If the new Tiny Campsite guide by Dixe Wills doesn’t inspire to to head for the hills, valleys and farmers’ fields of England to pitch your lightweight tent and burn bangers over the camp fire, then nothing will. Is there anything better than pitching your tent in a patch of meadow or a leafy glade and then waking up to birdsong and a view of the Great British Countryside? Dixe Wills doesn’t think so and to prove the point he’s written a guide to the Tiny Campsites of Great Britain. You can choose from 75 sites from all over the UK and all under an acre in size.
This kind of camping has nothing to do with the rows of caravans, huge tents complete with satallite TV or any level of laid on entertainment, and it’s more back to nature than glamping and more down to earth than cool. This is about getting away from it all and enjoying the great British outdoors.
I met Dixe when we were both staying at Trerickett Mill last summer in Wales, a glorious example of the tiny camping ideal with an old cider orchard to pitch your tent in complete with free range ducks and chickens as well as a charming stone bunkhouse and B & B in the old Mill House. (for those like me who enjoy the great outdoors but find the unpredictable British weather a bit of a challenge.
Through nearby woodland we found a place where the mill stream deepened into a swimming place with an icy plunge pool that made us all squeal. (I use the royal we here, you understand, you won’t catch me in an icy mountain stream but the kids loved it) Afterwards we warmed up by drinking hot chocolate and mugs of tea beside the campfire in an old oil drum that had been thoughtfully provided.
Dixie was doing a tour by bike of the Welsh campsites to include in his Tiny Campsites Guide and was carrying his tent and everything else with him – ah the simple life of a lightweight camper!
But back to the Tiny Campsites guide ….
Some guidebooks are heavy on facts, symbols and stars but when you read them you’re left wondering what it’s actually like to stay there – but not this one. Tiny Campsites draws you a pen picture of the place, what it feels like to stay there and any interesting characters you might meet.
As Dixe writes freelance for the Guardian, my weekend paper of choice for inspirational travel writing, each of the descriptions had me wanting to pack my camping gear and set forth immediately. In my imagination I was already listening out for the tawny owls in the woods, watching the sun set behind the church tower and picking sun-warmed strawberries at the neighbouring fruit farm.
For those of you who like to get your facts straight, don’t worry that this is one of those coffee table books full of pretty pictures (although it has a few of those) and not much else of substance. The useful information’s not lacking as each tiny campsite in the guide has a page of contact details, where to stock up on provisions and how to get there by public transport if possible.
If you’re an itchy footed traveller like me, you may be thinking that this rural idyll is all very well but what are you going to do when you get there? The Tiny Campsites guide has that covered too, as Dixe has identified the best local pub for a cosy pint or an home cooked evening meal and a couple of local attractions that you might enjoy if you’re interested in more than just dozing in the shade of an old apple tree. And as Dixe is an avowed eco-traveller who avoids plane travel at all costs, you can be sure that it’s possible to get to all the campsites by bike or public transport, as that’s how Dixe arrived himself.
I could definitely see myself using this guide to go cycle-touring for a few days or perhaps hiking from campsite to campsite. Or you could just use it to locate charming little campsites away from the crowds to base yourself and see a bit of the surrounding countryside. As well as listing the campsites in sections and on a map by region, there are thoughtful lists of the sites that would be especially suitable in different categories, such as those for kids, near the sea or adults only.
To give you the flavour, I asked Dixe to hand-pick a few of his favourites for you and here they are. You can enjoy a bit of his delightful prose (that’s why he’s a professional travel writer and I’m a part-time blogger).
Great Tiny Campsite for Kids
Little Wenfork, Launceston, Cornwall – in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with views of the hills and Tamar valley, this campsite borders an allotment with ducks, chickens and some Gloucestershire Old Pigs who love having their head scratched.
Great Tiny Campsite by the coast
Porthllisky Farm, Pembrokeshire, Wales (Tel 01437 720377) – Close to Britain’s smallest city of St Davids yet the only sound is the odd seagull and the sighing sea. The site’s a short walk from a small harbour with a summer cafe and is right on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path for cliff top walks.
Tiny Campsite with Great views
Balmeanach Park, Isle of Mull, Scotland – Set in Fishnish forest, this is the place to spot eagles, otters and seals, enjoy the signposted forest walks and the shoreline of the Sound of Mull as well as a spot of drama at the theatre at Tobermory.
Great Tiny campsite for walkers
Foxhole Bottom, Seaford, East Sussex – (no sniggering at the back) This site is set in a country park on the bumpy South Downs with a snaking river sliding off into the sea, a shingle beach, a wetland reserve for birds and those national treasures, the Seven Sisters cliffs. There’s a camping barn too and a small discount if you arrive on foot or by bike.
Great tiny campsite for campfires
Park Farm, Whitby, Yorkshire – The campsite is a tiny soft-cheese-triangle of sloping grassland bordered on two sides by a low dry-stone wall, with a hawthorn hedge on the third. A few apple trees give additional shelter and the site is on a farm with interesting cattle breeds. Captain Cook as born in these parts an you can walk up to the Captain Cook monument on Easby Moor for the stunning views.
Since the Tiny Campsites guide arrived it’s barely been out of my husband’s grasp as he dreams of some corner of a farmer’s field that will be forever England. He used to be in the army you know and loves all that outdoorsy, boys-own stuff – gathering wood for the campfire and dabbling in the streams. Me, I’m a little more adverse to being rained on, but after reading this Tiny Campsites Guide even I’m ready to be converted to the joys of an uncrowded patch of meadow or woodland, fresh air and marshmallows roasted over the campfire.
If you’re already ready to get on your bike with your lightweight tent, you can buy Tiny Campsites from Punk Publishing at Tinycampsites.co.uk, order it at your local bookshop ISBM: 978-1-90688-906-7 or head over to Amazon.co.uk without even leaving the comfort of your laptop. Price is £10.95
If you get a copy, do see if you can spot the photo of the princesses on Page 13!
Photo Credits: All photos copyright Dixe Wills