Gislingham Road, Thornham Magna, Suffolk IP23 8HH
Deep in the wilds of north Suffolk, keen camper Jonathan set up this seven-acre campsite with his dad in 2011. It’s a simple spot exuding a Cool Camping vibe, with two grassy fields separated by a small lake with some adjoining woodland to explore. The position is perfect for bucolic strolls across the well-marked paths and bridleways of nearby Thornham Walks and for exploring the historic Walled Garden on the adjacent estate, which has recently been restored and is open on weekends.
Above all Swattesfield is a great place to simply do nothing and enjoy getting back to nature. You can erect your tent in the bottom field, spacious, green and peppered with daisies in the summer, or pitch up in the woodland beyond – ideal for those seeking a little more privacy. Glampers meanwhile have a range of options. Initially, Swattesfield kicked things off by offering boutique bell tents, complete with a full-size double bed and handy cooking facilities. Buoyed by their success, however, they then went on to build further glamping structures. Guests can now also find a pair of octagonal timber huts, with cute, peek-a-boo windows, and a converted Suffolk hay cart, refurbished to provide comfort, warmth and style while retaining its historic charm.
All of the glamping units come with their own gas ring, cooking utensils, picnic bench and campfire pit, with firewood available onsite. Regular tent campers, meanwhile, are equally encouraged to keep things old-school, with firepits for use and marshmallows for sale. It’s all part of the character of the place – a character that can only be realised with an owner who clearly loves camping himself. Some of Jonathan’s mates even built him a fabulous outdoor pizza oven almost entirely out of recycled materials – definitely something to use at some point during your stay!
Overall, Swattesfield is a site with a pleasantly chilled-out atmosphere situated in a very special location. The space the meadow affords could easily have been a recipe for ‘Tetris tents’ in their dozens, yet instead the opposite has been created. And, for that, we couldn’t be more grateful.
The Owner SaysSwattesfield campsite is set in the heart of the Suffolk countryside with access to delightful woodland walks and wildlife. There are two grassy fields separated by a small lake with some adjoining woodland to explore. It's a seven acre site with plenty of space yet an intimate feel, with around 15 tent or campervan pitches alongside our glamping accommodation allowed at any one time. There are no marked pitches so you can camp where you'd like; in the woods, near our pixie circle, in the glade, by the hedgerow or by the pond.
Pretty site but grumpy manager
Must say I read other people's reviews with amazement...not sure I stayed at the same place! There were a few positives - the fire pits you get are great, the wood fire pizza oven is a lovely idea and there was plenty of hot water - but more negatives overall I have to say. The campsite manager is far from friendly - after spending over 7 hours in traffic we arrived later than planned (at 8pm) and as I walked across the field to greet our friends, he barked at me to get our tent up! We were never sure when he would be around to buy wood or answer any questions, and you have to ask him to open the on site "shop". The fridge freezer is also kept locked away in the shop, rather than in the kitchen, so again you could never be sure when you would be able to access it as his hours seemed erratic. There is only 1 shower for each sex so unless you get up pretty early, you will always have to wait for a turn and the facilities could certainly do with a thorough clean. There are some nice ideas like a chalkboard and some building blocks in the kitchen area for the kids to play with but this is spoilt again by the manager barking at kids to "pick the blocks up or I'll take them away altogether!" We discovered a play area for the children (monkey bars and a swing) through the top field which would been nice to have been told about. I get the feeling it was nice a while ago but the owners perhaps don't have much involvement in the day to day running of the site, and it felt tired. Shame as it could be lovely with a little more care!
I have just come back from a stay here and had a truly fantastic time. We took my parents both of whom are first timers, more accustomed to luxurious hotels and even they loved it. We were extremely well looked after by Dave who kept the campsite clean and stocked up. Nothing was too much trouble. Despite it being peak season, numbers were restricted so it meant that I never had to queue for the shower. I also managed to leave my iPad there and got a call almost immediately so was able to pick it up. Thank you Dave!
Don't believe the website!
