The Wash House opens

It’s a bit later than we had hoped but, we finally cut the toilet roll ribbon and opened the new wash house to excited applause from the gathered array of campers, butterflies, bees, pied wagtails and a very inquisitive common lizard.

Its been a fun project and we have been indebted to Local Works and Shaun Ryder for their guidance and advice in building a forward looking sustaianable structure.

During the build we aimed to tackle

  • Water saving
  • Minimising the use of Concrete 
  • Reusing available materials
  • Sourcing new materials locally
  • Creating space for wildlife

The driver was a fantastic carbon calculator course i attended run by Green Growth in Brighton. It opened my eyes to what we can do, rather than what we can talk about.

Read on to hear what we have built and why it is so much better for the environment….


To minimise the use of concrete, we have used old telegraph poles to support the building. The telegraph poles were sourced from Crowborough and cut at a local saw mill. 

To pass building control, we needed to source and then apply a paint that stops the pole from off-gassing. The poles are 1.5 metres into the ground and form the structural support for the wash house.

Sewage Treatment Plant

The first part of the build was to install a very quiet and innovative system to process the waste water and sewage. We chose a Kee system which treats the sewage on rotating Bio discs. It is a virtually silent plant and produces almost drinking-quality water which outflows into a ditch on neighbouring land. Join the queue to have a sip.

Solar PV

We have a 19KW solar PV array on the adjoining barn. The electricity that this creates is used to heat the hot water and to power the sewage treatment plant. This pumps the rainwater we use to flush the toilets and better still, is used for our 3 EV car charging points. Ovesco a local energy coop installed the system in 2012

Rainwater Harvesting

We have installed a rainwater harvesting system that is used to flush all of the toilets in the new wash house. The water is collected from the adjoining barn roof which is also home to our 19KW solar PV array. The barn can harvest up to 330,000 litres per year and our tank can hold 10,000 litres. This water will be used for the majority of the toilet flushes at the campsite. Locase offered a grant to part fund the innovative features of the Wash House and we sourced most of the equipment from Ecosure

Waterless urinal

We have installed a waterless urinal to reduce the amount of water needed to flush the toilets after a wee. We have embraced the P-wave as a way of reducing splashes as well as filling the room with a honeysuckle fragrance.


The floor has been constructed using a locally-felled Chestnut tree. We have used the entire tree in the construction which ensures a lively mixture of plank widths and lengths. This is best seen in the end toilets where we have triangular shaped floorboards. We have left spaces between the floorboards for drainage and to allow dirt to drop through to the ground below. Andrew Coates was involved in the harvesting and milling of the tree.


Almost all of the doors were bought second hand from ebay. Only the family room door was reused from the old shower block. Each door is solid oak and they even had existing handles and hinges. The other old doors from the previous shower block will be used to make under sink cupboards.

Roof timber

Roof and floor timber has been sourced and milled locally where feasible. We have used larch from as close as Wildings Wood less than a mile away and the main larch timbers for the roof support came from a woodland near Crowborough.


We have clad the majority of the building using larch boards left over from the original project we had designed. Once these ran out, we completed the cladding using reclaimed corrugated tin.


The roof has been constructed using reclaimed corrugated and profile roofing sheets sourced from Ebay. These are good quality sheets that were removed from a building being demolished. The main roof timbers were sourced from locally-grown larch and were milled by Copfords in Crowborough.

Sinks, toilets and hand basins

Wherever possible we reused all of the existing toilets, washing up sinks, wash basins and hot water tanks from the original shower block. One hot water cylinder however needed to be replaced to ensure a consistent supply of hot water.

Shower trays

Ben and Ashley from Local Works cast the shower trays using reconstituted brick waste from Chailey brickworks, 1 mile away. This brick-waste was ground and then bonded to form a paste. Once dry, the surface was polished to provide a gentle fall, and smooth finish

Shower cubicles

The shower trays have been enclosed using transparent roofing sheets sourced locally from Ebay. The structural support comprised of larch poles and reused security grills from the old barn.

Outdoor shower

For when it is hot, or for the more puritanical amongst us, we have designed an unheated outdoor shower. It is private, but now you can shower in cold water with an uninterrupted view above. I can’t wait to see how busy this gets.


Lights have a huge impact on wildlife, particularly bats, so we have designed the wash house to be dark when people aren’t using it at night. Lights sensors detect peopel moving into each area. The timers turn the lights off when movement stops. None of the uncovered areas are lit, so you’ll need to bring your head torch to wash up.

The bright light at the bottom of the picture is the sewage treatment plant light. This shows it’s working.

We would love to hear your feedback and please feel free to get in contact to arrange a viewing. We would be delighted to show you around and discuss how we built the Wash House, come on over…..

