Outjoyment with Summer time camping

Bluebells at the Secret Campsite

At The Secret Campsite, we’ve always talked about connecting people with nature and were thrilled to read this article about Outjoyment. Spring time camping is just around the corner, so now is a great time to mention it, as the sap starts to rise.

A major research study, commissioned by the camping and caravaning club was undertaken by a team of reasearchers at Liverpools John Moores University and Sheffield Hallam University.

This confirms how camping in the great outdoors improves peoples well being and health. Some stats include;

Pitching a tent at the Secret Campsite


• 97% of campers say happiness is their top motivator for going camping while 48% of campers reported feeling happy almost every day, compared with 35% of non campers
• More connected to nature: 93% go camping to enjoy being in nature – the second highest motivator after happiness, and they score highly on measures of nature connection
• Enjoying better well-being: 93% of campers value camping for the benefits it gives to their health and well-being – an increase on the 85% of our Real Richness Report in 2011
• Flourishing: 44% are flourishing (have optimal mental health) compared with 31% of non campers. This increases for those who camp more often
• Less stressed: 88% of campers are motivated to go camping to take time out of everyday life and have higher levels of psychological well-being than non campers.

The Secret Campsite

We firmly believe its critical to have a connection to nature. This is really important for your wellbeing. At the Secret Campsite we try to make sure that you are as close to nature as possible and strive to keep the site peaceful to enable as many glimpses of nature as we can.

Deer in the meadow at the Secret Campsite

Nature here

Watch out for the glowworms in July, the butterflies in June, the adders in April and May. Listen to the dawn chorus and the Nightingales from March to May. Smell the flowers and the rain. Touch the grass. Count the stars. We are re-opening on Friday 24 March for Spring camping. Hope to see you soon!


The Secret Campsite’s new warden

Steffi - the Secret Campsite warden

We’re thrilled to introduce Steffi as our first campsite warden at the Secret Campsite. Steffi is a seasoned camper and traveller with bags of great stories and many experiences up her sleeve.

Steffi will be here each weekend, Friday through to Sunday. Plus during the school holidays when she will be supported by the long standing team member Rosanna.

Meet Steffi!

Steffi is tasked with greeting and welcoming all our campers. Selling all the essential components of a camping trip including firewood, ice lollies, locally produced meat boxes, cider and ales. Alongside offering lots of helpful info about the best Sussex pubs, walks, Sussex beaches and where to spot butterflies and glowworms. Not to mention keeping the facilities spotlessly clean and well stocked.

We are thrilled to have Steffi join us here in Sussex at the Secret Campsite.

The Secret Campsite features BBC Countryfile AND George Clark’s Amazing Spaces

George Clark Amazing Spaces at the Secret Campsite with Tree Tents

This has been a very exciting week at the Secret Campsite. Firstly George Clark came over here to interview Tree Tents Designer Jason Thawley. Then we were featured in BBC Countryfile’s article “Best Forest Campsites in the UK in 2023”

BBC Countryfile

You can read the BBC Countryfile article here.

It also mentions the wonderful Nest Collective who run their annual “Singing with Nightingales” with Sam Lee, nearby. Although strictly speaking we are in a meadow , we do border beautiful Knowlands Woods which is full of birdsong, nightingales, butterflies and home to a multitude of wildlife.

BBC Countryfile article

George Clark’s Amazing Spaces

The Tree Tent at the Secret Campsite has been happily snuggled up in three old oak trees since 2013. George first met designer Jason Thawley over 10 years ago. Ten years later, a reunion was very much due. Cue a top secret visit here last summer.

George and Jason, deep in discussion at The Secret Campsite

George also looked at the Okra shelter, one of the three Shelters that Jason has designed for the Secret Campsite. We think it passed the seal of approval!

Centrestage for the Okra at the Secret Campsite

You can view the series on Channel 4 and a clip of the episode here. Courtesy of Plum Pictures Productions.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at the Secret Campsite

It’s that time again

Every year the Big Garden Birdwatch helps the RSPB to monitor how garden birds are faring. It helps the RSPB to build a picture of how our UK birds are coping with the challenges of the nature and climate crisis. Sadly the UK has lost over 38 million birds over the last 50 years and The UK red List for Birds keeps track of 245 species , with birds listed as “Red” deemed most at risk. You can view the link here

And the timer starts now..

We sharpen our pencils, encourage the neighbouring cats to take a hike and sit down with a cup of tea. And start counting all the birds in the garden.

What did we see?

To cut to the chase we saw one of the following Great Tit, Robin, Crow. However we saw 2 x Blackbirds, 2 x Magpies, 2 x Sparrows.

Birds aplenty

By now we were getting pretty good at this twitching thing. We were visited by 3 x Rooks, 4 x Starlings, and 14 x Pigeons. 2022 vs 2023 numbers?

