Let’s face it, you had your heart set on a weekend at Coworth Park or Heckfield but you left it far too late and now they’re booked every weekend between now and 2023. So you’ve lowered your expectations (significantly) and you’re looking down the barrel of a night or two under canvas. Perhaps if you turn up to the spa at Chewton Glen not looking like Wurzel Rummage they might take pity and let you in for lunch.
The perfect campsite is somewhere upmarket enough to not look as though you’ve fallen on particularly hard times, with creature comforts greater than a long drop latrine and, ideally, close enough to London so that if it’s completely ghastly you can pile in the car and be back in your kingsize in Fulham in time to wake up and wonder if it was all a bad dream.
So here are a selection of campsites within striking distance of London that might just about take the edge off the great outdoors experience…
Set in the rolling Surrey countryside, Wagonners is a family-run site brand new for 2021. Complete with compostable loos (emptied daily, yum) and refreshingly cold ‘wild forest showers’. Grab one of their BBQ beef bags (fresh from their own pasture-fed cows), hire a fire pit, sit on a timber log and cook surrounded by nature.
The campsite is connected to a network of footpaths through 700 acres of Hampton Estate’s beautiful common land, heathland and woodland, and also home to Surrey’s biggest sandcastle…
Embers at Polesden Lacey, Surrey
The trail of National Trust brown signs is a reassuring start. Polesden Lacey is a magnificent pile in Surrey, along with 1,400 acres of beautiful park and farmland. But it’s no four-posters or liveried butlers for you if you’re at the estate’s campsite, Embers Polesden Lacey.
Embers Polesden Lacey can provide you with a 5m Bell Tent (pre-pitched, thank you very much) or you can BYO if you’re the sort of people who have your own. They’ll also lend you a wheelbarrow to transport all your bits to your tent from your car (you can park it overnight in the National Trust carpark) and if you’re not much of a roll-mat kind of a gal, airbeds are available.
There’s a children’s play area, trails for walks, and hot food and drink on site in the evenings. Fancy a wood-fired pizza? No problem. A flame-grilled beef or halloumi burger before an evening listening to the crickets beats a boil-in-the-bag on a camp fire you spent all afternoon rubbing sticks together to light.
Knepp Safaris, Sussex
Knepp Safaris you had me at ‘flushing loos’… the West Sussex site has flushing loos and three hot water rain-showers, not to mention two hot water open air baths.
In the grounds of Knepp Castle, each pitch comes with an up-cycled fire-pit and barbecue grill, and cooking uses local and sustainable charcoal, firewood, kindling and eco-firelighters.
Pitch your tent in this incredibly eco site, order some Knepp Wild Range longhorn and venison sausages, steaks and burgers, and some organic wine, beer or cider, and settle in for the evening.
And if actual camping isn’t exactly how you want to roll, there are perfectly appointed shepherds’ huts and bell tents.
Birds & Bees, Suffolk
Normally the last thing you want when there’s only two thin sheets of canvas and the still night air separating you and your nearest neighbour, is them deciding to get to know the birds and the bees…. But not in Suffolk. Because this is the name of family run campsite Birds & Bees.
With just four tents per field you’re still never more than 100 yds from a flushing loo, plus washing and shower facilities. From quiet woodland to rolling meadows, pitch your tent and enjoy nature.
Surrey Hills Yurts
So cool it yurts! Head to Surrey Hills and experience Mongolian yurting done properly. More glamping than camping, the eco-friendly yurts are just an hour from London.
There’s a communal, well stocked, kitchen and there are respectable bathrooms and loos to ensure that creature comforts are to hand.
And if yurts weren’t enough, you also have the option of a bell tent.