Five of our favourite wild camping spots within two hours of London
There’s nothing quite like wild camping. Sleeping under canvas – or under the stars if you’ve got the right kit – is guaranteed to reconnect you to nature. But, if you're time poor or want to take the kids, heading off to the remote Scottish highlands or Welsh mountain ranges might not be your thing. Which is why we've put together a list of our top five designated campsites, all offering the same sense of isolation and freedom without requiring you to go totally off-piste.
Knepp Estate, West Sussex, RH13 8NN
Having recently spent a dreamy weekend at this beautiful site, we couldn't help but place it top of the list. Home to the largest re-wildling project in lowland Europe, the Knepp Castle estate in Sussex runs incredible safaris across 3,500 acres. Here, the ‘Big Five’ comprises Tamworth pigs, red and fallow deer, Exmoor ponies, and long-horn cattle. Join dawn walks to hear the nightingales, take bat detectors at night or book a break in autumn to catch the best of the rutting season.
Camping pitches are offered in a tempting wildflower meadow beside an ancient woodland – and luxuriously furnished bell tents and shepherd’s huts are also available.
We booked a basic pitch and spent the evening toasting marshmallows over a fire-pit fuelled by sustainably sourced wood, whilst sipping on cold beers bought from the honesty bar. Next morning, we took a plunge in the wild lake and emerged refreshed and reinvigorated, before meandering over to the Stork Cafe for a freshly brewed coffee and a slice of locally baked gingerbread. Fully energised, we set off on one of the suggested walking routes to take in the free-roaming animals and abundant wildlife before packing up and heading back to London by train.
Suitable for families with children over 12, it's hard to imagine a more unique camping or glamping experience in the Sussex countryside than at this special place.
Camping from £23 per night, glamping from £75 per night.
Nethergong, East Kent, CT3 4DN
Another absolute favourite of ours is this back to nature campsite nestled in a beautiful valley in East Kent. The family who run it are truly wonderful folk, allowing us to shift our pre-Covid booking without any fuss. The facilities are fantastic, and include hot power showers, a campsite café serving pizzas, coffee and cake, and terrific walks and cycle rides directly from the site. They also allow well-behaved dogs and campfires using the custom-made firepits available.
Local produce is on sale in the small camping shop and local veg and fruit can be bought from the Nethergong Nurseries, a local veg box business. For those feeling especially active, the idyllic River Stour is five minutes from the site with opportunities for canoe hire or evening boat trips to view the bankside wildlife.
Camping from £37.50 per night, glamping from £95 per night.
Birds & Bees Campsite, Suffolk, IP17 2AW
There’s an air of exclusivity at this eco-conscious campsite, nine miles from the Suffolk coast. With just 15 tent pitches spread across the three meadows, each has been carefully mown into the long grass, all woven together with narrow pathways that emerge at a well-equipped communal kitchen-cum-dining area inside a converted dairy barn. Butterflies, bugs and birdlife flourish in the wild grasses – and children are welcome.
Camping from £19.50 per night, children (5–15yrs) from £9.50.
Night Pastures, West Sussex, GU27 3NH
Another family-run business with strong sustainable principles, Night Pastures is a natural retreat venue offering both high quality "glamping" and more traditional camping, in the heart of the South Downs National Park.
Hidden in an idyllic meadow, each of the yurts have been handcrafted using locally-grown hardwood, offering guests the experience of living more simply in a calm and beautiful setting. Replete with a luxurious double bed, two optional single beds, fresh linen, wool rugs and the warmth of a wood burning stove. Outside, there's a fully-equipped field kitchen with gas cooker, barbecue, and fresh water tap, plus table and chairs – so you don't need to pack a thing! Nearby, there's a snug ‘en-suite’ bathroom hut, complete with flushing toilet, Victorian sink, towels and a large walk-in hot shower.
If this is too 'luxe' for you, there are five brand new furnished bell tents all with access to fresh water and a hand made compost loo and shower. And for those wanting something more simple, there's plenty of space within three camping areas - one specifically for families and the other two designated adult-only. Once again, you'll find the outdoor kitchens have everything you might need to prepare al fresco dinners enjoyed under moonlit skies.
Glamping from £100 per night, Bell Tents from £75 per night, Camping from £15 per night.
Almost Wild Campsite, Lee Valley, EN10 6TD
On the borders of Hertfordshire and Essex, this site offers the closet to a 'real' wild camping experience without you even having to leave the M25! With limited facilities; a cold water tap, composting toilet and solar lighting, this is your chance to embrace Mother Nature and put your survival skills to the test.
It's a rugged, natural setting nestled among mature woodland and a grassy glade surrounded by water on three sides. With none of the trappings of more commercial campsites, you’ll be able to camp out under the stars, hang a hammock from the trees and enjoy an open fire in a fire pit.
Camping from £22 per night, children under 12 go free.