Sadly we saw no Goldfinch’s, Great Spotted Woodpecker, or a Heron unlike last year. But we did see a Goldcrest today over by the Tree Tent! The other good news is that last summer we were visited by a flock of Nightingales here on the old railway track and most definitely we heard the cuckoo in Spring. It was very persistent. Please continue to let us know what you have heard when you are staying here.

Birds at the Secret Campsite

We see many varieties of birds here at the campsite. We have put up some bespoke accommodation for them including swift houses, sparrow hotels, swallow cups, robin nests and a starling box. All of these have been occupied at different times, but not always by the target species. Many were purchased from the RSPB shop.

We love participating in the Big Garden Birdwatch and have inked it in the diary for next year already.

Autumn Camping at the Secret Campsite

mushroom foraging at the secret campsite

Autumn at the Secret Campsite has arrived.

The school holidays are almost over and our peaceful little campsite will miss our young campers. And all their questions. We are often astounded by the wildlife knowledge that many have. It’s great to learn from them.

Smells and colours

blackberries at the secret campsite

Autumn brings with it a fresh colour. The brown parched grass suddenly turns to emerald green, the leaves turn to amber and it all smells different. There’s a great word for that distinctive smell, “Petrichor”. 

As described by the Met Office  “Petrichor is the smell of rain. The word comes from the Greek words ‘petra’, meaning stone, and ‘ichor’, which in Greek mythology refers to the golden fluid that flows in the veins of the immortals”

Colours and smells aside, the hedgerows and trees are full of ripe fruits. Dotted around the campsite, in both the meadow are blackberries, rosehips, bullaces, sloes and nuts. Our apple trees are hanging low with apples from which we will make our apple juice. 


The sounds of Autumn are pretty special. From mid-September to early November is the sound of the deer rut. This takes place, loudly in neighbouring Knowland’s Wood. During this time, competing males, pumped full of testosterone will engage in a series of behaviours designed to attract the attention of the female deer and establish dominance over other males. The noise can be eerie, it sounds like a very loud croak or in the words of the Country Deer Stalker organisation, a deep-throated belch.


red apple at the secret campsite

From the trees….

Our friends at Generation Gin, produce a wonderful Sloe gin containing the Secret Campsite sloes. Try it is delicious!

Jane, aka the Hedgewitch, creates many wonderful products from foraging around in the hedgerows Her lovely oils, cordials and sauces can be found in the campsite office. We love making use of all our foraged goodies!

From the ground…

The mushrooms are popping up overnight too. Magical Puffball mushrooms, which once identified, make for a delicious soup, whilst others look too otherworldly to do anything but marvel at their colours and textures. 

Local photographer Max Mudie (who photographed the Secret Wildlife Festival here in 2018) captures mushrooms brilliantly. His work can be viewed here

For those who aren’t planning on unpacking the tent, we have 3 great permanent structures, The Okra cabin and The Tree Tent both sleep 3 people whilst the Gridshell accommodates 4-5 people.

Here’s to the next season of camping. We look forward to a jolly Autumn!

Big Butterfly Count at the Secret Campsite

Big Butterfly Count 2022 at the Secret Campsite Lewes

The Big Butterfly Count (BBC) is a UK-wide survey aimed at helping the Butterfly Conservation Society to assess the health of the environment simply by counting the amount and types of butterflies (and some day flying moths) we see. 

This year it starts on Friday 15 July and runs until Sunday 7 August. We want our campers to join in!

Silver Fritillary at the Secret Campsite, photographed by James Pearson.
Silver Washed Fritillary at the Secret Campsite – James Pearson

How to join in?

Come to Reception where we will give you a printed sheet to fill in.

Then choose a place to spot butterflies and moths. We can give you some suggestions here. perhaps the camping meadow or along the old railway track? Watch for 15 minutes. Then record what species you see.

You will need to avoid counting the same butterfly multiple times, so you need to be sharp eyed with your spotting!

Then return your completed form to reception. We will submit your counts on behalf of The Secret Campsite, Sussex.

You can see how your own data is contributing to conservation and science here

Top 5 UK Butterflies

According to the Butterfly Conservation Society, the top 5 Butterflies in 2021 were: Small White, Large White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Red Admiral. 

Images of the top 5 butterflies in the UK, including Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Large White
Top 5 UK Butterflies- come see them at the Secret Campsite

Butterflies at the Secret Campsite

Here at the Secret Campsite we are home to many butterflies. Our most frequently spotted butterflies are the Marbled White, Brimstone and Skipper. 

Marbled White butterfly, taken by Colin Gibbs from the Butterfly Conservation Sussex branch
Marbled White at the Secret Campsite

In 2020 the Sussex Butterfly Conservation visited the Secret Campsite and they sighted Ringlet, Gatekeeper, Marbled White and the Purple Hairstreak

What will you spot?

