Site Closed due to the weather

The Secret Campsite is closed until 5th April

Due to the heavy rain we have had to close the campsite to avoid our pitches from being excesssively damaged. 

We are really sorry for any inconvenience and will review this as the weather improves.

The Dawn Chorus with Birdsong Academy

Dawn Chorus walk
Dawn Chorus walk

Gokotta Dawn Chorus Experience

Enjoy the Swedish art of rising for the dawn chorus

Date Friday 12 April & 10th May

Time 0500- 09.00 am

Tickets priced at £40-£55 pp (plus optional camping) 

What does Gokotta mean

Gökotta is a Swedish word for the act of rising early and going outside into nature and birdsong. Our Sussex gökotta experience includes:

Step by step audio lessons on how to recognise five key woodland species by sound plus an introduction to the dawn chorus.

A walk through the local woodlands and hedgerows, where hopefully we will hear the Nightingale, several species of warbler and thrush, woodpeckers, owls, finches, tits, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Stock Dove and other woodland birds. Fingers crossed.

Delicious Swedish refreshments called Fika (sugary pastries) to be consumers around the fireside Question and Answer session.

Your host for the Gokotta dawn Chorus Experience is Charlie Peverett, founder of Birdsong Academy and author of Shriek of the Week

More on the event

We will go ahead unless there’s a weather warning in place, please note it will be muddy and damp and uneven underfoot. Sussex is Muddy! Children aged over 10 are welcome to attend. No dogs please.

Please bring wellies / sturdy walking shoes, warm and waterproof clothing plus a torch. It could be dark early on.

The cost is £55 per person, reduced to £50 if you can share a lift and /or camp the previous night, and £40 for Birdsong Academy course graduates & paying subscribers to Shriek of the Week.

If you would like to turn this event into a really wild night then simply book a night’s camping or treat yourself to a night in one of our 3 secret shelters, The Tree Tent, The Gridshell or the Okra. That way you can simply stroll out of bed having had some extra winks.

Please book your Dawn Chorus ticket here 

Please book your camping trip using the dates and booking button at the top of the page. Please book the night before the walk. 

Glow worm evening with Michael Blencowe

Glow Worm hunt at The Secret campsite

Join us for a very special nocturnal meadow and woodland walk, searching for Britain’s most magical creature.

Glow Worm hunt at The Secret campsite

When is it happening?

Dates Thursday 27th June.

Thursday 11th July.

Time 18.00-22.30 pm 

Tickets priced at £20 pp (plus optional camping for guests wanting to stay the night)

More about Glow Worms and the evening

The elusive glow worm is an amazing little creature and is a wondrous sight to see. But have you ever seen one? And what do you know about their lives? They are really rather special.

Glow worm at The Secret Campsite Max Mudie

The evening will start with a hot drink around the campfire. Michael Blencowe will give you an illustrated talk about the lights and loves of the little glow worm. He knows a great deal about them. The talk will be entertaining and educational.

As darkness falls, we will walk into the camoping meadow and our neighbouring woodlands. wOne there we will be looking for badgers, deer, owls and even the local hedgehog. Once it is dark, the glow worms will turn on their lights in an attempt to find a partner. This is a very special wildlife sight. 

Glow Worms at the campsite

Other useful information

Please bring wellies / sturdy walking shoes, warm and waterproof clothing plus a torch. The weather may be unpredictable.

If you would like to turn this event into a really wild night then simply book a night’s camping, or treat yourself to a night in one of our 3 secret shelters, The Tree Tent, The Gridshell or the Okra. That way you can simply creep into bed and carry on listening to the wildlife noises all night.

You can book camping pitches above but if you would like a night in one of the secret shelters please contact Reception, to see what is available.

Please book your Glow Worm Hunt ticket here

Nature based events at the Secret Campsite

Bat Eveninmg at The Secret Campsite
Bat Eveninmg at The Secret Campsite

We have an exciting lineup of Nature based events for 2024. These are either one day/ one evening affairs or a weekend event. Sounds exciting? Read on!

Bat walks with Michael Blencowe

Dates 25th April, 5th and 12th September

Time 19.00- 21.30 pm

Tickets priced at £20 pp (plus optional camping) 

Join and learn all about the amazing world of bats before heading out to explore the woods looking (and listening) for bats.

What can you expect?

The evening will start around a campfire with a hot drink, and Michael Blencowe will talk about our local Sussex bats, their habits, their echolocation, and the different species that this part of Sussex is home to. We will also learn all about the strange tales of folklore that are attributable to bats. Michael has promised to not treat/ subject us to his rendition of Like a bat out of Hell.

Once the dusk falls, we will head into the nearby woodland with our bat detectors and tune into the bats world. They will be flying above and over our heads! The woods are home to many other animals including badgers, deer, owls and more. We will hopefully manage some encounters with these inhabitants too. We will be back at the fireside by 9.30 – 10 pm.

Please bring wellies / sturdy walking shoes, warm and waterproof clothing plus a torch.

If you would like to turn this event into a really wild night then simply book a night’s camping or treat yourself to a night in one of our 3 secret shelters, The Tree Tent, The Gridshell or the Okra. That way you can simply creep into bed and carry on listening to the wildlife noises all night. 

Please book your bat walk tickets here

Please book your camping ticket here 

Secret Wildlife Festival update

Mothe traps at the Secret wildlife festival

This years Secret Wildlife Festival has sold out apart from the Tree Tent, which is still available to book.

Gone in a day

There was a huge rush for tickets on Friday morning when festival tickets went on sale at 08:00. Sales were brisk with the last camping ticket selling in the afternoon.