We’ve just returned from a 4-night break from Swattesfield and overall had a lovely time. We are very careful to book small campsites and after much research decided that Swattesfield sounded ideal – their website boasts no more than 6 tent pitches aside from their own bell tents, pixie huts and Shepherd’s hut and no groups of campers allowed. We were less than impressed to discover on our first night that while we had been out during the day, some noisy neighbours had arrived and pitched their tent less than 1 metre away from our guy ropes and there were far more than 6 tents. By the third night of our stay we counted 29 tents, which included 4 groups of campers, plus the campsites own accommodation. Put this in context with only one male and one female shower on site. When we voiced our disappointment we were greeted with an indifferent attitude from the site manager. It is such a shame as the campsite could be lovely but the facilities cannot cope with such a huge volume of guests.
Fantastic & Friendly
We had originally planned to go to Wales but due to the poor weather forecast we followed the sun to Suffolk. I called up on the day we were due to arrive and told we would be most welcome. If you want a friendly, quiet campsite this is the place for you. It is surrounded by the most beautiful woodland walks. Evenings are spent around a camp fire with plenty of space for children's games in the open area. (most tents were pitched around the edge of the field). The toilets were clean and drinking water available. The showers are fairly basic but nice hot powerful water. Dave the manager could not have been more helpful bringing us wood for our campfire and lending us a gas cooker as our kettle was taking ages to boil on the fire. There is a basic shop which, for their financial benefit as much as the campers benefit, could have been better stocked by Dave's own admission. All in all this is a fairly new camp site which they are building and i think in a few years it will be a very very popular place, so go now before it gets too busy. I would recommend travelling by car as the nearest train station is in Diss about 7 miles away. Taxis are around £18-£20 to Diss. Diss itself is a nice town unfortunately like most high streets it is taken over by Pound and charity shops. So i recommend walking up the hill to the "old town triangle" where you can find lovely shops, a fantastic Indian restaurant called Indian Cottage, art shops, pubs, etc. Seek out the Norfolk House Courtyard on St Nicholas Street for a lovely cafe, deli, old fashioned sweet shop. I was told they are pumping alot of lottery money in to this area also so i can imagine it becoming the go to area. If you see the chap selling local Pork Pies buy one as they are the best i've ever tasted!!
I wish Dave and the team the best of luck at Swattesfield as they deserve it.
Good but too busy
I chose this campsite based on what I read on their website. It states "There are only six pitches available so book early and we no longer accept group bookings". Unfortunately this is not the case, during my stay there were at least 15 tents including a large group comprising 7 tents! This campsite doesn't have enough shower/wash facilities for this many people and the 'boutique' atmosphere we were hoping for was not there. Apart from that, we had a great time, but I would not recommend if you are looking for a quiet, 'get away from it all' trip.
fantastic campsite. cant fault anything
Were just back from a great last minute weekend away to swattisfield campsite. I and my children had never been camping before so thought we would start of in a bell tent. This didn't dissapoint, spacious and comfortable, equipt with all the essentials, cutlery,pots pans, tea towels, gas hob etc. The site itself is exactly what we were looking for. Spacious, quiet and safe for the children. Having cooked all our meals on the firepit/tripod bbq, playing endless games of football and catch with the kids, taking the dog for some great walks and warm showers with great washing/wc facilities what more do you want from camping.
We would like to thank Dave the site manager for the hospitality and making our stay a great one (especially when the fire stopped working).
The kids especially enjoyed making their pizzas and being cooked on the pizza oven.
If your after a quiet, relaxing well presented campsite we would highly recommend swattisfield campsite.
There really is nothing better than waking up hearing the whistle of campers kettles then getting your own on the fire, cooking your breakfast while all the kids on the campsite played with smiles and laughs. If the kids are happy we are happy and swattisfield made all happy.
