Back to nature at Eco Camp UK, Sussex

Move over glamorous yurts with your flat-screen TVs, real glamping is about going off-grid, getting back to nature and leaving all mod cons behind – welcome to Eco Camp UK

There’s nothing like arriving at a beautiful campsite knowing that you don’t have to spend the next two hours grappling with tent poles and blowing up airbeds. At Eco Camp’s Wild Boar Wood campsite, in the heart of Sussex, all the hard work has been done for you. Just step inside your kitted-out and cosy bell tent within your own woodland clearing, and you’re already camping without having to lift a finger!

Your own private clearing at Wild Boar Wood campsite
Your own private clearing at Wild Boar Wood campsite

A hidden woodland home

Well, it’s not entirely without effort (but that’s all part of the fun). Wild Boar Wood campsite is hidden (literally – directions are only given to guests) within a small wood in the middle of farmland, just outside the village of Horsted Keynes and Ashdown Forest. On arrival, campsite wardens Pete and Amy meet you at the car park with huge wheelbarrows ready to take all of your luggage down the track and into the campsite.

The wood is very pretty – bluebells carpet the ground during springtime – and wildlife takes priority at this sustainable site. Several bell tents are dotted around, each with their own fire pit and eating area. We were there in during a quiet mid-week but the campsite does get busy at weekends and during holidays, although most tents are quite private from neighbouring campers.

Furnished bell tents and campfires

The campsite boasts flushing loos and hot water ‘bucket showers’, plus washing up facilities. As expected, everyone is encouraged to use water (especially hot water) wisely, and make use of the recycling and composting bins. A small shed houses information and maps about the local area, plus lots of books to borrow during your stay. Amy and Pete are incredibly helpful and friendly, and live on-site in their own caravan. They’re happy to chat about the bird life and other wildlife their share their woodland home with (and help light a fire if, like us, those bush craft skills desert you!).

Our bell tent was furnished with a double memory foam mattress, spare beds (although we moved in our own travel cot), crockery, cutlery and cooking equipment, wind-up torches and lamps. The ‘dining’ area was large with a fire pit for cooking plus a small camp stove, table and chairs – the area was sheltered with a tarpaulin (useful as we experienced some light showers during our stay, although not that noticeable through the tree canopy).

There are several farm shops nearby so you can purchase local meats, vegetables and diary products (plenty of choice for the campfire).

A heritage railway to visit

One surprise treat found at this camp’s location, is the heritage Bluebell Railway. Steam trains run daily along the track at the far side of an adjoining field – give them a wave from the campsite and you may even get a ‘toot’ back! The Bluebell Railway stations (of Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes) are a short drive away. You can buy a ticket to ride the train, or (as we did) purchase a station-only ticket (just £3 for adults) and watch old steam trains arriving and departing. Old locomotives are also available to view inside the station sheds.

The surrounding area is all bucolic countryside, farmland and forest so perfect for country walks and basic exploring. Ashdown Forest is famous as the setting for Winnie the Pooh – you can even find ‘Pooh bridge’ to play a game of authentic ‘Pooh Sticks’.

A bell tent at Wild Boar Wood in mid-week costs £65 for two people per night, rising to £90 at weekends (extra child £12 per night, under 3s go free). For booking and more information visit www.ecocampuk.co.uk.

7 of the best…Eco-friendly family days out

Make the most of the summer holidays we have left with some of the UK’s best eco-friendly family days out

Eden Project, CornwallEden Project, Cornwall – Did you know that the huge biomes of the Eden Project house the largest ‘captive’ rainforest? This ever-popular attraction, which aims to run its operations as greenly as possible, is also a hot-house of conservation research. Enjoy the view from the treetops on the new Aerial Walkway, and spot butterflies fluttering amongst the plant life. This summer join some the special family activities including den building, ‘Be the Bee’ interactive trails, art workshops, musical evenings and England’s longest (and fastest) zipwire. Remember to book your tickets online before you visit to save 15% on the entry price. Visit www.edenproject.com.

National Wildflower Centre, Liverpool Five miles from Liverpool city centre is this wildflower haven founded by environmental charity Landlife. This tranquil, family-friendly venue promotes the benefits of planting and maintaining wildflower habitats. There are various free family activities taking place over summer including ‘Mini Beasts and Crafts’ sessions and ‘Wear Your Wellies’ walks. Visit www.nwc.org for more.

The Wildlife TrustsThe Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserves, UK-wide Ancient woodland, coast and beaches, mountains,meadows or marshes, from Southwest England to northern Scotland, there are around 2,300 nature reserves across the UK managed by conservation charity The Wildlife Trusts. Not only do these reserves offer a ‘back to basics’ day out for families (exploring nature doesn’t need to be forced!), but the 47 (mainly) county-based Wildlife Trusts run children’s events throughout the holidays. Join butterfly and bug workshops, nature trails, bat walks or practical conservation sessions. Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org to find your local reserve or visitor centre.

 

The Llama Park, East SussexNew owners Bobby and Susan are dedicated to ensuring their 50 llamas, 20 alpacas, and two reindeer live a stress-free, happy and peaceful life in the 32 acres of beautiful parkland near the Ashdown Forest. There’s no commercialism here, just a lovely chance to meet and learn about these gentle creatures. The park is run with minimal impact on the environment with recycling and low energy use in operation. The cafe serves local produce and some organic options. Visit www.llamapark.co.uk for summer opening times.

 Stockley Farm Park, Cheshire This organic farm is well-equipped for little visitors. The day starts with a tractor ride into the farm, followed by a stop-off at the animal sheds to see pigs, cows, goats and more. Get involved with bottle-feeding lambs and baby goats (kids – just not those kids), visit pets corner, watch bird of prey displays, and witness milking time. Take a woodland nature walk, then finish the day sampling the local and organic produce in Willow Barn Tearoom. Visit www.stockleyfarm.co.uk for more details. There are plenty of farms open to visitors around the country – visit the National Farm Attractions Network to find one near you.

BeWILDerwood, NorfolkBeWILDerwood, Norfolk – Down by the Norfolk Broads is an award-winning forest of adventure – treehouses, zipwires, jungle bridges, boat trips, storytelling…it’s all here along with some special characters, the real-life setting for children’s book ‘A Boggle at BeWILDerwood’. The adventure park recycles 70% of its waste, has planted 14,000 trees and sells locally-sourced food on site. Recommended for children aged 2-12 years and their family/carers. Visit www.bewilderwood.co.uk for more details.

Cycling in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire Take the Family Cycle Trail through the Forest of Dean for fresh air, exercise and wonderful scenery. This 11-mile circular route mainly follows an old railway line with connecting routes to villages and picnic sites. It has been especially surfaced making it suitable for all ages and abilities. Start at the Cannop Cycle Centre – bikes can be hired from Pedalabikeaway. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk for more details.

That’s just a few to get you started! There are hundreds (if not thousands) of fantastic eco-friendly days-out for all the family across the UK. If you have a good recommendation, or review of one we’ve mentioned, let us know…