Here are some top tips from BBC Wildlife Magazine including; watch the forecast as most butterflies fly only on sunny calm days or on overcast days over 20°C. Move slowly so that your shadow doesn’t fall on them. More tips here

Do get involved! Come and ask for a sheet at Reception and we will tell you the best spots for you to watch and count! 

Good luck! 

Artist in residence at The Secret Campsite

Artist in Residence at the Secret Campsite - Clara Wilkinson

Clara Wilkinson is our very first Artist In Residence. As a graduate of both Central St Martins and London Guildhall, her work is truly beautiful. 

Happy as a lark

Clara’s been hanging out here at the site, and can be vaguely seen in the distance somewhere. Perched on a deckchair, with a fistful of brushes, a smorgasbord of watercolours and a merry hat plonked on her head, she is as happy as a lark. 

Painting alongside the bugs and the grasses

As a painter who dwells on the South Coast, her work is nature inspired and very beautiful. Capturing the magentas, fire reds and verdant greens that are currently prolific around the campsite, Clara’s a hive of activity. 

The paintings are coming along at a steady rate and are much admired by the wildlife. Bugs are continually landing on them for  a recce. Stoically hanging off a leaf nearby, is a little snail who is about 1 metre from the paintbrush!

Snails getting up close

Sharing Nature

We are hosting the Artists Residency as a way of sharing the nature that we are surrounded by. Being based in the Sussex countryside means we are treated to the sight of wild flowers, insects, butterflies, owls, deer, starry nights, snakes, nightingales and glow worms on a continual basis, and we know how lucky we are! We are signed up to Get Nature Positive, a global campaign striving to protect and restore the natural world.

The old railway track

The Residency is an opportunity for someone to come and spend 5 days or so, down here, enjoying real camping or just visiting by day, and really getting away from it all.

Mental health and nature

Inspiration comes from many sources; conversations, music, nature, places etc and time away from our usual curtails can be immensely rewarding. As we all know, nature and our mental health is entwined. 

We found Clara kind of by accident, recommended by a friend, but we seem to have a few acquaintances in common. 

We have loved having Clara on site and whilst sad that her spell here has come to an end, she has promised to return and paint the bluebells in Knowlands Woods next spring… watch this space.

Wildlife at the Secret Campsite

As one half of Living Murals, Clara is awaiting publication of her first book, in October 2022. You can read more here and pre-order your copy here.

If you would like to come and have an Artists Residency here, then please do get in touch with Tim. 

Nature and our mental health

Our relationship with nature really does benefit our mental health. 

45% of people in the UK said that visiting green spaces helped them to cope throughout the pandemic. Source Mental Health Foundation

Trees around the Secret Campsite

This may be defined by how much we notice, think about and appreciate the natural world. This could be in the form of walking in green spaces or woodland, growing plants, swimming in the sea and even watching nature documentaries. 

We all know the term “fresh air and exercise” and how it’s long been heralded as being the key to feel better, mentally and physically. 


In recent years the shift has changed and now our degrees of “connectedness” to nature is a key component of our positive impact on mental health. 

We can develop ways to connect with nature. 

These may include activities that involve the senses and activities where we can feel emotions such as finding beauty in nature. 

High quality nature spaces are the golden ticket here. 

Spaces where there is lots of green, lots of natural sound or natural smells. So we can be immersed and enveloped in nature. Not glimpses, but a thorough dunking in nature. 

Fields around the Secret Campsite

Tune in to nature

“Tuning” into nature is different to being “in” nature. It’s far more beneficial from a mental and physical point of view. And people with a greater connection to nature are more likely to behave more positively towards the environment, wildlife and habitats.

So next time you are out in nature, try to deepen your connectedness. 

Sift your fingers through the soil. Touch the bark of the trees. 

Sit and watch and listen. What do you hear? Wind rustling? Birds overhead. Animals in the hedgerow? 

Now what can you smell? The waxy smell of bluebells, freshly cut grass? The salt of the sea? 

Imagine what you might taste? Can you forage some wild garlic? Berries or fruits? What are you sitting or lying on? Soft and squishy (best check!) or is it digging in and sharp? 

Bluebells around the Secret Campsite

Connectedness at the Secret Campsite

A connectedness with nature is something we enjoy here at the campsite. We have been talking about it for years. And we love sharing it with you.

We even won an award for our work with it.

We are signed up to the campaign to Get Nature Positive It makes us feel happy and complete.

Come and switch off. Watch the natural world go by. Listen to the Nightingales. Marvel at the butterflies. Smell the grass. 

We can pretty much guarantee that you will leave here having had some great little encounters with the natural world. And that’s a pretty special thing. 