Many thanks Jonathan and Dave. We are already planning our next weekend there (may even bring our own tent next time)
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Lovely quiet site
Our first stay with swattersfield and it was lovely! The site is very peaceful and set around beautiful countryside. We stayed on until Monday so had the entire site to ourselves for the Sunday evening. This gave us the perfect opportunity to use the pizza oven! David, the site manager, really looked after us. The toilets were clean and well kept. Although I think the one shower might get a bit busy in the summer months. We have a sneak peek in the bell tens and the pixie huts. They looked brilliant and had everything you could need. Very tempted by them for the future. Although we like to try new sites each time, I think this is one of the best and we'll always have it in mind to return
Bell Tent Campers
This was our first time at Swattesfield, our friends had recommended it and it didn't disappoint! We were greeted by the site warden and he was very helpful for our whole stay of 4 nights. It was easy to find and just enough out of the way. The bell tent was great and the bed was comfy. The facilities are basic, but more than adequate. With lots of hot water, shower and washing up facilities. Also the fridge and freezer came in handy. We had fantastic weather and its a great base to visit the coast (we did Southwold) and the historic Framlingham Castle. Really lovely campsite and great campers, the kids had a blast running around and playing games with the other kids camping. The Pizza oven was great fun as well, it became a social point.
We will definitely be back soon and would recommend.
The only minor gripe was the unseasoned wood that was supplied for sale. A bit of a smokey fire rather than a flame to gather round at night.
Let down by
I visited the site this year with friends and our children and I'll admit to being dissappointed enough to write some feedback. During our stay there were repeated issues with the hot water and at one point the cold water in the wash facilities. This was dissappointing.
After the matter had continuing into the second day I was again fustrated by the lack of presence from the owner who during my four day stay I only saw once and that was when I went to pay for my stay.
Now it might be that I am comparing this site to one I stayed at the week prior to visiting this site, there the owner was very present. He popped round on a regular basis and shared info, weather forecasts etc and was charming with it.
I also considered the sites facilities to be tired and generally poor. You can make wash facilities earthy and rural without looking rundown, which I guess makes them harder to clean as well.
The site has plenty of potential and hopefully the owner will take time to address the faults, but given the other better alternatives available I'd look elsewhere first next time.
Response from the campsite owner:
Thank you so much for your constructive review. We continue to develop Swattesfield Campsite, ensuring it represents the relaxed informal and car free campsite with great, limitless and free hot water, and all with clean and open facilities for all. Unfortunately the period you stayed coincided with an emergency power cut by National Grid, completely out of our control - this prevented the pumps from working for our fresh water borehole and consequently no water. A sign was placed for all visitors to see and I personally visited every camper when this happened but there were some campers that had left for the day to visit the beautiful Suffolk countryside and so was obviously unable to speak with you at the time. All campers are free to contact me if they have specific queries but Swattesfield Campsite is a low density, intimate campsite and experience has shown that many campers like to be left to enjoy the walks and open space on the campsite. There is plenty of information and walks maps on the open kitchen and near the free to use fridge and freezer.
It's obviously unfortunate that you felt the need to post your experience here, many months after your visit and without mentioning your issues when we met when I would have been more than happy to explain.
As can be seen by the numerous excellent reviews already received you can see yours is an unusual experience. And here is some recent feedback around the time you also stayed: "I never had to queue and enjoyed a piping hot shower every day", "Well run and well located", "the shower was very good, always hot water when we used it", "nothing disappointed us from the cleanliness ... and the facilities", "We found Jonathan, the owner, to be friendly, helpful and laid back", so it may be your interpretation of rural facilities are simply the location of Swattesfield Campsite being of a delightful countryside location with easy access to walks, play areas, pubs and restaurants not to be what you're looking for. Kind regards, Jonathan
Lovely relaxed site
Have just returned from 3 nights at this campsite and had a lovely time. We were camping with our two young children and were keen to find a site that didn't allow cars and that was family friendly.
The site is divided into two fields and we stayed in the lower field (which also contains some bell tents and log cabins). Cars are only allowed in this field while dropping and picking up belongings. The upper field seems lovely and offers some hidden camping spots within the woodland (as well as some hidden rope swings) but this field contains an unfenced lake that we felt was just too dangerous with an 18 month old.
This site overall is very relaxed. We were happy to be able to let the little ones roam a little and they had a great time playing with some neighbouring children. It was a real plus that campfires are allowed (using the provided fire pits). Jonathan the owner was friendly and on hand to answer queries from time to time but generally seems to leave the campers to enjoy themselves. It is nice to be able to chose your pitch wherever you fancy and the layout of the site suggests that it would rarely feel packed. The shower/toilet block is more basic than some sites but is MORE than adequate and although there is only one shower, I never had to queue and enjoyed a piping hot shower every day.
