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Dernwood Farm Wild Camping

UK England South East England East Sussex Heathfield

  • Campfires allowed
  • Dogs welcome
  • Good walks nearby
As hidden and earthy as it gets

Dernwood Farm is hidden away down a rolling country lane among the patchwork fields of Sussex. Like a Russian doll-within-a-doll, the campsite itself is further secreted inside an eight- acre clearing in the middle of a coppice wood originally grown for charcoal burning. Isn’t it fitting, then, that fires are a welcome addition to the earthy, authentic camping experience on offer here?

On arrival you make yourself known at reception, pick up your organic eggs and choose from a rich selection of fresh flavoursome beef (produced here) to roast on your barbecue. Then, armed with some logs, pop it all into one of the trolleys or wheelbarrows provided and make your hobbit-like journey through the woods to the fairy-tale field that truly earns its moniker of ‘wild’.

‘It’s a kind of filter’, says Amanda, your welcoming host, of the 10-minute walk through the woods, ‘a real discovery as you shed your city skin and unwind. It also keeps away noisy campers looking for a quick fix.’ There’s no electricity here; this is a low-impact, eco-friendly campsite, so it’s just you, your canvas, and delicious food cooked by your own fair hands over the firepits provided.

Come spring, the three adjoining semi- natural ancient woods are aglow with thousands of bluebells. When you take a walk through them keep an eye out for the small pits once dug for the mining of ore in centuries past.

This is a place to really lose yourself in for a few days, zone out from the urban noise you left behind, and tune into the wildlife around you.

Details

Facilities

Campfires allowed in designated fire pits. 5m bell tents sleep 4 and are fully furnished and equipped. Safari tent sleeps 6, has hot running water and ‘proper’ shower. The Cabin (as seen on TV!) is suitable for couples or a large family. Features comfy sitting room, separate bedroom, plus open-plan kitchenette with gas oven & hob. There's also a woodburner and, best of all, a wood-fired hot tub, perfect for a glass of wine and stargazing!

Shop sells meat and eggs. The camping field has a toilet and washup block, 3 loos, 2 large Belfast sinks for dishes and 3 hand basins (all cold water), plus standpipe for drinking water. There's a new shower block with toilets and handbasins located in the carpark.  Wheelbarrows and trolleys to transport your kit are provided. Logs and kindling sold at reception. Kids love to explore the fallen trunks and play hide-and-seek in the endless expanse, and Amanda can show them the animals; take the yellow trail, a 40-minute rough walk through the woods. The nearest road is 2 miles away – and that’s a mere country lane.

Suitable For

Tents, dogs (on leads) – yes. Caravans, campervans, groups – no. This is a family campsite: no electronic noise or raucous explosions after the North Star appears.

Nearby

The Cuckoo Trail, a spit from the site, is a great option for cycling or walks –weaving through woods, fields, and the best of Sussex countryside. Normans Bay, named after the Normans who landed here a thousand years ago, is just 20 minutes away. Pop into The Observatory Science Centre (01323 832731); on selected evenings you can look through their telescopes at events in the night sky.

Food & Drink

Stock up on steaks before heading to camp – they’re hung for 21 days so are bursting with flavour. Beyond the wood in Chiddingly, the Six Bells (01825 872227) comes highly recommended (voted Best Bargain Pub in Britain) for its tasty fare and shabby-chic decor.

Opening Times

1st Apr–late Sept.

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Location

Contact Dernwood Farm Wild Camping, Little Dernwood Farm, Dern Lane, Waldron, Heathfield, East Sussex TN21 0PN

Show Map

Getting There

Head to Horam on the A267 and, just before the garage on your left, head right, down Furnace Lane. A mile on take the first left turn to Chiddingly and Little Dernwood Farm is on your left, opposite Copfold Farm.

Reviews

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Rated ★★★★☆ over 12 reviews

★★★★★

Brilliant place - July 2017

We stayed here in July 2017 and it was brilliant. After checking in and the owners being very friendly and helpful we parked up grabbed our trolley and off we went into the woods to follow the path to the camping field. We were not disappointed. Very pretty and so much space that you never heard any of your neighbours. Over one side of the field is a group area which can be hired separately for half a dozen tents so this area could be a little noisier but nothing more than you would expect from a group of families with children. Beautiful woodland for the children to explore with rope swings a plenty. We loved it and our friends joined us for one night and we all agreed we would be back for 2018.
Jan 13, 2018 by HWK 114
★★★★★

