibility to efficiently produce food for the local community while protecting our soil and creating and maintaining biodiversity. We love to share what we do and hope to see you on the farm in the near future.
Abbey Home Farm, The Organic Farm Shop, Burford Road, Cirencester GL7 5HF
From Cirencester, head east for the A417. At the A417 roundabout go straight ahead towards the B4225. After the next roundabout pass the turning for the A429, then take the next left, signposted ’The Organic Farm Shop’.
Train station: Kemble (7 miles) – London to Gloucester line. Bus no. 855 runs from the station to Cirencester, stopping at Stow Lodge, from where it’s a 20-minute walk to the site.
ReviewsAdd Your Review
Rated ★★★★★ over 11 reviews
Nice Camping - AVOID CAFE
An amazing privilege to stay in the Magical Glade
Lovely place and amazing organic shop!
We stayed last weekend and via email the owners couldn't be more helpful and happy to provide plenty of information. At first glance, on arrival, the site looks very simple and down to earth but there are great facilities and a wonderful view across the fields on the main site. Although many people would prefer toilet/shower blocks with hot, running water, this isn't why we like to go camping and frankly I prefer to use a composting loo as it's a much more friendly option than flushing gallons of fresh water down the sewerage system!
The site itself is a large main field overlooking a beautiful bucolic valley, some very well managed woodland with some lovely sculptures, yurts and a woodland path through to the very well provisioned organic farm shop with loads of wonderful food, drink and supplies; more than you could expect for a 'camp shop' and definitely a departure from the classic camp shops offering freezer blocks, 'meat packs' and cheap tat for the kids.
Two of our group have live-in vehicles so we were all able to stay together in the vehicle field which was lovely although we didn't get to enjoy the view over the valley directly from our tent doors, but the view of the rooks over the woodland and the sounds of the owls at night was beautiful and the ground was pretty good for pitching tents. Add to this that you can hire fire-bowls and you can spend a lovely evening chatting while the sun goes down before a restful night's sleep. There is, occasionally, some distant vehicle noise but the night is peaceful and while we were there we were treated to scores of shooting stars and the view of the Milky Way stretching across the night sky.
Maybe this site isn't for you if you want hot, running water, childrens playgrounds and loads of facilities but for us, this is what camping is about. If you want a cup of tea, you can boil a kettle and the kids on site seemed to be having a load of fun exploring and playing games on the huge field which seems like it can house huge numbers of tents without people being on top of each other. If you want somewhere peaceful, rustic, with soul and an amazing farm shop; this one's for you!
What a fantastic campsite!
Just what an amazing place this is!
We booked for the weekend of 9/10 August and signed up for the Family Camp option. The Campsite alone, which is a great site, would have been worth this positive review, but it was the Family Camp which really blew us away.
The Family Camp is basically an all-inclusive version of the incredible range of activities organised on the farm by the Education Officer, Hope. Activities included, collecting eggs from the big flock of chickens, grading them and packing into boxes for the shop (our kids were most chuffed at collecting 247 eggs on one day!); digging up carrots from the field; watching the miliking of the cows (and meeting the day old calf!); playing with the pigs in the free-range pens; nature games in the woods; stories round the campfire; a dusk walk to see wild badgers; and a fantastic trip round the back of the farm in the back of the farmer's pickup (which apparently was specially for us as (unbelieveably!) numbers were low that weekend - normally it's a trailer ride pulled by tractor!).
The activities would have kept our kids entertained on their own for the entire weekend, but Hope who ran all the activities, was just incredible. Despite being pregnant she was fantastic - full or energy and ideas for things for the kids to do. The kids enjoyed every minute of it and they were so sad to say goodbye at the end. All the people who worked on the farm (and we met lots with all the activities!) were really friendly, and it just made it a very special stay.
As they make clear on their website, the campsite is basic. The standard camping area is two fields, one for campers and those who want to keep thieir cars with them, and one for tents only. The tents-only field has by far the better views but everywhere is quiet and tranquil with plenty of space to pitch.The composting loos were really well managed and worked really well (no smells!). And it all ties in to a genuine and whole hearted organic approach to farming and camping - this is not a campsite where organic is plastered everywhere just to attract visitors - it is clear that looking after the environment and the animals on the farm means everything to people who are involved with the farm and the campsite. And to top it all, without all the glaring lights from any "oh-so-clean" toilets blocks you get at other campsites, we managed to see a sky full of stars (complete with shooting stars!) that you just don't get in the South East! There is slight road noise from a nearby road at night, but this does not affect the peace and tranquility of the place.
The farm shop is excellent, and you realise when you are doing the actiivites that this truly is a farm shop - all the things in the shop, the milk, cheese, meat, vegetables etc. are all produced on the farm! The restaurant is also good - and open early!
So overall, this was a great place to go to, and easily the best camping trip our family has been on so far. Everyone worked really hard to make sure we had a good stay, and we'd like to thank Hope especially for all her hard work over the weekend.
We would defintiely recommened the campsite to anyone, and we would particularly recommend any of the activities on the farm, particularly the Family Camp - they are all excellent, and when we booked pretty reasonable for what you get. When we went there was loads of space on the site and on the Camp, so get in quick before everybody works out what a real treasure this place is!
