“ Address: Streat Lane / Streat / Ditchling / Brighton / East Sussex / BN6 8RS „
I first heard of Blackberry Wood after it was named campsite of the year in the Cool Camping book for England. Fast forward a couple of years and we finally got our opportunity to visit. We actually booked for five nights from Sunday to Friday in May. The campsite does offer online booking, about 13 months in advance but its recent fame has meant that weekends do get booked up very quickly and were practically booked out, as were most school holidays, by January. The campsite takes only about 20 tents, and one of the key attractions of the site is that these are in their own individual glades, of varying sizes, but ultimately very private, while at the same time not being too far from each other. The price for five nights in May was £95, which is a little on the steep side but a price we were willing to pay - finding sites which are geared for tent campers, and do not consist of masses of tents are few and far between. We paid 50% deposit with balance due on arrival.
I must say it was difficult to get a real feel of the place from their website (www.blackberrywood.com) as it is (unusually) mostly animated with very little information, although past guests are invited to post their own holiday photos. I had learned from the website that it is essential to let the site know in advance if you have a particularly large tent, of over 5m x 3m. The website states that a failure to do so means that you will not be allowed to pitch until everyone has arrived, an inconvenience no-one wants. I did wonder if the campsite would have a long list of strict site rules as well as this. We took our Outwell Virginia on its first ever outing, and its dimensions are fairly close to that maximum. However, by the same token, I could see from the availability on the website that they were fairly quiet Mon-Thu and hopefully we would not encounter any difficulties, and indeed these fears were unfounded, with barely any rules that I was aware of.
The real appeal in the site was the fact that the 20 or so pitches were in glades in the woods, which all had their own individual pitch names, depending on their location or surrounding flora or fauna e.g. Minty for a pitch near to the mint bushes. The campsite also allows campfires, again not always possible, although I understood that the facilities may be a little basic, with no electric hook-up, my most pressing problem being how I would dry my hair each morning.
The campsite is located close to the South Downs and the delightful village of Ditchling, which in turn is close to the towns of Lewes/Brighton. We arrived shortly after the designated check in time of 3pm and were greeted by the owner Tim, who took time to highlight the local walks and village pubs within reach of the campsite on foot, and advised us to wander through the glades and pick a glade we liked, having made a recommendation of Avalon. Wheelbarrows were lying about and we could use these to wheel our gear to the chosen glade. He also advised us that the cast of Wicked were also there for the night in the main field, approximately 21 campers, but they had been advised they needed to be quiet and not disturb other residents!
We wandered through and soon found Avalon, and we fell in love and bagged it! It was a good sized plot, easily able to take a couple of large tents, and like all the glades, there was a campfire area, with makeshift seating (tree trunks), 360 degree tree walls, but still easily reachable from the second car park, and close to the toilet blocks and sinks. We pitched. Although we pitched our large tent in around 20 minutes, the ground was hard, due to the compressed stone that was beneath the bark layer, and in no doubt due to the dry weather recently.
In fact, one of the wonderful aspects of glade camping like this is that we were relatively sheltered from the elements, whether that be rain or excessive sun. My main reservation with taking our Outwell Virginia tent instead of our Outwell Bear Lake was that I felt the canvas Bear Lake was a far superior tent to deal with hot/wet weather. In fact the shelter of the glade meant that the polyester Virginia tent never got too hot, which was a blessing given the recent heat wave.
The real beauty in Blackberry Wood is being able to really retreat and enjoy nature away from daily life and all its stresses and strains. Instead it was great to be outdoors enjoying the birdsong until sunset, to cook outdoors, enjoy a fire and observe the local pheasants and other birdlife around our glade. The facilities of the site itself were minimal - logs were available for a reasonable £4/bag, and there was a small "store" open daily for essential items, should you have forgotten anything essential. The buildings around the site including the shower-blocks and toilets were very simple basic construction - think toilet rolls suspended on tree branches which have breached the broken glass above the toilets, and you will be on the right lines. In fact the shower-block nearest to us was also open to the elements as there was no actual roof. The toilet "walls" are plastered with posters identifying the local wildlife i.e. birds/bats/hedgehogs etc. This is not the place for you if you cannot live with basic facilities for a few days. Showers were 20p - something I don't mind paying for as it does make you consider water usage which is no bad thing, although I was comfortably able to shower and never ran out of water before I wanted to step out. The only electric plug socket I found that worked was in a small kitchen area/first aid area adjacent to a shower block, but on the upside travelling midweek and out of season meant we never once waited to use the facilities, and I would highly recommend a midweek and not a weekend stay if you really want peace and quiet, as I imagine it would be much different on a full Friday/Saturday night.
We had decided that the point of staying here on this trip was the end in itself and we were not about to spend our days too far away from nature - we just wanted to enjoy the local area at a snail's pace. Ditchling was a few miles away and easily reachable for fresh croissants for breakfast as well as having a wonderful but pricy delicatessen if you wanted to have breakfast cooked for you. The local pub served the delightful local English wine, and we did make a couple of trips to Brighton, mainly as OH had never been. We also made a picnic of local produce and the local English wine and simply found ourselves on the common and enjoyed our surroundings.
There was a small downside in that some families did tend to be noisy until late into the night, i.e. 2am on a couple of occasions. I wasn't overly perturbed by this, although it did annoy OH a bit more than it annoyed me.
Overall a great experience and I would definitely go back and revisit - a perfect place to relax and recharge the batteries and to kick back and enjoy the simpler things in life. I hope you enjoy the photos