This is a great spot for real campers. Well run and well located. We would be VERY happy to return.
Family birthday celebration
We needed a campsite that would cater for a large family group for our first camping experience. We were lucky that we found Swattisfield. We had a bell tent, a Pixie hut and the Shepherds hut, all 3 provided excellent accommodation for 4 people and 5 in the bell tent. The utensils, cooking facilities were very good, we cooked breakfasts and dinners on 2 days. Never having used shower/toilet blocks before, we were thinking that maybe a week without a shower would be ok. But the shower was very good, always hot water when we used it. The kids (5 aged between 9 and 2) loved the space and freedom of running around outside. I have had quite a bit of communication with Jonathan before our visit, during our visit and since we arrived home and at all times I have found him to be very friendly, very helpful and fair. Wanting to spend a special birthday with all the family but conscious of costs for some, Swattisfield ticked all boxes, we loved it.
Had a lovely, relaxing time for 3 nights in a Bell Tent with our doggy. The Bell Tent itself is really cute – tonnes of space, really comfy bed and a straw carpet. They provide you with a gas cooker and all plates/cutlery. We went just before kids broke up for summer holidays and so the campsite was really quiet – perfect! Jonathan is really friendly and you barely see him after you check in – nice to be left to your own devices. Facilities are basic but no less than you need.
It’s a fair walking distance to the local pub or shop (especially in the heat!) Local forests are lovely, but the heat is absolutely baking in the open wheat fields. Have no complaints about our stay, just that the local area has relatively little in terms of breathtaking landscape. The area is very flat and so there is a lack of sightseeing such a mountains or streams/lakes where you could have perhaps dangled your legs in the summer heat.
But if you love Suffolk, this is the place for you!
P.S- there is a great tree swing in the forest off the back part of the campsite where the Shepherds Huts are!! Nice forest too :)
Beware of the lack of phone signal in the campsite or anywhere locally! Luckily the local pub, The Four Horseshoes, kindly let us borrow their landline to call a cab! We did discover that there was signal in the forest by the Shepherds Huts though – strangely!
Just Perfect! :)
My partner and i have just returned from a spontaneous weekend away (along with our pug) at Swattesfield and it couldn't have been better. We arrived at 11pm Friday eve after deciding we'd like to get away from everything for a few days and nothing disappointed us from the cleanliness of the tent and the facilities, the facilities which were provided, the walks we went on and the fab country pub we found. The atmosphere was extremely relaxed with an honesty box for the kindling and logs if we wanted them (which we did!). We started the saturday having breakfast at the local cafe and then headed out on the walking trails (for which maps are provided) ending up at the four horseshoes pub which was really lovely and the food was amazing too. We then returned to camp, lit our fire pit and laid outside our bell tent for the evening with nothing but the sound of birds and our conversation to listen to which was for us was wonderful. A weekend with no phones, TVs or iPads was exactly what we wanted. We don't normally write reviews but after visiting here we couldn't not write one. Thanks for such a lovely weekend, we will most definitely be back :)
Me and my boyfriend chose this campsite for a weekend away from technology, for his birthday and just to enjoy ourselves. Went by train and a cab, cab service was bad, charged way to much for a 15 minute drive because he got lost, nothing to do with the campsite. However, it was just a really pleasant weekend, we arrived on Friday 6th June and got a warm welcome greeting from Jonathan, the campsite owner, he told us where everything was and where we could find the shop, which was very helpful indeed. After we found our place to pitch our tent we went to explore everything that was around us. The walk to the shop was a bit of a pain in the hot weather as we had to walk through a lot of fields and tall grass however it was a really nice atmosphere and good to be away from London. We had great weather the whole time we were there. Every night we made our own little fire with the fire pits given to us and the wood that we brought on site, the best part was the roasted marshmallows. For my first time camping it was a pretty good experience, unfortunately me and my boyfriend forgot some things which was annoying as we planned it out for so long. The showers there are clean and have a temperature dial so you can choose how you want it, which was nice. The toilets were clean and always lit up of a night time so you could see where you were going. The nature was very pretty and I loved it. On our second to last day we were the only ones left on the campsite which was very peaceful. On our last day we had time to waste so we walked around for a while and found a tree craved into a lion and saw what we think to be a wild deer. Even though our last day was really stressful with trying to get home as all of the cab companies wouldnt take our calls or they wouldnt come to where we were or none of the were avaliable, for a long while we thought we weren't going to get home and catch our train, so we thought we were going to have to walk 6 miles to the train station however Jonathan the campsite owner kindly offered to give us a lift to the station which we couldn't be more thankful about and appreciative. The worst part of the whole thing was the journey through London on tubes in rush hour as we had heat stroke from being in the sun the whole weekend and forgetting suncream so we were burnt, and the packed out hot stuffy trains didn't help. This was nothing to do with the campsite though even with all of hassle me and my boyfriend had a great weekend break together here away from everything and just being together. I want to thank Jonathan for being so generous to us otherwise we would of been stuck. I will like to go here again but I think I'll wait until I can drive as everything is a lot easier and you can get around easier.
