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Magical, pagan woodland camping in the South Downs with campfires encouraged, excellent East Sussex pubs on the doorstep and heaps of quirky glamping options thrown in too

You can stay at Blackberry Wood any number of times, but each visit is likely to feel completely different – partly because the secluded woodland changes with the seasons, but mainly because owner Tim is so focused on expanding his unique range of glamping accommodation, that there’s no anticipating what weird and wonderful structures you might find next. On our first encounter, a double-decker bus poked from a clearing and an assortment of revamped old caravans and bell tents were available for hire. Today, there are also the likes of an ex-RAF helicopter and a brand new treehouse with a shower room built inside its wonky turret!

It’s the ‘proper’ camping, though, that’s the real heritage of this site. Nestled on the South Downs, the place is almost lost among the native woodland. Follow one of the footpaths leading into the rambling straggle of thicket to find twenty of the most coveted pitches, located in individual clearings with a firepit, some rudimentary seating and enough space for a medium-sized tent. Each spot feels gloriously secluded and, with so few pitches in this part of the site, there’s a rare and special kind of peace among the trees, enhanced each evening by the soporific soundtrack of campfires gently fizzing.

On the opposite side of the road a second wooded camping area with a ‘no kids and no groups’ rule also does a roaring trade during peak season – it’s popularity only waning as couples return the next year to splash out on one of the glamping options instead. Indeed it’s impossible to visit once and not return again to try out something new. The options just seem endless.

‘Bubble’ the 1960s caravan and a brightly-painted gypsy wagon have a particular air of romance, while the red Routemaster bus, equipped with a kitchen/diner downstairs and a kids’ soft-play area upstairs is on the more eccentric end of the spectrum. The full-sized RAF chopper with rotor blades still attached is an even more bizarre find still. It’s Tim’s new treehouse, though, completed in 2016, that is perhaps his biggest pride and joy. It sleeps up to four adults (or two adults and three children), with a double bed and a snug loft bed, as well as featuring a well-equipped kitchen, a wood-burning stove and a sun terrace outside. Its higgledy-piggledy shape formed by the naturally irregular branches gives it a charming, storybook quality.

All these contraptions can be found scattered around the first small field when checking in at the reception caravan. Of course, reception was in a caravan at the time of writing, but we hear that NASA is selling off de-commissioned space shuttles, so next year’s check-in experience might be altogether quite different!

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The Owner Says

Magical, pagan woodland camping and glamping at its finest. There's heaps of flora and fauna to keep you bewitched, not to mention the encouragement of big woodland campfires! Blackberry wood campsite is situated in beautiful, quiet Sussex countryside at the foot of the South downs, in the National Park.

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