Lovely campsite

We booked this campsite for the May bank holiday 2016 since then we have been to 3 other campsites all rated well but my girls age 11,9 & 6 have asked to please return to Dernwood farm wild camping. This campsite is their favourite. So I'm writing this review on behalf of my girls and myself. We booked the Encarpment but my girls would rather we Book the camping field so they can meet friends more easily. The girls loved exploring the woods on their own, making dens and enjoyed the great big swings. They loved the huge open field and playing balls games here, esp football which my 11 year old loves. The campsite is set up so that one doesn't feel as though you are invading private spaces when playing games on the field or walking around. We loved the Encarpment it was lovely. It is private surrounded by trees with only 3 huge tents pitches, benches and large fire pit. It would be great for family groups. The site has lovely local meat we ordered burgers and bacon ( please be aware it is frozen) The shower & toilet facilities are clean & were recently built. This is not a commercial site it is just a lovely car free camping site, relaxed and quiet with great woods for the kids to explore. The owners are ever so friendly. Be aware it's a walk from the car park to the camping site with trolleys. But my girls loved the excitement of it all. Furthermore even though it was fully booked it didn't appear crowded at all. We love the campsite so much my girls have asked me to please book it for a weekend in the summer. It is our favourite campsite. If you want peace, quiet, fire pits ,nicely spaced pitches, great woods for kids to play or ride their bikes, a large field for ball games this campsite is for you.
May 29, 2017 by Antwane
★★★★★

Wonderful Wild Camping

This is truly a lovely spot. You park up by the farm where there are good modern showers and toilets. There were plenty of huge trolleys to load your gear into. You then do have a walk through beech wood to the main field. The wood is very pretty and the path was well maintained, though it was dry. The main field is very large and skirted by the woods. Yes there are pylons in the far corner but really no big deal and there's no need to pitch near them. In the field is another toilet block and washing up facilities. The woods are great for exploring. I'd be very keen to return when the bluebells are out. Great for young families. Clean and quiet. We have a small dog and he also loved it. In summary great location with all you'd need. Granted it takes a bit of effort to get to the field but well worth it. We'll be back.
Aug 17, 2016 by Mackfly
★★★★★

AMAZING

I completely disagree with everything Campbell Murray  mentioned.  My family and I stayed there recently and you could not have asked for a better more suitable place to visit, with or without children.

We arrived on a Friday night and though they said they were fully booked it certainly wasn't, its not like other camp-sites where they pack them in just to get a quick bob.  We wild camped and yes there is a pylon in the woods away from the field but your not camping underneath it.  As for low flying planes due to the flight path, hilarious, we live near Heathrow, try going there, you couldn't even hear  them here.  We enjoy our astronomy so wanted to come to the Observatory at Herstmonzueax near by ( again recommend).  We find  the wild camping field perfect for star gazing as there is no light pollution at all.  This is our 4th year at Dernwood and were delighted this year to have the  new showers and toilets in the main car park, and with hot water.  We booked at the beginning of the year to stay in the Safari tent and WOW, what can I say.  We cooked a big stew over the fire (with meat from the shop, steaks are a must and so are the burgers all very reasonable) it was amazing, listening to all the wild life, we cant praise here enough.  Amanda and her family are all very accommodating and even the farm dogs great you with a welcome.

At the end of the day it is a field in the middle of the woods, if you are looking for a place with all mod cons then perhaps Sandy balls is more your style.  Thanks Amanda and co and see you all next year 

Sep 25, 2014 by Emma b
★☆☆☆☆

missed opportunity

We loved the idea of car free camp site and the woods were great. However the 600 mtr very rough track and poor buggies designed for a smooth road made kit transfer harder than it should have been. In fact very hard especially in the rain. They should allow cars to use the track at the back of the woods to transfer kit or thier own quad could do it. With young children in poor weather it became a real pain.

The field is also rough, electricity pylons run through, lots of low flying planes through the night for gatwick and there arent many good level pitches. Fires are allowed which is great but no foraging for kindling allowed and wood expensive.  Shop closed often and missing a lot of basic things. Toilets poor, filthy and few. No hot water for cleaning cookware. 

At £80 for a weekend it was also the most expensive camp site we have ever stayed at. Would strongly recommend anyone not to uae this site.

Aug 26, 2014 by campbell murray
★★★☆☆

Nice campsite, but could be nicer...

We stayed here a year ago and in general it was a lovely campsite and nice spot.  This review is mainly from the viewpoint of having small children with you, so if you don't have any then maybe the less positive parts are not so relevant for you. 

Positives: lovely open big space, great to have access to the farm animals wandering around, lovely woods, friendly campers and dog friendly pitches, reasonable loo facilities and one cold tap, open fires :)

Negatives: big space means noise reverberates around the whole field so not so good if you wanted to sleep, buzzing pylons at the bottom of the field where there was the only shade from the baking sun was a bit of a put off, looooooooooong walk with children to the camping field through the woods without being able to bring a car, farm shop was incredibly expensive (what farm shop isn't, but inflated prices more than a London butcher made me gulp!).

 In general we had a good time, but I think there are so many lovely campsites in the South that there is a lot of competition.  Maybe things are different this year!

