Camping: French without tears

Looking for a family break? Richard Hercock discovered a tranquil oasis, tucked away in the French countryside.
Camping in FranceCamping in France
Camping in France

The wonderfully-named Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont is such a hidden gem, you might just struggle to find it.

I had promised my family a fun-filled week in France, just a couple of hours drive from Calais, but our holiday didn’t get off to the best start. My usual reason for driving towards Paris is the pilgrimage to Disneyland Paris, but as we meandered down French country lanes, passing quant little villages, there wasn’t a Mickey Mouse in sight.

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In fact I had to check to make sure my satnav was working correctly, as it ordered me to drive down a small street before “arriving at your destination” on the right.

Now, in the glossy brochure from Canvas Holidays, it boasted an indoor and outdoor pool, jacuzzi, beauty centre, entertainment complex including bar, restaurant and bakery. Yet as I ventured down the leafy street it looked doubtful to find a boulangerie, much less a thriving holiday site.

And that’s probably the beauty of Berny Riviere, set amongst acres of woodlands and where French chateaux create an unmistakable ambience.

There’s no neon flashing lights, the pace of life is pedestrian, and as I was soon to discover, first impressions can be deceitful.

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We had crossed on the Dover ferry, but arrived at the campsite by lunchtime, having mistimed our estimate of how short the drive would actually be. One lady from Middlesbrough, who I got chatting to in the bar, told us she actually opted for the Hull-Zeebrugge overnight ferry to cut out the long drive south to Dover. An option I will look at next time.

But an early arrival was not a problem with the helpful Canvas Holidays staff. Our three-bedroom mobile home wasn’t yet ready, which meant we swiftly headed for the indoor swimming pool.

Now, I have been to some campsites which give the name a bad reputation. Some are no more than a field, with a clubhouse, and a pool which you wouldn’t let your dog swim in, never mind your children.

But la Croix du Vieux Pont was the total opposite.

An amazing indoor pool, a large kids’ pool, several indoor slides, plus an outdoor pool if you fancied some sunshine.

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Next door there was the aforementioned bar and restaurant, with bowling alley, laser-quest and plenty of al fresco seating to idle an evening away with a glass of local produce.

While the campsite can accommodate plenty of guests, it sprawls out across the French countryside, with a large fishing lake and a man-made beach creating a sense of calm and tranquility.

You have several choices of where you can stay too.

You can try the Maxi Tent option, which gives you the feeling of sleeping under canvas, but throwing in the luxuries of electricity and running water. Or if you want to treat yourself, then you could try out the deluxe wooden lodges, which come in various sizes, from two to four bedrooms, and look stunning.

We spent the week in a plush mobile home, which had everything we needed and more, with three bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, lounge and gas barbecue outside. And it was placed right by the lake.

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My six-year-old son loved the campsite more than any of us and made sure we got up early. Our days were packed with fun and adventure, it was just the perfect family holiday.

Kayaks, canoes and water pedalos were on offer, as well as trampolining, go-karts, mini golf, horse riding, and a huge children’s playground and fields, where impromptu games of frisbee and football kicked off after dinner. We spent a week’s holiday there, and found little need to leave, apart from the odd trip to the hypermarket to stock the fridge up.

While it’s in easy driving distance of Paris and Disneyland, the tranquil Berny Riviere offers a charming break from the incessant noise and crowds of these tourist hot-spots.

Throw in the bonus of not getting “lost” on the drive back to Calais, and our week at Camping la Croix du Vieux Pont was simply “trés bon”.

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• Canvas Holidays (0345 268 0827, is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015 and has an illustrious history of offering high quality camping holidays at over 80 handpicked campsites across eight European countries including France, Spain, Holland and Germany. Canvas Holidays provides self-catering accommodation to suit all budgets, offering flexibility on dates, duration and travel arrangements. Guests can choose to stay in any of a range of accommodations from a spacious Maxi Tent or a popular mobile home to a spacious lodge and luxurious Safari Tent Deluxe.

Seven nights in a Select ( three bedroom) Lakeside with decking on Berny Riviere, arriving April 11 is £637 (accommodation only).