Thistledown has lots of paths and information boards for you to explore and learn about the farm and environment. Pieces of land art are dotted around the site and paths wind around the fields and woodland. Take a look at our About pages to see what wildlife, plants and historical features you might be able to find. We often find that guests spend day after day exploring the site and Woodchester Park, and relaxing by their campfires!
You can sometimes join us at feeding time (usually daily, times vary) to help feed the pigs, goats and sheep. We often stock our own meat in the shop, so they can also join you at feeding time! We have kunekune pigs, a breed kept by Maoris in New Zealand. They are a grazing pig, and therefore don’t disturb the ground in the same way that most breeds do. Our sheep are castlemilk moorit (a very hardy Scottish rare breed) crossed with jacobs (a very old rare breed). We also keep pigmy cross goats. Please do not enter the animal paddocks or feed the animals outside feeding times.
The camping areas are located in the uninhabited Woodchester valley which has very little light pollution, so star gazing is great on a clear night. Meteor showers are often stunning; this Meteor Calendar will show you whether there is anything to look out for during your stay. We believe that camping isn’t complete without a campfire, and cooking over one is a fun and delicious way to spend your time! Our Campfires & Cooking page contains tips and basic recipes. We now have a farm shop selling more than just food, so pop in for a look. We will be doing pizza evenings in 2014, and also hope to set up a basic café. Please check our Café & Clay Oven page for updates.
Our lower pastures have composting toilets, hot showers and hot washing-up sinks. Composting toilets have been used for millennia as a very efficient way of creating a resource from a waste product, without energy or water consumption. The average family toilet uses a staggering 100,000 litres of water every year, which must be taken away, treated and purchased again: a costly and environmentally unsound cycle. Compost toilets require no water whatsoever (except a very minimal amount for cleaning), and after a couple of years you have manure for free! Compost toilets are therefore ideal in drought-prone areas, or places without access to sewage networks. They are becoming increasingly popular in homes, offices and schools, and they are now installed by public authorities in Sweden and the United States. Given that in industrialised countries the flush toilet accounts for over 30% of all domestic water use, the potential saving is enormous!
Whilst all compost toilets share certain principles, there are many different designs and techniques available, from a hole in the ground to state of the art five-star facilities! Our toilets separate the liquids and solids. The liquids are treated using a trench-arch system and the solids are stored in the 1000 litre IBC beneath the seat. The reason for this separation is that if the compost pile is too wet then conditions become ‘anaerobic’. This means that there is not enough air for bacteria, fungi and bugs to do their work and break down the waste. To help keep the compost aerated and odour-free wood chip is added. The wood chip we use is a waste product from the Oak Frame Carpentry Company, who are based just down the road. The toilet seats are kept down when not in use; this means that smells and moisture go up the chimney rather than into the toilets. You may notice that the rubber pads on the seats have been removed to create a better seal. Unlike flush toilets, composting toilets like ours also dispose of odours, rather than trapping them above the water line.
As the moisture is released the amount of waste decreases: typically after 6 months we are left with around 10-20% of the original volume. Our toilets have been designed so that the tanks can be removed easily, so when they are full we take them away and allow them to fully compost – turning occasionally to aid breakdown – and put a new tank in the toilet. After a couple of years the compost is ready to use for trees and hedging.
We haven’t yet been able to install composting toilets in the Elderflower Orchard, so this area still uses events toilets. These are cleaned at least once a day. We hope to be able to replace these soon!
Our showers (lower pastures) are gas powered. We have looked into other systems such as wood fuelled and solar, but unfortunately we cannot meet the simultaneous demands of our insurers, visitor numbers and health and safety officials! Our gas system is very efficient: the pipe runs are all as short as possible to save gas, and we rarely have to change the cylinders. All of our water is provided by a spring in the 3rd Pasture (not the ponds – it’s underground and you can’t see it!) which is piped to a pumphouse in the 2nd Pasture before being UV treated and pumped around the site. Please help us save water by having as short a shower as possible and turning taps off when not in use.
- 70 acres in total
- Mixed pastureland and woodland
- Borders Woodchester to the north, private land to east and west and Tinkley lane to the south
- 12 mins by car from Stroud