Lewes secret campsite
Alex Jenkins gets away from it all as she heads to a secret and magical place not far from Lewes.
Camping may not sound like the glamorous holiday you envisaged but getting ‘back to nature’ is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more about being ‘eco’ and ‘green’.
Yet gone are the days when your only option was to erect a perplexing tent in the middle of a soggy field.
Now you can just turn up and enjoy something a bit different. And I have found just the place.
Opened in August last year, The Secret Campsite, in Littleworth, near Barcombe, has an unusual claim to fame – it is the first campsite in England to have a tent suspended between trees (pictured on opposite page).
With this in mind, and unable to contain my excitement at the thought of living in a tree for a night, I dragged my long-suffering partner to the campsite to find out more.
Featured earlier this year on Channel 4’s George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, this tree tent is unlike other tree house structures, which are bolted to the tree or supported by poles in the ground. In fact it has instead been compared to a harvest mouse nest.
To enter the tent you have to climb up the fixed wooden ladder and along a short walkway. Once inside, there is a sea grass covered wooden floor with two adult-sized, suspended, single beds plus space for a child to sleep on the floor.
On either side of the tent there are windows you can unzip, so you can enjoy the stunning views across the South Downs National Park. Plus, if there is a group, you can erect your own tents on the camping pitch below.
Designed by Jason Thawley, from design studio Luminair, the tree tent is made from wood and aluminium. It does sway as you move around the small space (I would not recommend sleeping in it during a storm) but it feels very safe and once I was wrapped up in blankets I had a great night’s sleep.
Tim Bullen, owner of The Secret Campsite, is passionate about wildlife and making the campsite as sustainable as possible – and as exciting and unique.
“By the time campers leave they will have a secret to share,” says Tim, when explaining the campsite’s name. “We hope they will have had the chance to experience something new and invigorating, be it a plant, an animal, or just somewhere surprising to spend the night.”
If the suspended tent does not fill you with intrigue, or you prefer to sleep a little bit closer to the ground, then the arkette (pictured top right) or the bell tent are great alternatives – both dotted around Tim’s land.
The site is managed to encourage wildlife into the camping areas, with barn owls, stoats, rabbits, kestrels and woodpeckers thriving in the open space.
More than 1,000 trees have been planted in the last five years, partly funded by a grant from the Woodlands Trusts, and once these grow each pitch will feel very secluded.
The campsite has a shower and toilet block as well as a compost toilet, which is nearer to the pitches for late night visits.
Tim has also been busy adding edible plants into the campsite so that, in the next few years, campers can help themselves to the produce when cooking. There is also a nearby farm shop.
Each camping pitch comes with its own fire pit and what is really useful is that the cooking equipment comes with the tent so all your needs are covered. Equipment includes a gas-fired hob, plates, pots, cutlery and mugs plus some light refreshments to keep your hunger at bay while cooking.
Despite all this, we decided to walk along the disused part of the Bluebell Railway, which runs past the campsite to Barcombe, and dine at The Royal Oak.
With pub classics and a diverse specials menu this was a lovely place to while away an evening before strolling back along the bluebell lined path. One important tip though – remember to pack a torch!
If you want to get back to nature – while looking down from the trees – then The Secret Campsite has it all. Pure escapism.
The tree tent is available to rent at £95 per night with a minimum of two nights at weekends. Tent pitches for up to six people cost £10 to £13 per adult per night while children cost £5 to £6.50 with under fives free.
For more information, visit www.thesecretcampsite.co.uk
July 19, 2013 Travel and Lifestyle