We stayed at Abbey Home Farm over this last weekend (the one when Murray won Wimbledon!) and the weather was perfect. We pitched our tent in the car camping site where we had masses of space even when a few more tents turned up, but the main field is just stunning with so much space that it just eats up families with loads of space left between tents. The sun setting over a field of clover was a sight to remember.
The water tastes wonderful from the spring. Don't be put off by talk of compost loos, we were there in July and they were fine and there were certainly doors on both of the ladies' loos.
It is a few minutes walk through the wood to the beautifully quirky shop and cafe where you can buy all kinds of organic fruit, veg and delicious bread and the best lamb chops! It is such a treat to have a campfire to cook on and sit by as the sun sets and the sense of wellbeing that comes with being in fresh air all day settles all around you.
Definitely going back...
We turned up just in time to book a spot for last minute, car-free camping this past Friday night. The shop was amazing, with tonnes of fresh produce (BEST rocket and cherry tomatoes!), and the staff were very patient and friendly.
We rented a brazier and some firewood and cooked up a nice meal that evening, against a sunset sky over the sheep meadow valley adjacent to the camping field. There were lots of families there with kids running around; the campsite feels very safe being cut off from the B4425 by a padlocked gate. We stayed for two nights and didn't take showers the whole time, mainly because we didn't bring a container to use for heating and supplying water for the pump showers, but next time I'm sure we'll give those a go. The compost toilets are totally fine - especially the one with the makeshift handrail so you don't have to sit on the seat - and the drinking/washing water from their bore hole is great.
If you eat in the cafe, choose a table on the back veranda; it's amazing how much that space blocks the wind but traps the sun - really lovely place to have some tea and yoghurt with fresh fruit and honey. Be sure to take note of the shop's opening times as you won't want to have to drive into Cirencester to buy groceries...we did one night and were disappointed not to have another chance to try some food from the farm. It was a fantastic experience and we will definitely go back again and again!
A walk on the wild side with added good karma.
If you're coming to Abbey Home Farm, prepare to go with the flow and take it free and easy for an unforgettable green camping experience.
Bookings? No, they don't take them. 'Just turn up when the shop's open, we've got plenty of room' is the theory. As a habitually organised teacher-type, this filled me with trepidation as we hooked up the trailer and set off for the farm. Qualms were, of course, unfounded. We booked in with no trouble and had oodles of space. The laid-back, friendly approach really set the tone for our May Bank Holiday break. Abbey Farm is run by good people. It's all about a more ethical, organic, eco way of living. Inspiring stuff!
Camping is in two fields: one flat (for vehicles) and one sloped (no cars, use a wheelbarrow to lug your gear). Bordering the fields are woods, housing not only trees but carved chairs, sculptures, little nooks for den making, compost toilets, and a little shrine. Little paths weave through the trees. It's quieter than you'd think of a campsite on a working farm. There aren't any pitches - choose wherever you like. Lovely.
Don't pack any food! Seriously, don't, you'll regret it if you do. The farm shop is full to bursting with incredible produce from the fields and gardens around Abbey Home Farm. The cafe is home to all that is local and good - veggie in the week, with 'meat as a treat' on Sunday for a top-notch traditional roast. The beef we had was delicious, with perfectly cooked trimmings including cheesy leeks that my daughter has sinced begged me to recreate at home. We finished with a superlatively sticky toffee pudding and thick cream.
The highlight of our break was the 'Dusk Walk' we booked with farmer Will. New-born lambs skipped around us as we headed to a slope overlooking a particular patch of hedgerow, keeping downwind and keeping silent. Well, silent-ish. Silence is a big ask of my 7-year-old! As night fell, we sat passing the binoculars to and fro, eyes fixed on a gap in the hedge. Eventually, little black-and-white stripy faces began to emerge from their sett. I'd never seen badgers in the wild before; I honestly felt like a kid again. Walking back towards the camping field, there's a wonderful view of other campers' braziers glowing on the slopes.
The farm is built on a site that's been used for thousands of years. A neolithic circle was found in one of the fields, which might account for the magical vibe of the place. We asked our new farmer friend about the history of the place, and he kindly invited us to join him on his walk round the farm in the morning to look for Roman finds. So, bright and early the next morning in the cereal fields, there was fierce competition among children of all ages as we hunted for Roman artefacts. Alas, no coins - but we found lots of pieces of pottery, and were delighted to play at 'Time Team' for the morning!
Downside? Not everyone's a fan of compost toilets, which are tucked cleverly away and blend into the woods. The showers are seriously hard work! Heat your own water, pump frantically, rig up the length of hose provided with the little shower head... ok, I confess. We didn't use them. There are steamy hot showers available with a free swim if you go into Cirencester! Also: challenging to wash up without a sink and hot water. There are taps, but nothing else. This may make it a little too basic for some visitors!
We were a little sad to pack up the tents. But, as there's no need to book, there were many interesting conversations on the way home. "If we left work a bit early, could we make it in time before the shop closed? Could we?"
I think we could!
Abbey Home Farm
Abbey Home Farm
Abbey Home Farm
Abbey Home Farm
A lovely lovely place!
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