Jul 22, 2014 by nancypearson
★★★★☆

Beautiful, friendly site!

Lovely family run site. I would really recommend it to anyone looking for something that isn't a big commercial site. It's real camping with a gorgeous walk through the woods to the camping fields. You can have a campfire too which is great. Beautiful woodlands to walk around and build dens in.

Run by a lovely family - who were nice enough to tow us out of the carpark when our van got stuck! The shop is great too... you have to try the sausage rolls!!!

Aug 23, 2013 by bambercass
★★★☆☆

Dernwood Farm Wild Camping

Great campsite for the kids. Pitched at the top of the field by the children's play area which is nestled on the outskirts of the woods. Beautiful walk around the campsite and the bluebells were a sea of purple. Truly stunning. On the downside it took us 4 trips with the large trolley to unload the car and take all our stuff to the field. Pretty tiring and not great if you have young children. The wind can really pick up across the field so pitching up on the far side or the bottom of the field is advisable although you will get a better view of the electricity wires and pylon! Shame as its a beautiful campsite. Would be nice to have hot water and showers/washing up stations. I spoke to the owners and it is planned for 2014. Lovely swimming pool in Hailsham that we took the kids to so we could have a hot shower and wash. You must try their home made lamb burgers. Fantastic. 

May 8, 2013 by MrsM1
★★★☆☆

Dernwood

Once you are all set up then this is a great camp site although there are some practical issues to be aware of if you have a young family. The half a mile walk through the woods gets very muddy in the wet (take wellies) and it is therefore somewhat of an endurance having to lug everything from your car to the field (and back again). As this is a camp site that is within easy range of London there is clearly going to be a high demand on trolleys on a Friday between 6 and 8 pm and again on a Sunday 10-12 am. Given that the the only other infrastructure on site are two pretty basic WCs and a cold water sink then I think it is not asking too much for more trolleys to be provided and some gravel placed on the muddy parts of the track. Another WC hut at the top end of the field would have been useful. Other than the inability to drive to the pitch to drop stuff off this is a great camp site so long as you are aware there is no shower block or hot water.
Jun 25, 2012 by Archie720
★★☆☆☆

Different site with good and bad points

Some notebable good and bad points on this site. On the plus side, the staff were friendly, the field was quiet and had very pleasant surroundings. It was also huge which meant there was a lot of space for pitching and playing. On the minus side, people shouldn’t understimate the time and effort in lugging stuff from the car park to the field. It was at least 10 minutes. There was also a lack of enough wheelbarrows so sometimes there were none to use. I would add an hour to two hours for both setting up and unpacking becuase of this. Not ideal after a long drive and or it is wet. Packing up was always in the back of your mind because of this. The other major issue with that there was only two loos, one cold water washing place and ONE DRIBBLY TAP for the whole huge field. This was totally inadequate. For the reasons above, I would question its suitability for families, especially ones with young kids.
Jun 25, 2012 by Dinesh Thanigasalam
★★★★☆

Dernwood Farm Wild Camping

A wonderfully warm welcome from Amanda greets us as we arrive, luckily still with plenty of daylight left as walking through the woods to the site in the dark is a quite a scary experience if you haven't been there before! Pick your trolley and wheelbarrow carefully as although it isn't a long walk (maximum 10 minutes at a slow pace) when your pushing and pulling your gear it can seem like miles.

But trust me the walk is worth it and all adds to the sense of adventure as Dernwood is wild camping it at it's best. A wonderfully large field, surrounded by woods makes for peace and quiet, isolation and when the sun sets wonderfully dark star filled skies. If your after glamping though this isnt for you. Two very basic toilets, cold running water only and beware the wind whips up the field at quite a pace.

Unlike the other reviewer the pylon didn't bother us or spoil the experience. Do make sure you buy some steak and taste their sausages - both were extremely tasty especially when cooked in the open.

At one point I commented that it was like camping in the 70s, children played with wild abandon, fires burned and we could hear the guitars and drums brought by other campers. We only stayed two nights but it was enough to soak in the atmosphere and know that we most certainly will return!

Sep 12, 2011 by JoFrazer-Wise
★★★☆☆

Dernwood Farm Wild Camping

This is a lovely campsite in many ways. Most of the information in the introductory text is absolutely correct - it just misses one important detail. It’s true that there is no electicity on site but unfortunately the existence of electricity is all to obvious as a major powerline runs right over the site with one of the pylons actually in the camping field. On the plus side, the campsite is in a wonderful setting tucked away in the woods, miles from any roads and you really do get a sense of being away from it all. It is also great to be able to have a camp fire and cook meat from the farm on it. Whilst it is possible to camp at the opposite end of the field some distance from the pylon it is quite hard to escape the view of it. I realise there is little the owners can do about this but unfortunately it would put me off visiting again.
May 24, 2011 by Wildcamper

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