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Back to Nature: Almost Wild Campsites in the UK

Back to Nature: Almost Wild Campsites in the UK

Camping and Glamping

A spectrum is used to classify something in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme points. Well - if you can for a sec - think of camping in this way. At one end of the camping spectrum, you might have a luxuriously bedecked safari tent with a waterbed, Fortnum's food hamper, crackling wood burner and a copper bath. And a quick glance at the other - extreme - end of the spectrum is a 2 foot wide patch of nubbly grass with a bivouac and a shovel. Plus, it is probably illegal to be there. Not everyone likes the same kind of camping adventure...but they say there is something out there for everyone, and while roughing it brings horror to many, the remoteness and simpleness of wild camping is very appealing to others. So here we are, in a roundabout way, getting onto "almost" wild camping and what exactly it is. Here's what I think. On the camping spectrum, "almost wild" lies somewhere in between: "basic - but there's a shower block and a Tesco within dashing distance," and "there's nowt here but that hill and an odd looking sheep". Almost wild campsites are - frankly - the stuff of old fashioned glorious Enid Blyton escapades. Acres of wildflower meadows, streams to paddle in, tranquil landscapes, off the beaten track, secluded, no electricity, few rules, few people and in all likelihood, breathtaking scenery. Almost wild campsites are not quite on the end of the spectrum because they provide a loo (usually compost) and sometimes a vague shower, but otherwise, you are as close to being left to your own devices in the wild as humanly possible. It's magical, a complete detox and something everyone should try at least once. Go forth and go wild....

Sweet Hill Farm, Portland

Sweet Hill Farm, Portland

Portland in Dorset is a bit of an unknown gem. Being slightly off the tourist path and only one way in and out, this little isle sometimes gets overlooked by other snazzy Dorset market towns. But once you get on Portland (and it is on not in) a few treats await. Miles of stunning beaches, excellent walks, kitesurfing, scuba diving - the water is crystal clear - crabbing and nature spotting, a genuine lighthouse; the legendary Portland Bill, smuggler tales and hidden coves and in amongst all this, some rather lovely wild camping. Sweet Hill Farm is hidden well off the beaten track at the top of the island, spread over 5 acres with stunning unrestricted views towards Portland Bill, right across the sea and over meadows of grazing horses. During the day you can spot kestrels and owls from the campsite and by night you will be treated to a magnificent star display thanks to the low light pollution. Sweet Hill Farm also have their own riding school, so you can explore Portland on horseback. There is minimal impact on the land here, so aside from handmade compost toilets and a water tap in the field the campsite, you are back to nature in the truest sense.

link: https://sweethillfarm.co.uk/

Bush Farm Wild Camping, Cornwall

Bush Farm Wild Camping, Cornwall

Bush Farm Wild camping, down a long country road and encompassing 200 glorious acres of farmland near Liskeard in Cornwall, is the kind of campsite you hope might exist but cannot believe actually does. When camping here the first thing everyone asks you (if you actually bump into someone) is "how did you find this place"? The owners at Bush Farm only allow a handful of pitches at any time so you are guaranteed to have a huge amount of privacy - campers are given a map at the entrance and told to have a good drive around and pitch wherever they fancy. There are the more popular spots down by the river, but from our apple orchard spot we couldn't see another tent. It's camping like it used to be; handmade tyre swings to launch squealing children into the water, a river just deep enough to canoe up or bodysurf down, space to set up camp and feel like no one else is around, peace and tranquility and the type of space that most campsites just cannot offer. I was washing clothes, washing dishes and washing hair in water scooped up from the river and I absolutely loved it. The simple life isn't for everyone, but just for a few days, to have this extraordinary experience is incredible. There are one or two toilets dotted around the fields and even a handcrafted wooden shower complete with watering can shower head, but it's hit and miss if it's warm or not. Run wild here.

