Saturday, 23 August 2014
Camping Adventures ..... 2 kids, 2 adults .... no car - The Star @ Alton Campsite (a review)
First an overview of the site....
Alton, The Star has the following facilities on or around the site for campers.
Members' and non-members' tents are welcome. This is not the case with all Camping and Caravanning pitches so a must for checking before you book anywhere.
Grass only pitch (with or without electric) available.
Childrens play area
Gas cylinders - tho only refills and only large ones... none suitable for camping stoves.
Public transport within 1 mile
Drinking water taps
Ice pack freezing
Ball games (in a small designated area in the middle of the tents)
Of course caravans and trailer tents are all welcome but I can't comment on these.
To get to the campsite from the bus stop it is a short walk up a road. it is worth noting that this road can be very busy and has no proper footpaths (not that great if you have a case - the path you see on the picture is uneven and stony). You have to cross the main road (no easy feet) then cross again to get on the 'path'. You then cross back over to get to the campsite. There
is a large corner so it's not very safe and you have to really take a lucky dart.
The reception is not always manned and we waited for someone to arrive. As others were waiting we had a little wait but this was ok as there were plenty of leaflets to look at and a really helpful folder with plenty of local information in.
We were checked in easily, given a leaflet about the campsite with the shower block pointed out then advised where to pitch our tent. The freedom here was brilliant, we were told "anywhere on the field behind the white posts", with the further up you go the flatter it gets...... and the further away from the toilets. And advised to keep a 6m distance from anyone else.
We decided (who decided!!) to pitch as far to the top end of the site as possible!! As the site wasn't very busy it meant the kids had loads of room to run about and enjoy themselves while we battled with the tent.
The grass was soft and perfect for pitching as the tent pegs sank in with little effort but not soo much they came straight back out.
You have some stunning views from here tho.
As we didn't use all the facilities I cannot comment on all of them. Here's how we found what we did use.
Toilets/ washbasins/ showers - the showers were lovely (my husband advises me). A long walk from the tent but when you are camping and up at 6am there's really no rush is there.
There is a small toilet/ wash block on the tent field which was handy. However the cubicles were very small and anyone over a size 16 may struggle. I'm a 10/12 and even I had difficulty getting in and out of them because the doors open inwards. Even my toddler got stuck in them.
The locks are only accessible from inside the cubicles too .... hence a panic set in when I heard "I can't get out" from my youngest. I had visions of scaling the doors to get him out but thankfully he managed to unlock it. (with a lecture afterwards about why I tell them not to lock doors!)
Children's play area - the play area is really nice with plenty for the kids to do. They were rather
disappointed that they couldn't play on the tyres due to them being in constant use by older children who were misusing them and obviously had no parental control or manners. On the plus side there were some lovely older children and all the other equipment was empty. It is situated right next to the main 'road' into and out of the site which would concern me if I had let the boys go alone, thankfully is was a long trek from our tent so we had to stay with them.
Shop - the campsite shop sells the basics. However it's opening times leave a lot to be desired. It is open 9-10.30 am and then 4-6pm. No good at all for getting bacon/ sausages/ eggs first thing in the morning or stocking up for the following day when you return from a day out. It would also have been really useful to have an accessible hot drink machine for those who were unable to store milk and needed a warm up. Had the shop been open from 7 we would have bought our brekkie ingredients both days. Had they sold hot drinks we would have bought plenty.
I *think* if there is someone there they will sell from the shop as it is in the main reception area, however I wouldn't like to guarantee this. It is also cash only and there are no cash points on site.
BBQ's etc- The club rule is that these must be raised off the ground on the bricks that can be obtained near the bins. which is fair enough as no one wants to burn the grass. sadly there were no bricks and we had to trawl the campsite to find anything suitable and lug a very heavy block back to the tent. Again probably not the fault of the owners but the tourists who cannot put things back when they have finished with them.
As there was no facilities or places to buy breakfast early enough to cook it and then pack up (and we were
starving) we were packed up and off the campsite on the 10.18 bus (which yes was packed with Alton Towers staff).
I found this reasonably priced, it cost us £55 for 2 nights as non-members which seems in line with other campsites in the area.
You really are in the middle of nowhere. And although both public transport and local amenieties are out of the campsites control and cannot reflect on them in any way but it's helpful for me to include the review for others who may consider staying.
Public Transport - The main bus service is the First Potteries 32/ 32A. The fare is £1.50 each way (or £5.50 for a day rider). The X39 also serves the stop in the height of season but (from what I can gather from the website) costs considerably more (£10 for an adult return).
The buses are busy, infrequent and change their routes depending on the time of day. It is essential you take a bus timetable with you - whilst they may stop at a certain stop at 2 o'clock they may not at 5. To get to Alton Towers early there is a bus (as it currently stands) at 9.18 am and takes around 6 minutes. This bus is also packed with staff members who rarely give up their seat for children. The next one is not until 11.18.
Coming back from Alton Towers there is a bus at 5.38 and 6.38. After this there is one at 8.03. The next bus is not until 11.47. As these run from Uttoexter if you choose to go elsewhere for tea afterwards you really need to plan your trip early (i.e. leaving AT at around 4.30/5pm) or you won't get back to the campsite (and a taxi from Uttoxeter to AT is £20+)
Remember these buses are also PACKED with AT staff. Who will queue jump, argue with the driver and take up all the seats. They also have an inability to walk to the back of the bus standing right in the front making everyone push through them. I also overheard someone saying that a driver refused them a journey the other day saying they had to give the AT staff priority. How true this is I don't know and why they don't run double deckers throughout the day shocks me.
I would strongly advise getting in the queue at AT at least 15 minutes early if not more to guarantee getting on. People were left behind on the 6.34 run (despite the bus not being full)
The bus to Uttoxeter is £3.40 each single (or £5.50 return). I cannot comment on the route to Hanley as we didn't go that way. I believe Cheedle has plenty of shops/ restaurants etc but again it's all about timing the buses properly (and we had missed it by 5 minutes on Wednesday!).
Amenities- Ermmm..... non-existent within walking distance. There is 1 pub, TheStar (formally Ye Olde Star Inn) and it is
priced in line with other non-chain pubs (see separate review). other than that you have to travel to Cheadle, Hanley or Uttoexeter for anything. Not a problem at all with a car, on public transport (as you can see above) not as easy.
The perfect campsite IF you have a car and/or the facilities to keep cold food cold (e.g. electric hookup). We would probably stay again as it is so close to Alton Towers, however due to it's remote location to other amenities it wouldn't be our first choice. I believe there is a walk through to AT that avoids the busy main road, however it doesn't look like you can exit the campsite on the other side to the main entrance which means a good 20 minute+ walk to get to the start (2 minutes if you can get there from the back of the site). Then about half an hours walk.
Disclaimer: These are all my own views or that of my families, this post has not been sponsored.