Family Wildlife Stays

Treat your family or friends to a unique wildlife adventure in Sussex. It’s a chance to discover the wildlife we share the landscape with and to understand how it lives and what it needs to flourish.

We’ve teamed up with Secret Wildlife Festival expert, Michael Blencowe, to offer 24 Hours of nature immersion, for you and your family, or a small group of friends.

The trip follows our 24 Hours in Nature format and is accompanied with camping downtime where you can relax, cook and chat around the campfire. You can extend your trip either side of the 24 Hours and book extra nights.

Michael will accompany you and your family for 24 hours, during which time you will:

  • venture out on a guided walk through neighbouring woodland 
  • set moth traps, 
  • listen to and watch nocturnal activity including bats, owls and glow worms 
  • set trail cameras to see who moves about at night
  • look for butterflies, snakes and other wildlife in and around the Secret Campsite
  • place harmless, small mammal traps and learn how they live
  • look for tracks and footprints from some iconic species in decline
  • enjoy a guided dawn chorus walk
  • place hedgehog tunnels to collect small mammal footprints

During your stay you will be based in your own camping space with full use of our new sustainably constructed Wash House. You will have sole access to the newly built, Hide, a timber framed, covered space where you can enjoy a campfire for cooking and relaxing

Family 24 Hours in Nature events start at midday on Day 1 and end 24 Hours later at midday on Day 2. You are welcome to extend your stay, either side of this, by booking extra nights at the campsite.

Prices start from £580 for 2 adults and 2 children for 2 nights camping including 24 Hours with Michael Blencowe

Find out more about our 24 Hours in Nature Family events, by contacting Tim

Remaining dates for 2023:

  • July 27-28th
  • August 10-11th
  • August 17-18th

24 Hours in Nature – Guided stays

Immersive new experience for businesses

Have you noticed how being outdoors, away from the office, usually brings you closer to elusive answers? For that matter, have you also noticed, that just a short time in nature is good for the whole human, the person and the professional?

At the Secret Campsite, we have created a peaceful new space, The Hide, where groups, who happen to be colleagues, can unite, free their minds and be inspired by the simple wonders of nature.

Business group at 24 Hours In Nature in The Hide

What Happens in 24 Hours

For 24 hours, your team (of 10-15 people) will be immersed together in nature.

You’ll be hosted by a wildlife expert who will introduce the group to a wide variety of species, active at the time of year, it could be snakes, moths, bats, mammals, butterflies or birds amongst many others


Groups will spend slow time on wildlife walks, set up trail cameras, small mammal and moth traps (for later release, unharmed), wonder at the uninterrupted dawn chorus, learn to identify the many unfamiliar nocturnal noises; be jointly mesmerised by flames in the evening fire circle, spot the glow worms and try out bat detectors.

Food and Drink

Simple, locally sourced food is provided, we cater for vegans, vegetarians, and a range of dietary needs, just let us know. This could include Spanish omelette garden salads, Spiced dahl, rice, curry, pakora and chutney, Overnight oats, fruits, yoghurt, nuts and seeds.

Tea, coffee and cordials will be available throughout the stay.


There will be an alcohol-free pay bar available during the evening. We have found that hosting alcohol-free events greatly enhances the experience for visitors and the local residents.


Sleep in one of our three Secret Shelters or pre-erected private bell (or hiking) tents, all with beds.

The Secret Campsite's Tree Tent

Each guest has their own raised frame bed (shelters have futons) and we can provide sleeping bags blankets and pillows if required

What people say

Ollie Pendered CEO Community Energy South

Once its all over we’ll send you a short album of species seen and photographs of the event

Prices and how to book

Prices start from £220 per person, (for 10-15 people). Please contact Tim for more information, or to make a booking.

Alternatively, complete this form and we’ll contact you directly to discuss dates and your specific requirements.

24 Hours in Nature – Self Guided stays

Self Guided 24 Hours In Nature

Escape the boardroom, the conference centre or the pub, for a liberating stay in a unique space where creativity and collaboration can flourish.

Self Guided 24 Hours In Nature

What happens in 24 Hours

24 Hours in Nature is a chance for you and your team to talk in an unbounded space. Once here, the normal rules of meetings can be be put on hold, just for a while, as you develop new and innovative solutions to your work challenges. Or, perhaps just spend some downtime getting to know your work colleagues.

Walk through woods, sit by the river, or just chat around the campfire.

Cook over a campfire with your colleagues or enjoy locally sourced meals created for you and your team. But, you might just walk to a local pub.

Put up your own tents or if you’re busy, stay in one of our Secret Shelters, or a pre-erected Bell Tent

Tree Tent Secret Camping Lewes
24 Hours In Nature Bell Tents Accommodation
the OKRA at the Secret Campsite Lewes

It’s a simple proposition and a unique way for teams to connect and embrace the freedom of the natural world. They’ll love you for it and it will add a new dimension to your teams thinking.