Banded demoiselle at the Secret Campsite

The Secret Office, a desk in a nature reserve

This isn’t a normal office desk. But then, this isn’t a normal office. 

It’s a simple desk in a nature reserve.

A place with none of the usual office distractions.

Just a simple desk, surrounded by wildlife

Every year we are asked by numerous campers if we have space where they can finish a project, do a little creative thinking or just complete their admin.

They want to enjoy the freedom of camping, do some work, but not go to work. 

So here’s our solution…

Tim looking “quite” productive at the Secret Campsite

Introducing the Secret Office

The Secret Office is our antidote to the “bored room” and it’s now open for business. 

Campers can rent a desk from us and ditch the everyday office for a few days spent with nature. 

Hold the commute and the expensive coffees and lunches. Swap all of this for a desk at a location, surrounded by wildlife and other like minded folk. 

Now, a little more detail about this unique, rather unusual desk.

It comes with high speed wifi and free coffee and tea. 

That’s it.

Animator Will Rose, being very productive at the Secret Campsite!

And more

But, to add some zest, there’s free car parking and electric vehicle charging points. The showers are hot and the toilets are completely normal. 

You can use the spacious office fridge for your lunch ingredients. You can buy evening drinks from our licensed cafe which can be poured by the campfire, less than 90 seconds after leaving the office. 

There’s a maximum of 4 desks in the office, so you might get to meet some other inquisitive folk who want to work AND stay in nature. 

Feel free to arrive anytime from 9am for that night’s camping. The office shuts at 6:00pm sharp so you have plenty of time to relax and seek inspiration from the other local residents, whatever the species. 

Meadow camping at the Secret Campsite

The nature calendar

Your base at the Secret Campsite will give you an unending stream of nature.

See the Brimstones and Adders in April, listen to Nightingales and Cuckoos in May. Watch butterflies in June (especially the marbled whites), and Glow worms in July.

Come September, forage for mushrooms and as the season draws to a close, listen to the haunting deer rut throughout October. 

Foraging at the Secret Campsite

Your days schedule

Bask in this change of scenery, an upturn in creativity and …

…rather than the frenetic commute you can lie in bed a little longer, listening to the dawn chorus. Pop on the boots and explore the neighbouring woods, before coffee and breakfast and the 90 second walk to your new desk. 

After lunch at your tent and a peaceful afternoon of toil, why not finish the day with a walk along the seafront at Seaford, or a quiet campfire. Then drift off, under the stars, to the sounds of owls in their neighbouring woods.

Campfires at the Secret Campsite


You can always choose to stay in one of our Secret Shelters, choose from the Okra, the Gridshell or sleep up high in the Tree Tent. 

The Okra, at the Secret Campsite

The small print

The Secret Office is only available on weekdays, outside the school holidays. It cost £21 per desk per day. It’s open to all over 18 years. This is a quiet, peaceful office and not suited for those who need to make lots of phone calls. 

How to bagsy a desk

Call Tim on 01273 401100 and request a window seat or aisle!

Singing with Nightingales, close to the Secret Campsite

So beautiful

Last night we listened to the Nightingales sing. It was beautiful. We felt very privileged to hear them, amidst such quietening news that they will likely be extinct in around 40 years. Future generations will never hear them sing. 

We had joined up with the Nest Collective for an evening of folk singing, storytelling and nightingales. Our host, the internationally acclaimed Sam Lee, is a font of wonderful folk knowledge. His music was the sounds of old folk songs, with special mention to the Copper family, who have passed these songs down the generations. 

The Nest Collective pop up base


The lyrics were of nature; sweet honey, woodbine and ivy, forests, trees and of course the nightingales and the characteristics of these little birds. His storytelling describes the efforts of the male Nightingales to attract the females, through tactics including their wonderful song and their efforts to create and craft a nest for their future chicks. The females are choosy however and may not be impressed. She may prefer another’s company. And so the male nightingales sing.

They arrive here in Sussex, from early April and breed until June. Nightingales that are singing in June are those who are “unlucky in love” and haven’t yet found a mate. 


Sam was accompanied by Anna Phoebe, a renowned violinist whose beautiful music reverberated around the campfire and outside where we listened to the nightingales. Amazingly the Nightingales sang after Sam and Anna, they are known to be responsive to sound.

Campfire food and singing


It was a very special evening. Delicious food cooked and served around the campsite with new friends made and a lasting way to really appreciate and salute these mighty small nightingales. 

Knowlands Woods


This little part of Sussex is extraordinarily fortunate to “host” the nightingales.

We often scramble around the old railway track, next to the Secret Campsite, at this time of year trying to listen to the nightingales. Sometimes we get lucky and sometimes we just get cold. Last night we were very successful. It is very poignant as we reflect on today’s “Earth Day”, and how we can continue to support nature.