Shelby Lewis and Luke Miller.
Great tranquil site
Swattesfield campsite is situated in lovely countryside with pleasant surrounding villages, a secluded location, well away from main roads. Although there is a train line nearby, it is far enough away that the sound is not a disturbance.
You can access the Thornham walks directly from the gate which is a huge plus for the campsite for us. As well as the local woods, these walks can take you through surrounding countryside and villages around the Thornham estate along quiet, lovely and well waymarked paths. The nearby Forge Café does a nice cuppa, cakes and meals, and is recommended.
Also recommended is the Four Horseshoes inn, that does a good meal at a fair price, and a nice selection of ales, ciders, etc.
The site itself is pretty in a natural way, and surrounded by trees, hedges and wildlife - a real ‘relax and enjoy nature’ kind of place. The pitches are unmarked, and the provided fire pits are great, adding to the back to basics feel.
We visited just after the Easter holiday as others were leaving, and so had the site to ourselves. But with the size of the site and the number of pitches that are advertised, I can’t imagine it feeling too busy. It really does feel as if it is run more as a hobby than a commercial enterprise.
The facilities block is basic, but clean and more than adequate, with plentiful hot water. Washing up is undercover. There are the ‘fridge and freezer for campers use, and nice little touches like leaflets for surrounding attractions, map of the local area, a couple of shelves of books to borrow from, the weather forecast on a blackboard, etc.
We found Jonathan, the owner, to be friendly, helpful and laid back. He appears to rely on campers natural consideration for others rather than a long list of rules to be followed, asking only for sensible things like parking your car near the entrance once you've unloaded to keep the site car free, and keeping fires off the grass to keep it looking nice.
Our visit was partly to celebrate a special birthday, and so we opted to stay in one of the glamping accommodations - the shepherds hut. This was fantastic, lovely inside, a great wood burning stove to keep the chill at bay in the evening, even solar lighting. Picnic bench, ‘cooking station’ and fire pit. Very comfortable and highly recommended.
And even though we came to ‘glamp’ on this occasion, we would love to visit this campsite again with our tent.
Would definitely recommend!
Had an overall enjoyable experience at this campsite.
The site and surrounding areas were very lovely (even though it was a grey and rainy weekend), lots of walks on offer, and the facilities available were very good. I had gone to get away from London for the weekend and be just out in the countryside by myself (great since I was the only person there that weekend) and that is exactly what I got. The owner was very friendly and easy to have a conversation with as well as helpful while I was there. While shops and pubs are not extremely close they are hardly a difficult trek from the campsite and are in two very nice and friendly villages nearby. All in all I would definitely go again and recommend it to others who would like to get away to the countryside for the weekend.
not quite cool...
