The first time Mark Griffin went to a sheep truthful, he wasn’t positive of the etiquette. “I didn’t know whether you needed to buy a sheep to get in, or what you were meant to do!” says the co-founder of Woodfire Camping in West Sussex.
Griff (as he’s identified) and his spouse Stella had been set on a brand new life: they wished to ditch the town (he labored in digital advertising and marketing) for tents and countryside, and had been testing methods to method farmers who could be up for leasing them some land. “Traditional routes hadn’t worked, so sheep fairs and cattle auctions were next,” says Griff.
The concept paid off. The proprietor of Westerlands stud farm close to Graffham, 14 miles north of Chichester, was eager to collaborate, and leased them 5 acres of fairly, forest-fringed discipline, which they opened as an eco campsite in June.
If you would select a summer time by which to launch a UK tenting business, 2018’s could be fairly excellent. It’s late afternoon as we method, snaking alongside the dappled, tree-lined lanes of the South Downs nationwide park, and the countryside is aglow; that is England at its bucolic greatest.
The web site covers 5 acres and is fringed by forest.
There are simply 33 pitches at Woodfire, and lazy campers – or maybe these arriving by bike or on foot – can keep in a handful of pre-erected tents, from a classic choice for 2 to extra spacious set-ups with separate dwelling and bed room areas which can be nice for households. Equipped with deckchairs, tables, mattresses, sheets, blankets, scorching water bottles and bedside lamps, all of them provide glamping-level consolation with out the ridiculous worth tags (visitors are requested to carry quilt and pillows however sleeping baggage might be supplied).
Campers collect on the prepare dinner station. Photograph: Jane Dunford
The web site is off-grid, with no electrical hook-ups; automobiles are left exterior the principle paddock and numbers are capped at 120, so it feels very pure and uncrowded. But as households arrange for the weekend and teams of boys play soccer, there’s nonetheless one thing of a laid-back pageant vibe.
The sustainable ethos extends to each element of the campsite
Stella and Griff grew up tenting and it has lengthy been a ardour for them and their two sons (they’re even spending their 15th marriage ceremony anniversary underneath canvas, and can stay in a tent onsite all summer time). But Woodfire was additionally impressed by Italy’s agriturismo – the place farms and rural B&Bs provide meals constructed from homegrown produce. Griff presents breakfasts and dinners, from substantial stews to Mexican huevos rancheros – cooked over woodfire or charcoal. The meat will ultimately all come from the farm’s sheep, pigs and cattle, with eggs from their chickens and the remaining from native suppliers.
The sustainable ethos extends to each element of the campsite. The kitchen, compost loos and showers (clear and spacious with classic mirrors and pots of geraniums) had been all constructed from chestnut wooden coppiced close by by native woodsman Dave Watson (a pupil of grasp craftsman and eco-builder Ben Law of Grand Designs fame). Hot water time is restricted, and gray water and waste are recycled and reused. But every thing is completed in a enjoyable, reasonably than preachy, method, with lighthearted indicators asking for visitors’ co-operation.
Food prep on web site. Inspired by Italy’s
agriturismo, house owners Stella and Griff wish to work with native farmers and meals producers. Photograph: Jane Dunford
We dump our baggage within the tent and really feel prepared for a pint. Nothing enhances a campsite greater than an excellent pub – and at Woodfire you’re spoiled for alternative. The Cricketers, a 16th-century teaching inn with sprawling beer backyard, is a 20-minute romp throughout a discipline however we head into Graffham and the not too long ago reopened Foresters Arms, the place the welcome is heat and preparations for a mini-festival are underneath method. Just across the nook is the White Horse, with extra refined eating and a lovely location overlooking the Downs.
We return to camp in meal time. Beef stew is effervescent in a cauldron over the hearth, and Stella is placing collectively veggie plates piled excessive with baked beetroot, chargrilled veg and tortilla – each served with home made flatbread. Long, bierkeller-style tables and benches make for convivial communal eating, although you may simply slope off to your pitch, in fact. We keep up late ingesting wine and chatting underneath the celebrities – it is a darkish sky reserve, and the celebrities are spectacular, even with clouds.
An evening out… Woodfire is in a darkish sky reserve.
It is a household campsite, so not a spot for rowdy get together folks, and I sleep brilliantly, waking to birdsong. A path of bleary-eyed campers slowly emerge, grateful for the actual espresso Stella serves in china cups, and the breakfasts of egg and bacon sandwiches or avocado bagels.
When it involves location, the couple have hit the jackpot. It could be simple to spend per week bimbling round this a part of the nation. A monitor leads immediately on to the 90-mile South Downs Way, and there are numerous different stunning walks, plus the Goodwood Estate, a number of stately houses, and historic cities resembling Petworth and Petersfield close by. It’s not dangerous for seashores both, with West Wittering simply over half an hour away.
We make a journey to Climping seashore – an enormous expanse of shingle and sand half an hour’s drive away – after which wander the streets of Arundel, a vacationer honeypot with citadel, cathedral and the beautiful Black Rabbit pub proper on the river.
When it’s lastly time to pack up and depart the campsite, it’s fast and simple – we had been lazy campers, so no messing round with poles and groundsheets or deflating mattresses – however I genuinely don’t wish to go. Extra touches resembling a visiting masseuse and cocktail van are deliberate over the summer time, too. As if I wanted one more reason to return.
• Pitches at Woodfire Camping price £16pp grownup, £5pp little one Three-18. Ready-pitched tents from £25 grownup, £10 little one. Open from Easter to the top of September (every day throughout faculty holidays, weekends solely in any other case). Evening meals from £5. Pulborough, a 15-minute taxi trip away, is the closest prepare station