Secret campsites – Dernwood Farm

Our second visit to Dernwood Farm in the heart of the Sussex Weald offered a completely different perspective to this wild campsite from our first; at the Lovewood festival we pitched beneath a pylon at the wrong end of the field. On our return, we pitched at the entrance of a glade, a patch of the wood which the dozen children in our party quickly turned into a secret world, building dens, climbing trees and putting on a show.

Bacon cooking on a campfire at Dernwood Farm campsite in East Sussex

The campsite is at the end of a winding woodland path, necessitating a twenty minute trek pushing your kit in a wheelbarrow. I have no wheelbarrow skills, never having worked on a building site, and it was only last weekend when I barrowed my kit across the entire length of Glastonbury that I discovered the trick of tying all your gear together and then securing the heaped bundle to the barrow with an X of rope. So I made more of a meal of this task at Dernwood than was necessary.

The allure of wild camping is freedom. Freedom to have a campfire, freedom to arrange your camp as you see fit. And there is plenty of freedom at Dernwood. Our party consisted of a dozen adults and a dozen children, so the pitch-where-you-like system meant we could circle our wagons as we pleased.

My campfire skills are basic. I set bricks around a shallow fire pit, and sparked up the logs. The job of building and maintaining this fire was quickly taken up by two more experienced firebugs, and soon they were prepping wood, and erecting an ad-hoc cooking tripod from cast-iron lantern stands. The sight of iron and fire made my heart leap, and the boys crowded around the men, fascinated by this primal display.

Wild camping demands responsibility, especially when it comes to waste. At Dernwood Farm, I barrowed everyone’s rubbish back to the recycling bins at the entrance. When you spend the best part of an hour “putting the bins out” you are confronted with the fact of your own consumption. All that thoughtlessly acquired packaging at the supermarket comes back to haunt you. Most wild camping sites make no provision for rubbish. You are expected to take it away with you, and this is something to consider when you are loading up.

The facilities at Dernwood Farm stretch to a single WC toilet and water pipe. Check in at the farm on your way in to pay for your pitch and firewood. They also have freezers of their meat for sale.

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