Dark Orchard CL is a 2.5 acre off grid CL site located on the England/Wales border. Divided by the Dulas Brook, Dark Orchard CL sits on the English side of the border in Herefordshire whilst the town of Hay-on-Wye sits in Powys, Wales. Dark Orchard CL is situated just meters from the River Wye and a few minutes stroll from the iconic town of Hay-on-Wye (Hay). Often referred to as the town of books and famous for its literary festival, Hay is home to over 20 bookshops and is surrounded by natural beauty for hikes, biking or paddling on the river. You'll also find a vibrant market containing local fresh produce, arts, crafts, and antiques every Thursday in Memorial Square. Dark Orchard was immaculately kept during our visit and we had the opportunity to meet the lovely Pete 'The greet' who had a wicked sense of humour and lots of useful information about the area. We also managed to meet the owners Lynda and Chris on our last morning who were extremely personable and helpful. Lynda and Chris had a last minute family event on the weekend we visited but told us they are often on and around the site to meet guests and answer any queries on the area.
The beauty of staying at CL sites is that they have a maximum occupancy of 5 units (vans/motorhomes or caravans) so offer an alternative, more relaxed stay than larger sites.
Access to Dark Orchard CL is straight forward and the owners suggest only entering from Nantyglasdwr Lane from the B4350 (this is the main road on the South of the aerial images). Once you turn off the main road you take a right past the terrace of cottages before entering the site through a closed gate. Once through the gate, you'll drive along a short driveway with a shed on your right hand side which is where all of the bin facilities and recycling are for the site, before the field opens up. There are no designated pitches for this CL, the use of common sense should be exercised to spread out accordingly, and there is loads of space. Dark Orchard CL is an off grid, grass only site. There is access to a single freshwater tap, black waste disposal and bins only. The fresh water tap and waste disposal can be found to the North facing side of the site. Because we use a composting toilet we didn't need to use the black waste to comment on it, but saw multiple other visitors using it without issue.
The site is divided into two distinct sections, the main larger field which you enter into from the driveway and a secondary smaller field towards the back. Access to the back field is over a small stream and should not be accessed by vehicles with a long wheelbase or overhang as you are likely to bottom it out, damaging both your vehicle and the terrain. Our Peugeot Boxer L4 H3 was fine crossing this but if you have a larger van, motorhome or caravan you should expect to stick to the main field.
Both grass fields were very well kept and fairly level, we noticed other visitors using levelling blocks but we didn't feel the need to during our visit. We tend to gauge this on if we can drain the sinks and nothing slides off the hob then we're golden, you might have slightly stricter requirements.
Nature lovers can expect to have an incredibly peaceful stay here, and the site is brimming with various birds and squirrels. During our stay, we could only hear the calls of birds and the sound of the Dulas brook for the entirety of our visit. Thanks to the long driveway and size of the fields there was not a single hint of road noise. Dark Orchard CL is by far the quietest, yet richest sites we have stayed on for wildlife. The dogs also thoroughly enjoyed the long grasses and meadow sections that surround the perimeter of the fields.
There are such a wealth of things to do immediately from the site without needing to drive anywhere or within 15 minutes you can drive to the Gospel Path (highly recommended). The walk into Hay itself is short and very accessible, alternatively you can be on the edge of the River Wye and on one of many footpaths within 5 minutes from closing the door behind you. We spent our first morning exploring the river by Kayak, we had our own but there are multiple local companies offering hire and retrieval along the river bank. Our longest day out involved a winding 5 mile drive towards Gospel Path where we did a 12 mile hike across Hay Bluff, Twmpa, Rhiw Y Fan, and down to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir. On returning to the van Jess whipped us up a well deserved lunch before we then decided the conditions looked right to Paraglide from the ridge near the car park. On our last day we walked a short distance West along the River Wye to an area known as The Warren, a large open meadow with easy access to the river. During our walk we noticed a couple swimming in the river and had to join them. Unprepared we stripped down to our underwear and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the (fairly fast flowing) river before returning back to Dark Orchard CL to bask in the Sun.
We enjoyed our stay at Dark Orchard CL and the surrounding area so much that during our visit we messaged some friends and arranged to come back again soon. There are so many opportunities to explore the river and neighbouring hills so close to Hay that if you enjoy the outdoors and have the capability to stay off grid then we thoroughly suggest getting a booking in to stay here. If you had a longer visit Hay-on-Wye is also situated about 30 minutes drive from the towns of Brecon, Builth Wells and Hereford.