Site Details for Dernwood Farm

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Dernwood Farm is a small family run farm near Heathfield in Sussex, our main business is our pedigree Sussex beef herd, traditional breed pigs and free range chickens, but we realise that the land we are privileged enough to walk round everyday is something very special. At Little Dernwood Farm we have one of the largest blocks of coppice woodland in East Sussex. They are formally identified as semi-natural ancient woodland being the vestige of the dark and forbidding forest that covered The Weald in ancient time, and the camping field is set within the very heart of these 70 acres of woodland.

Received 08-10-2010 18:54 from Matt

This is our second year camping at Dernwood and we will be going back next year.
We have a massive family tent as we have four kids and we go for two weeks at a time. This year we left things a little late in booking and according to their website the weekends were fully booked. After a quick email to the owner Amanda, everything was OK. Because we were staying for a decent amount of time (not just a long weekend) she was able to squeeze us in. I say squeeze but there is so much room in the field that for the most of our stay the closest any other campers got to us was a good 100 meters or so away. Only at the weekend when it got a little busier did anyone camp close and even then that was 20 – 30 meters away. So if any of you are thinking of a long stay I’d say don’t let the ‘fully booked’ weekends put you off - it’s definitely worth asking.
Space! One of the great things about Dernwood is all the space there is around. One of the main concerns we have with such a large tent (7m x 7m) is conforming to strict guidelines laid out by other ‘mean’ camp sites that say you have to fit between the lines or pay extra for larger tents. There’s none of that here. We’re free to set up anywhere that suits. Some people even set up camp in the woods that surround the whole field. We even saw a few lads set up hanging bivouacs and sleep in them for a couple of nights!
With all the space, the fact that no cars are allowed on the camping field and no roads anywhere nearby; this means you can let the children roam free. No need to keep your eye on them nonstop! Just sit down, poke the fire, sip your drink and chill. It’s amazing how easily children make friends with other children. We often saw our kids playing with others, making dens in the woods or generally wearing each other out running round. The field is so large that even with kids playing, they are well out of the way so as not to bother other campers with their playing or noise. The woods are a great distraction for them as well. It makes a nice change to see the kids entertaining themselves with outdoor life rather than staring at a TV screen or playing Xbox. Screaming kids at 7am in the morning (see previous review) is not a thing we would allow in our tent. I think the trick is to let them stay up later than normal around the fire as they were often still in bed long after we woke.
Things have even improved since our stay last year. The mud track from the car park to the field has drainage and is now lined with stones/shingle. So no need for wellington boots anymore! This makes things a LOT easier to wheelbarrow your belongings to and fro.
Another aspect that has improved are the toilets. There are now two toilets in a sturdy building. This also has a draining board/sink area that proved popular for washing dishes in. The hosepipe is still there on the outside of this building with some paving for filling your water canisters. I was also impressed that the owner visits the loos every single morning to make sure they are clean and tidy. There are no lights or power in them so bring a torch at night!
There are only a few rules: Use an existing firepit, keep the noise low late evening and don’t hog the wheel barrows. All common sense really.
The main reason we originally chose Dernwood was that they allowed real fires. I don’t think we’ll ever go to a site that doesn’t allow this now. There’s nothing like sitting around the warmth of a camp fire, enjoying the peace whilst spotting shooting stars and satellites in the night sky. There is no light pollution from nearby towns to spoil this either. It really was great to get away from civilisation, noise, TV and just get back to basics.
We tried a little of the food that Dernwood produce this time. Blow me! we should have done it last year! The sausages were fab and tasted great cooked on an open fire. I recommend you try everything they have to offer.
As far as getting supplies - Horam is the nearest village 5 minutes away. Not much there though. Heathfield is a larger village and has a hardware store and a large coop store which is 10 minutes away. Hailsham is 20 minutes away and has a large Tesco, KFC and many more shops if you really need to return to consumerism for a bit. Eastbourne is 45 minutes away and has the beach and many many superstores. One place to visit for the day is Birling Gap. It has a scenic walk along the chalk cliffs to a lighthouse, a café and of course chalk boulders on the beach.
A few tips I would suggest would be to bring a push bike if you can. This makes the world of difference when trekking back along the 10 minute path for those items you forgot and left in the car, or sending the kids to buy some more sausages from the owner. Unless you like walking of course!
Also, for those of you that like to stay for more than a couple of days (proper campers): bring along a watering can, windbreaker, bucket and a large pot. You can then have glorious warm showers in the outdoors with water heated on the fire. There’s nothing like it!
If I had to criticise or suggest improvements I would say –
We could do with a shelf in each toilet cubicle for your torch and loo roll to rest on. The floor can get wet and muddy when it rains. A separate sink to wash your hands in whilst people do their washing up would go down well. And perhaps smaller shingle could go over the bumpier stones along the 10 minute path to make it easier/smoother. But hey that’s getting really fussy!
We stayed directly under the pylons this time round. Yes there are a few amusing static shocks that can be had if you have a large metal pole tent or umbrella directly underneath but nothing that will harm you or be dangerous. You can easily still be near the toilet block without going under the pylons. And those without metal pole tents (carbon fibre rods) shouldn’t even notice the static. I would say the pylons cover a mere 3% of available camping area leaving plenty of static free options. So not much to complain about.
All in all this is the greatest campsite we have ever visited. The owner is incredibly friendly and helpful. There is a peace and tranquility unlike any other site. No rowdy groups making a nuisance of themselves late into the night. Freedom for the kids to wander. Decent food and a real fire to socialise around of an evening. I recommend you stay for at least a week to soak it all up!
Ten out of ten.

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