Prices and how to book

We charge our normal camping and Secret Shelter rates plus a one off charge for the use of the Hide, our newly built, covered campfire space.

You can enhance your stay with bespoke catering and accommodation set up for when you arrive.

The Secret Campsite's Tree Tent

For more information and to book your stay with us, please contact Tim or go online and book the dates you need. Please mention 24 Hours in Nature in the notes, to reserve your exclusive use of the Hide.



Star Count and our Dark Skies

On Sunday night at 8:45pm, I set off over to the campsite armed with flask of tea, to take part in the CPRE’s (Council for the Protection of Rural England’s) star count. Luckily, it was a clear night, crisp and perfect for my investigations.

Why have a star count?

The aim of star count is to count how many stars are visible within an easily identified constellation, with Orions belt at it’s centre.

Its a simple and fun half an hour that anyone can do, from anywhere in the UK running from the 17-24th February.

The reason for star count is to help measure light pollution levels around the country. The more light pollution the less stars you are able to see.

How many did we see?

My half an hour in the currently deserted camping meadow, was accompanied by a huge array of sounds from around the campsite. We had Tawny and Little owls hooting from the surrounding oaks and hornbeams. Better still there were numerous call from foxes patrolling their territory. These are great night time sounds. But the mind starts racing when you hear heavy movement from within the neighbouring bushes. What could it be, hedghogs? badgers? an escaped wild boar? Or perhaps just a rabbit.

The odd dog barked in the distance. A few aeroplane’s red and white lights blinked high up in the sky as they passed silently overhead. We even had the odd shooting star. It’s amazing what the night sky offers when you stop to look.

Once my eyes had acclimatised to the dark, which takes about 20 minutes or so, the stars start to appear. Even some very faint ones. I stared hard to see how many stars I could identify. Under 10 is considered to be bad light pollution, whereas over 30 is a brilliant. A very dark sky.

We managed to spot 16 in the permitted area. This means we are in a good location for stargazing and can consider ourselves to have quite good dark skies. But, there is always room for improvement. The local culprits are the Amex stadium in Falmer, the nearby town of Lewes and my daughter with the torch, wondering what I was doing wandering around in the pitch black.

Solar flare at the Secret Campsite
Solar Flares courtesy Seven Sisters Astronomical Society

Seeing the universe at the Secret Campsite

The Secret Campsite is pretty lucky. Most of our guests are interested in the peace and tranquility and the wildlife habitat we have created. This comes into its own at night with a clear sky, the sound of a nightingale and clean crisp air.

We are surrounded by tall, ancient woodland which helps to reduce the impact of any local lights. We are also located in a sparsely populated part of Sussex, with no main roads nearby. So its a great place to enjoy the stars.

Its because of this that we are often visited by the Seven Sisters Astronomical Society. who host viewing evenings during the camping season where anyone can look at the stars and the galaxies. They even do solar viewings during the day where you can see sun spots and flares, but you need special equipment for this, so don’t try it at home, you’ll lose you eyesight.

More on them in another post but here’s a photo of one of their telescopes.

Telescopes at the Secret Campsite with the Seven Sisters Astronomical Society
Star gazing with Seven Sisters Astronomical Society

The Wash House

The new Wash House at the Secret Campsite,Lewes

11 years after we launched the Secret Campsite back in 2012, we wanted to upgrade our facilities in a forward looking, sustainable way. I have recently worked with Adam from his pioneering business Small 99 and the Green Growth platform to calculate our carbon footprint. So, this part was critical.

Wildlife has always been the focus here since we launched and minimising our impact on it is critical. So, whatever we do needs that at the forefront.


Our first job was to find an architect and a visionary construction team and we couldn’t be luckier than having Local Works Studio located within the same parish of Barcombe.

Ben and Loretta launched Local Works to inform landscape and building developments. They help focus projects on the use of local and renewable materials. This approach has a huge benefit on the carbon footprint of a facility and is right up our street.

Local Works collaborated with local architect Shaun Ryder of Rural Workshop. Shaun has a practical, creative flair and a background in timber buildings and green woodworking. He has prioritised the use of locally grown timber from Andrew Coates at Wilderness Wood, and redundant Telegraph poles from Crowborough. Previously loved roofing materials from Burgess Hill and locally handmade accessories, such as benches and balustrades will also feature in the finished construction.

The focus of the building is to create an open, outdoor space providing toilets, showers and washing up facilities at the heart of the campsite. We love Shaun’s clever design that has minimised the use of high carbon materials, such as concrete.

