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….

Foundations

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.

Floor

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.

Doors

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.

Cladding

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.

Roof

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.

Lighting

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…..

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

Findings

• 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.

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 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.

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.

Design

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.

Electricity

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.

Structure

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.

Wildlife

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…

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…..

Join the Secret Campsite Team

Campers arrive at the Secret Campsite Sussex

Are you looking for a busy outdoor job working with campers at our beautiful campsite in East Sussex?

We’re looking for someone to welcome and look after guests during 2023. It’s a 2-3 day a week job during term time with scope for more days during the school holidays.

We’re a peaceful family campsite focused on nature and wildlife. Campers stay with us to relax and spend time with their family or 1 or 2 friends in a peaceful, well maintained space. The campsite is set in 8 acres with 18 large and spacious pitches and 3 unusual shelters for guests to stay in. We wrote a book about our approach to camping, The Escapees Handbook

Our approach has proved increasingly popular and we are looking for a cheerful, reliable individual with a can-do, welcoming personality and a sense of responsibility, to join our team for the 2023 season and maybe longer.

Camping meadow at the Secret Campsite
Camping meadow at the Secret Campsite

The job:

  • Managing reception.
  • Liaising with customers by phone, email and in person.
  • Cleaning our facilities, toilets, showers and washing up areas.
  • Serving customers in our little cafe/shop.

Hours:

  • 7 hours / day from Friday to Sunday
  • 2.5-3 days / week during term time, from April-October
  • Significant extra days available during school holidays
  • Start April 2023

What will you earn

  • £10.90-£12 depending on experience

You will be

  • Friendly, helpful and positive.
  • Organised and enjoy working with people.
  • Keen on working outside. 
  • Happy with some physical work, and always with a smile.
  • Competent with technology.
  • Presentable with a great phone manner.
  • You must be aged over 18 years of age.

If this sounds interesting and you’d like to know more, give us a call 01273 401 100 or send an email tim@thesecretcampsite.co.uk 

To apply please get in touch explaining why you would be a great person for this role.

We look forward to hearing from you before the end of January.

Tree Tent, toad, tent and coffees at Secret Campsite Sussex.
Scenes from the Secret Campsite

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. 

Sounds

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.

Foraging

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!