Had a nice night, good weather helped, and a nice pitch in the trees, but the site is let down by lots of small things: It's looking very tired after only a few years (last years pizza oven is falling apart), I would not call it small-child safe with the unfenced pond and the map and signs are pretty useless. Also, if they are pitching at this end of the market, then the "Ryan Air" approach to pricing needs to go, in that if they say they provide fire pits, they need to make it clear that this is only if you pay for their wood and kindling! Lastly, there are two good sorts of campsite owners, those you never see, and those you do see, but who are properly friendly and don't make you feel like you've suddenly appeared in their back-garden! Lastly....maybe a small thing to some people, but the main reason I won't be back, or recommending it; when I shake hands with someone, and introduce myself, the other person is supposed to do the same....VERY rude!
Response from campsite owner:A warm welcome is always open at Swattesfield Campsite to all lovely campers that are looking for a delightfully natural and open country campsite. For those happy campers looking for dappled walks, free-to-use showers, pizza oven, fridge and freezer, with a large double sink station and covered information area and car-free environment it's a welcome breath of fresh air.
We welcome all campers that would like open fires, to get back to real camping if they wish with the freedom to camp almost where they wish as we don't have marked pitches. And for those that would like more comfort then there is always one of our Bell Tents. With double beds and two further kids beds if needed, there is also it's own cooking station with all your cooking implements, your own picnic table and fire pit you - really only need bring your bedding. We greet with open arms any camper that would like to stay in our Pixie Hut; big enough for two adults and two children, it has it's own wood-burning stove, outside chimenea, picnic table and all your cooking equipment. It's called a Pixie Hut because it's cute, quaint and set in the trees and it helps to keep trolls away - we don't like trolls.
Swattesfield Campsite is nature's garden, a truly back to nature experience where campers have the experience of seeing many wild birds and animals with Herons, Kingfishers, Moorhens and Eegrets all frequenting the natural pond on the upper field. On the lower field, which is almost two acres large, there is plenty of room for campers and is surrounded by trees and hedges and a real sun-trap. From here there's easy access to the free-to-use showers and free-to-use fridge and freezer to pop your cool beers, wines and ice-creams in. From the main camping area the free-to-use Thornham Walks offers 12 miles of way-marked walks where campers can visit the 11th Century thatched pub, The Four Horseshoes. Walkers can also take the easy going woodland paths to The Forge Cafe and free-to-use play area. There's also The Coach House - a family run cafe/restaurant offering delicious home cooked food at great value.
Back to Swattesfield Campsite and campers can choose to have a fire and, whilst firewood literally does grow on trees, it's unable to be sustainable, slow-grown hard wood, dried, seasoned, hand-cut and netted for your convenience and like the fire wood we sell, there is also the hand cut kindling, dried, bagged and small enough to start the fire in our firepits. The fire pits we use are specifically chosen to be raised off the ground thus avoiding scorching and killing the grass below and keeping the site looking as lovely as possible. We also actively discourage campers that wish to burn and destroy the hedgerows and surrounding trees which are homes to many birds and insects and are a key part of the lifecycle of a real countryside campsite.
Then there is the hand made, clay pizza oven, full of character and charm and a delight to cook in with a little practice! The pizza oven was made by squelching clay, straw and grit to make the perfect consistency so it will hold it's shape and retain the heat for cooking. The free-to-use pizza oven is an organic cooking station which is offered continuous tlc throughout the seasons to maintain it's appearance.
Swattesfield Campsite is lovely, we love lovely people to come and stay, to relax and enjoy a warm welcome, a great country side environment, that has space and big skies for small and big kids to enjoy.
With Love, Swattesfield Campsite
P.S. Hugs are always available to cheer you up...they're free too!
This is a fantastic site, very, very pretty and well run by Jonathan and Phil who are very easy going but accommodating when you have a need.
The showers and toilets are pretty basic but the location is superb and caravans are banned so if you are a proper camper this is a great site. There are plenty of decent pubs and shops nearby. Firepits are available for real fires.
The site is great and very safe for children who have plenty of room, including a woods and playing field, to make their own fun. There are a few homemade swings and he most fantastic natural 'bushcraft' den.
The site is not far from the London/Norwich main line, which can be irksome sometimes but the trains are few and far between, just the odd one very late at night or very early in the morning.
We've been three times now, including a week-long break so it's definitely recommended.