Swap canvas for wood by booking into one of these cute hobbit houses for the weekend. Set in the heart of Exmoor, slap bang next to Wimbleball Lake, these pods are perfect for families wanting to get out on the water and guaranteed to keep you cosy this Autumn.
After bedding down for a night here, I can simply say that this place is fast becoming a favourite of ours. A mere 10 minutes drive from Dulverton, and less than an hour from J27 of the M5, the lake has masses of water sports on offer from 1 hour rentals to kids clubs or lessons, plus you can launch your own kayaks or boats for a small fee.
Choose from Otter or Kingfisher pods - little hobbit holes perfect for Autumnal weather
A stay in one of the lake’s Scandinavian like camping pods is wonderfully indulgent. For one, you skip the hassle of setting up tents (meaning you can rock up in the dark after a long journey). Two – much warmer than canvas, these pods mean you can extend your families ‘camping’ season much later into Autumn (great for families with little ones) and three – they are ridiculously affordable! At only £30 a night in low season (now) and a steal in high season at £40 these pods fantastic value and a hit with the kids.
With surprisingly large living space and full head height, these pods sleep 4 comfortably. We stayed in ‘Otter’, which easily houses 4 full size bunks, a table & chairs and was actually quite spacious. With plenty of shelves and pegs to hang things we didn’t feel cramped. There’s even lighting and a USB charging hub powered from solar panels on the roof. There's no loo in the pods and as the pods are situated on the far side of the campsite, they are quite a way from the loos but this didn't hamper our stay. The nearby portable showers were free with piping hot water - perfect to warm up after a day on the lake – heaven!
Outside a mini veranda provides additional seating – a great place to simply chill. The pods comes with their own outside area complete with picnic table, which was great to return to for lunch or to chill out between activities. There are no cooking facilities in the pod so you need to bring your own or a BBQ. There is an on-site cafe, The Duck, at Wimbleball (open 10am - 5pm) which serves tasty lunches, snacks and ice-creams.
This small 3 star campsite, very popular with water sports enthusiasts, is only a couple of minutes walk from the lake and comes with stunning woodland views. The lake offers water sports of every description and the kids will love the play area in the woods just a few minutes from camp.
The Mega SUP - highly recommended for fabulous family time
We tried out the Mega SUP this time and LOVED it! A goliath inflatable stand up paddleboard, the Mega SUP is a beast measuring 5 metres long. It's so huge it can accommodate not just one but two families if you're camping en masse (which makes it much more affordable as it hires out at £50 an hour.)
Minnie mooring the beast up to a buoy
Test your balance and paddle around the large lake or moor up to a buoy and simply use the SUP as a dive platform for hours of fun.
Top tip: with only four of us the Mega SUP it was surprisingly stable – the more of you on – the higher the chances of getting wet!
One, two, three and jump! Using the Mega SUP as a dive platform (well jump platform!)
There’s a real buzz in the campsite of families set on getting out onto the water together, many bringing kayaks or boats of their own to self-launch. It's a lovely atmosphere if you're an active family and a great way to meet other like minded families.
Taking out the 5m Laser Stratos meant we could fit the whole family in this time
We also did a spot of sailing and this time tried the larger Laser Stratos dinghy. Big enough to get the whole family on, you can practice your tacks and gybes to your hearts content for only £32.00 an hour. See our pico sailing experience & some of the other activities here.
You can also cycle down to the dam - a relatively easy 20-minute ride with beautiful scenery and a great way to burn off any excess energy at the end of the day. It's a hard surfaced trail all the way to the dam so an easy walk for pushchairs and dog walkers. It's got a few ups and downs so factor that in for little ones.
All kids love dams! What is there not to love? A mass of water on one side, a huge wall and stunning rolling hills on the other! A cycle or walk to the dam is perfect for those that don't want to get wet or a lovely evening activity.
Beautiful views from the dam
Of course no family camping trip would be complete without a serious marshmallow roasting session under a starlit sky. This weekend didn't disappoint.
Fire pits can be rented here nightly for £7.00 and Ranger Joe will drop off a stash of local wood for only £7.00, which should last the weekend. They also sell on-site produced charcoal for £4.00 a bag. I love the fact that it's all sourced from the Wimbleball grounds - zero carbon footprint.
The telescope is almost as big as my 8 year old!
If stargazing is your thing – take advantage of Exmoor’s dark night status by hiring a telescope off Dark Sky Telescope Hire. Get up close and personal with planets and constellations for a nightly hire fee of only £25. Dark Sky Telescope Hire hire out amazing telescopes on a nightly basis all over the UK.
Knowledgeable Ian from West Withy Farm operates as the Dark Sky Telescope Hire base for Exmoor and will drop off the telescope at the campsite, with full instructions of how to set up and get the best out of the night sky. We were impressed by the size of the telescope and the very informative folder that came with it – full of diagrams, facts and figures to enable to you to get the best out of your experience.
Top tip: Expect high interest from other campers! We found it was better to move away from the campsite a little to protect our night vision after well meaning campers with high beam torches kept shining it directly at us. Set up the telescope early and familiarise yourself with what direction the planets will be (you can't see the planets if you set up next to the pod as there's a bank of trees behind which obscure your view.)
The only downside to these pods is that there are only two. So get in early and book ahead. The campsite at Wimbleball closes at the end of October and re-opens in Spring, so book one of these cosy retreats now for some fun days Autumnal sailing (when the wind really picks up) or book ahead for next year.
Click on the link below to read our review of Outdoor + Active - the activities centre at Wimbleball Lake
Review - Family Days Out - Outdoor + Active
To book a camping pod at Wimbleball click here
or call 01398 371460
Pods - low season £30 a night/high season £40 a night
Bedding is available (duvets, pillows, sheets etc) at £10 per stay per pod
Camping - from £14.00 per night
South West Lakes have other lake locations in the South West with camping facilities, some with pods. Click here to see other Outdoor + Active centres & other South West Lakes locations.
To book at telescope at Wimbleball or any other Exmoor location call Ian on
01398 371 322
or contact Dark Sky Telescope Hire for telescope hire nationwide www.darkskytelescopehire.co.uk
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far