A tiny, remote, National Trust-owned campsite with heaps of history and a beautiful South Downs setting
Run by the National Trust and situated on its 3,500-acre ewe-peppered Slindon Estate, Gumber Farm’s campsite and bothy are an oasis of remoteness in the crowded south-east of England. The bothy (whose excellent facilities are available to campers) is a converted 19th-century flint barn in a large clearing within an enormous deer-filled wood. The small camping field is right outside it, as is the paddock, in which you may leave your mount should you have ridden in. The irony is that a farm so lovely – it’s surrounded by the sensuous curves of the South Downs and has been eulogised by none other than writer and historian Hilaire Belloc – is habitually used as just a brief stop-over by walkers and cyclists attempting either the South Downs Way or the Monarch’s Way, both of which run close by. Were they to linger on the estate a little longer, they could visit Bronze Age burial mounds; a Neolithic flint knapping site; a section of the arrow-straight Stane Street (built by the Romans to link London and Chichester); and a Victorian folly. In World War II, a dummy airfield was laid out here (though only ever bombed once), and air raid shelters and other bits of fakery can still be seen today. At night, the site becomes a star-gazer’s paradise, with its huge sky untroubled by earthly lights. Come the morning and the same summer sky comes alive with swallows swooping around the plucky sparrows, who make their homes alongside them in the eaves of the bothy.