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A family-run, working farm in East Sussex offering spacious, traditional camping with no set pitches

It’s a storybook image: the farmer walking the yard, bucket in hand, tailed by a pair of chattering geese. At Hale Farm in East Sussex this scene has been given a curious twist. Ruth rises early, and heads out to feed the animals one by one – the gorgeous Sandy and Black pigs, Tilly the friendly pony and a couple of playful donkeys – but instead of geese, she’s tailed by chattering children, a herd that’s usually five or six strong. The picture seems to sum up this family-run site; Famous Five-esque in its attitude to camping. If you thought the days of back-to-basics, pitch where you like sites were over, then think again.

Perfectly pinned between the South Downs National Park and Kent’s High Weald, this 56-acre working farm offers camping as it used to be in a large, open meadow, where thin threads of campfire smoke drift lazily into the sky. There’s a standing tap for water, showers, toilets and a couple of washing up sinks but otherwise don’t expect to find a playground or onsite WiFi. That’s not really what they’re all about.

The meadow itself is surrounded by mature hedges and trees, with grass levels managed throughout the year by a flock of Ryeland sheep who shift to a neighbouring field during the summer. Space is certainly not an issue. The farm’s self-imposed limit of around 20 pitches keeps numbers down, while the tents-only rule gives the place a thoroughly traditional feel. Kids roam, safe from roads and vehicles, and adults convene around their evening BBQ (you can buy the farm’s own sausages on site).

Luxury lovers can find one exception to the basic-camping rule, a refurbished shepherd’s hut of the kind often found on the Sussex hills during the 19th century. Inside, it features a full-size double bed and a fitted kitchenette, plus a toasty log burner that warms its wooden interior into a couples’ cocoon of loveliness. It has a real air of romance about it and offers homely comforts to those leaving the tent at home, yet still has enough history and tradition to feel apt on such a rustic campsite.

Aside from losing the kids to the farmyard – prepare yourself for days of hearing their favourite animal stories – there is plenty nearby to keep you busy. A footpath alongside the site connects you quickly to The Weald Way, a scenic long distance route that leads you further through the Cuckmere valley, or you can walk the 10 minutes into the local village of Chiddingly. Simply head for the pointy church spire and the village eventually comes into view, blessed with a convenient local shop and an even more convenient pair of pubs. Re-hydrate in the beer garden and ponder the wonders of Persil. If the kids don’t end their weekend here covered in grass stains then they’re doing something wrong!

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The campsite owner says

Hale Farm is a working, family run farm situated in 56 acres of peaceful, rural Sussex countryside. We offer spacious camping in a beautiful location and the opportunity to meet our farm residents. If you would like to camp in an open field, under the stars, with a small campfire outside your tent, where you can sit and watch the night sky on a clear night, then this is the camping site for you.

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