link: http://www.bushfarmcampsite.co.uk/

Ouse Meadow, Sussex

Ouse Meadow, Sussex

When you arrive at Ouse Meadow you are warmly welcomed by the campsite manager - Neil - positioned in a bell tent at the entrance to the field. Aside from settling you in and providing logs for those who want, the rest of your stay is left completely to you. It is old fashioned wild camping (aside from a couple of loos and some al fresco showers) - off grid and with very few rules and regulations. There are no set pitches, instead you are free to set up camp wherever you like in this rather beautiful East Sussex countryside. Ouse Meadow is actually three meadows, spread out over a very generous area. Some pitches are closer to the river, one field is car free, another is more suitable for large groups - but from all angles you have lovely views and wide open spaces. There are some gorgeous walks and cycle routes close to the campsite; the ancient Ashdown Forest - Winnie the Pooh country - is nearby, and the Bluebell Heritage railways is right next door (literally, you can hear it chuff-chuffing from your tent) if you want to take a steam train ride across the countryside.

link: https://www.holidayfox.com/en/e/dest-5DHuK4aGLb-B/ouse-meadow-campsite

Into the Sticks, Havefordwest, Wales

Into the Sticks, Havefordwest, Wales

Surely winning the award for most suitably named campsite, Into The Sticks is a gorgeous, off grid, back to basics, hidden and very special campsite in the stunning Welsh county of Pembrokeshire. Arrive down a small track to find a private nature reserve offering just a handful of pitches spread across 14 acres of woodland, open meadow and streams - choose your favourite place (and your degree of seclusion) and set up camp. It is rustic, relaxed and tranquil, a place to walk, nature watch, detox from everything digital and forget about the outside world. There are handmade picnic tables and chairs, a washing up area, compost toilet and a hot shower, so while all is wild, there are some luxuries too. Unless you feel a strong urge to leave the campsite, the real magic is simply switching off and enjoying everything that is right here; walking or cycling the nature trails, animal tracking or clipping up a hammock between the trees and relaxing. if you want a day out then the glorious Pembrokeshire coastline is a short distance away for swimming in crystal clear waters. It is tents only here with the exception of one, off grid Tiny House; a wooden cabin made entirely of reclaimed materials with a bed and a small kitchen. And for those who want to really wild it, there are hidden locations on the campsite where you can take a bivvi bag and sleep out for a night under the stars.

picture credit: Into the Sticks

link: https://intothesticks.co.uk/

The Little Wild Campsite, Cornwall

The Little Wild Campsite, Cornwall

This small but perfectly formed pop-up campsite is available for the lucky few who manage to bag one of the coveted spots for the few weeks every summer that this lovely site is open. Situated on the west coast of Cornwall only 4 miles from the beautiful harbour village of Porthleven, the Little Wild Campsite is high up on Tregonning Hill - a UNESCO World Heritage Site - and from here has sweeping views across Mounts Bay and the surrounding countryside. The sea is only 2 miles away and the coastline is full of hidden coves and sandy beaches. For walkers and nature lovers, the south west coast path is within very easy reach and provides miles and miles of some of the most jaw dropping, view-laden walking you will find along this coastline. The simple and very clean facilities consist of a composting toilet and a shower.

link: https://www.holidayfox.com/en/e/dest-AGJoOLQJC1nh/the-little-wild-campsite

Graig Wen, Snowdonia

Graig Wen, Snowdonia

This stunning campsite in the heart of the Snowdonia National Park has acres of gorgeous hidden glades, wild meadows and woodland and only a few tents are permitted in the camping fields, so you can be pretty sure of an unspoilt view and a wonderfully serene experience. The land, strewn with dry stone walls and crossed by small streams is home to an abundance of birds and wildlife. Life here is simple; there are clean composting toilets and hot showers and drinking water is available, but aside from this, there is little else to interfere with your wild camping experience; just crackling campfires, dark skies and far reaching views over the Mawddach Estuary. No cars are allowed on the tent site at all, so you need to be able to carry your stuff over from the car - which makes its more suitable for adventurous adults and older children. There is a touring park here as well, but the lower camping fields are set away from the main campsite of touring pitches and yurts and are specifically for those looking for a real outdoor adventure. As proud winners of a Green Snowdonia Award for sustainability, the owners here have managed to absolutely capture the essence of wild camping in the most beautiful of surroundings.

picture credit: Graig Wen

link: https://www.graigwen.co.uk/campsites/

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