Rother Valley, East Sussex

We only stayed here for one night, and it was for a birthday party. All things considered, it was a great place for a party, but I’m not sure we would have wanted to stay here if we had come alone.

We didn’t have the greatest welcome to the site… when we arrived, we were advised that the campsite was full. Full even to those who had reserved a pitch. Now, call me old fashioned, but if you ‘book’, you expect to get in. Apparently not at Park Farm, and this is because it’s a free for all. There are no marked pitches on the site, so if campers pitch ‘inconsiderately’, i.e. they take up too much space, then there isn’t room for everyone who might have booked a place. Apparently there are 50 electric hook ups but I’m not sure how you go about getting one of those – it’s probably best to arrive on a weekday.  Anyway, once we had explained we were part of a “group booking”, we were suddenly allowed in.

Who needs a tent?

As we looked around to find the rest of our group, we realised that this is a huge site. The farm itself is 300 acres. The campsite has at least 3 massive fields, and though there are no pitches as such, I’d estimate that more than 500 people were staying at Park Farm that night (and no, they weren’t all with our party!). It feels a bit like a campsite associated with a festival (maybe that’s just because they have on-site security guards!). Maybe I’m being unfair – it’s probably nice and relaxing on other days of the week.  But be warned; don’t come here if you want a bit of peace and quiet.

As a pitch-free campsite, there is no screening to break up the fields; it’s just a big open space. This means there is plenty of space to run around in – play rounders, fly kites, have barbecues. Camp fires are also allowed, and you can buy logs (though I suggest you take your own if you want wood that burns rather than smokes). There is also a play area with a massive zip slide to keep the kids amused. There’s no shop though so make sure you’ve stocked up before you arrive.

The facilities are relatively new, but with this number of people using them, I don’t think it would be possible to keep them clean and stocked with toilet paper all day and night. But they’re probably better when the site is quieter. Now, I realise that not everyone who goes camping wants to shower every morning, but I do. With a campsite this big, 11 showers (5 for the girls and 4 for boys) don’t go far. The toilets are similarly busy, as is the washing up area (there are about 6 sinks in the room). Recycling facilities are also provided.

Dogs (on leads) are welcome and there are some nice walks locally. Park Farm is situated in the beautiful Sussex countryside, close to Bodiam Castle (National Trust), which you can walk to from the campsite along the river in about 20-30 minutes. There is also a dog friendly pub (The Castle Inn) next to the castle where we went for a lovely meal.

Park Farm describes itself as a ‘relaxed and traditional’ site which is very true. It’s great for groups and those wanting a bit of freedom from the policies of some of the more regimented campsites. But it’s probably not to everyone’s tastes on a Saturday in the middle of July.

Campsite charges (2010) are £8 per adult per night (£10 on bank holiday weekends), £4 for children and £2 for dogs.

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Park Farm, Bodiam, East Sussex2.32010-09-13T21:50:00+00:00Sarah