Water and plumbing

The plumbing will integrate a rainwater harvesting system which will collect water from the large central barn. Once stored this rainwater will be used for flushing toilets. In time our harvested water could be upgraded for washing and drinking, but for now, it’s only the loos that get to meet it. 

To furthur minimise the use of imported water, we will install low flow showers and toilet flushes and we’ll have one unheated shower for the brave and for hot days at the campsite.

All hot water will have been heated through our 19 KW solar PV system located on the adjoining barn. 

Waste water from the showers, toilets and washing up area will be treated by our solar powered, low energy, sewage treatment plant sourced from Kee. The plumbing system will be installed by Chris and his team from Wave Plumbing.


Power to the Wash House is connected to our large 19 KW solar PV system. This will provide touch free, low energy lighting and hot water. John Church electricians will be installing the system, which includes solar powered pumps for the rainwater harvesting and sewage treatment systems.


The building frame will be supported using recycled telegraph poles. Much of the wooden deck and walls has been grown and harvested from within 12 miles of The Secret Campsite. The roofing panels will be a mixture of pre-used items.


Most important for us will be how we create interesting spaces for the local wildlife. This will be in, around and under the structure. Its also critical that we keep the lights dimmed for the bats.

It’s an exciting project and we hope it will be completed in early May. 

Watch this space…

Aiming for Net Zero

We’ve been working with the pioneering consultancy small99 and the Green Growth Platform to achieve net zero at the campsite.

It’s been a fun and surprisingly straightforward process and has thrown up some illuminating topics of discussion. Now that we know roughly what we create, we can get to work to reduce it and hopefully achieve a net zero carbon position in the coming years.

You can read all about the journey we have been on and the main topics we need to tackle here

Prices for 2023 season

Our new prices for 2023 will come into play from 17th February, so if you get your booking in before this date you can benefit from last years prices. It wont save you much but every little helps.

What isn’t changing is the huge variety of wildlife we have encouraged into our quiet, corner of Sussex. In April and May we’ll be surrounded by Nightingales and other migrant birds such as the swallows and swifts returning from winters spent in Africa. The Cuckoos will start shouting around the same time. In later June the glow worms start to display there beautiful light for any passing males and the dragonflies dart around the pond eating any straying insects, not quick enough to escape.

The skies are still dark, the surrounding woodlands are still peaceful and this year we hope to complete our new Wash House. It’s the new space for showers, toilets and washing up.

We are working with the fantastic team at Local Works with the aim to reuse as much material as possible. Ben, Loretta, and Shaun are a huge inspiration and have a growing library of credits, clients and successes. We are looking forward to being another one.

Watch this space and we’ll tell you more as the structure starts to appear.

Secret Coronation Bank Holiday weekend

It’s recently been confirmed that we will have another Bank Holiday this coming May to celebrate the Kings coronation. The news is not actually a secret but, the first I heard of it was when a regular camper booked a trip and mentioned the coronation.

This is good news if you need an excuse to plan another camping trip in May and we’ll be looking forward to welcoming everyone here. But, if you need to watch on a big screen you’re coming to the wrong place.

Wildlife at the campsite

The weekend for the Bank Holiday is 5-8th May and its a great time to hear the nightingales that sing along the old railway track that runs through the Secret Campsite. A walk along the dismantled railway track as it becomes dark takes on a new dimension. You’ll be accompanied at different points by the sounds of marsh frogs, tawny owls, and foxes, as well as the beautiful song of this drab little bird.

Sam Lee, the world famous folk singer, will be running his singing with nightingales walks. They are an amazing way to enjoy meeting new people, savoring delicious food and hearing the competitive melodyd of these increasingly rare bird.

The game

But, back to the coronation, which got us thinking about the different types of wildlife with a regal suffix or prefix.

Its a fun game to play if you are on a very long car journey with access to the internet as a judge for the opportunistic submissions. Dont forget in ternational rules state that it must be a recognised animal.

Here are our list of potential winners:

Kingfisher, King Cobra, Queen Bee, Purple Emperor, Duke of Burgundy, King Penguin,

Ones we wouldn’t allow:

Coronation chicken, Princes tuna, King of the Jungle, Turkey crown,

So if you are heading our way and need something to keep the family entertained in the back of the car…..

Snow falls at the campsite

Its that time of year here when the campsite is empty, apart from the permanent residents. Last weekend we had a big snowfall and its stayed freezing all week so the sheep have needed extra food, their normal grass diet has been buried. Augustus our Shetland ram is particularly friendly as he knows i have food for him whenever i appear.

The trees all look very beautiful with frost on their twigs and you can see right into the surrounding woods where the deer lurk out of the cold winds.

The only downside to the beautiful, clear skies and crisp fresh air, is that all the water freezes. So each morning my first duty is to thaw out buckets of water for all the creatures we share the campsite with.

But it pays off in the long run.