If you are keen to join us for the weekend, The Tree Tent is still available. The festival runs from 28 – 30th June.

Michael Blencowe is running the wildlife festival at the secret campsite, which will include, dawn chorus walks, forest school activities, moth traps, trail cameras, astronomy and lots of opportunities to ask questions to the experts.

We look forward to meeting you in June

We’re recruiting a new warden for 2024

Bluebells in Knowlands Wood near the secret campsite
camping at the secret campsite sussex

It's a busy, outdoor job

We’re looking for a new warden to welcome and look after guests during the 2024 season. Initially, it’s a 2-3 day a week job during term time with scope for more days during the school holidays. For the right person, it’s also a great opportunity to learn how to run a campsite including day to day management and liaising with suppliers.

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. A few years ago, we wrote a book about our approach to camping, The Escapees Handbook The campsite is set in 8 acres with 18 large and spacious pitches along with 3 unusual shelters for guests to stay in.

Our wildlife friendly approach has proved increasingly popular. The new warden will be a cheerful, reliable individual, with a can-do, welcoming personality and a sense of responsibility. Join our team for the 2024 season and perhaps beyond.

The new warden's job

  • Managing reception
  • Liaising with customers in person, by phone and email
  • Cleaning our sustainably designed and built facilities, including toilets, showers and washing up areas and our shelters.
  • Serving customers in our small cafe/shop
  • Occassional help with our new business and nature project

Hours

  • 7 hours / day from Friday to Sunday between late March-October
  • 2-3 extra days per week during school holidays
  • Extra week days will be available during term, time as required
  • Start late March 2024

What you will earn

  • The Real Living wage £12-£13.15 depending on age and experience

Our new warden will be

  • Friendly, helpful and positive
  • Organised and enjoy working with people 
  • Keen to be outside, with some light physical work
  • Practical and competent with technology
  • Presentable with a great phone manner

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

To apply to be our new warden, please send an email with your cv explaining why you would be a great person for this role and we look forward to hearing from you by 23rd February.

deer in the camping meadow at the secret campsite

Secret Wildlife Festival tickets on sale from 2nd February

butteffly hunting in sussex
Tickets for this year Secret Wildlife Festival will go on sale at 08:00 on Friday 2nd February 2024

But you'll have to be quick

Tickets for the event normally sell out fast. There are only 21 camping and glamping pitches available for the weekend. So make sure youre ready and waiting at 8 with fingers poised over the mouse and payment card at hand.

The festival takes place from 3:00pm on Friday 28th June until 12:00PM on Sunday 30th June and is hosted by Michael Blencowe and his team of experts. Tickets include access to all activities over the weekend

Tickets for this years festival cost:

£104 for adults

£52 for 3-16 yrear olds

£26 for under 3’s

opening the moth trap

Post pandemic, this is the first time we’ve hosted the festrival since 2019. You can buy a maximum of 2 pitches for the event. Read more about the 2019 wildlife festival.

What happens during the festival

Expect Moth traps, Bush craft, Trail cameras, Mammal traps, Butterfly hunts, Bat walks and Glow worm explorations. There will be an uplifting  Dawn chorus walk for the the light sleepres amongst you. There’s a bring your own food, barbecue on the Saturday evening. Drinks and light refreshments are on sale throughout the weekend from The Secret Teapot, our on site, take away cafe.

Bushcraft at the secret wildlife festival

This year we will be joined by a team of astronomers from Seven Sisters Astronomy Society. They will be looking at the moon, stars and even the sun, (if the weather is kind). It’s an amazing opportunity to gaze out at the enormity of the universe from the comfort of the campsite. Derrick, Paul and their colleagues will happily answer all questions, however technical.

Read more about this years plans in our recent blog post.

Refunds and Returns

Please note that we do not offer refunds for tickets. This is, in part, a fund raising event for Sussex Wildlife Trust

If you are unlucky and not able to get tickets this year, please just email us to go onto a waiting list. If this happens we will contact people, in the order that they signed up for returns. It does occasionally happen

Good luck securing your tickets and we look forward to meeting you

Return of the Secret Wildlife Festival 2024

Secret Wildlife festival at the secret campsite

Hold the front page…. Fanfare of birdsong and a flypast from a kaleidoscope of Marbled Whites

At last, The Secret Wildlife Festival returns to The Secret Campsite after a 4 year Covid related break. The Festival started in 2013 and was an annual event until the Pandemic struck and we had to cancel the 2019 event. But, it’s returning, with even more wonders from the natural world.

opening mammal traps at the secret wildlife festival
Opening the mammal traps

Now that the world has calmed down a little, we are delighted to get the Festival up and running again. So, this summer we are looking forward to welcoming children and families back to the Secret Campsite for a weekend with our favourite wildlife experts. Its a chance to immerse yourselves in the native fauna and flora that we share this beautiful part of Sussex with.

Who is running the festival?

The festival will be hosted by the inimitable Michael Blencowe and his team of wildlife experts.

Host Michael Blencowe

Expect amazing facts, unusual sightings and heaps of laughter as we spend a weekend looking, smelling, hearing, tasting and touching the natural world.

bushcraft at the secret wildlife festival
Bushcraft activities for all ages
Damsel fly at the secret wildlife festival
Pond dipping at the secret wildlife festival
Pond dipping for newts and dragonfly larvae

What will you see?

With luck, you’ll see snakes, glow worms, butterflies, hedgehogs, moths, bats, newts, and a huge array of birds. All against a backdrop of other wildlife enthusiasts.

hawk moth at the secret campsite
dissected owl pellet at the secret campsite
Contents of a Barn Owl pellet
what we saw at the secret wildlife festival

Our team of wildlife experts will lay on a wide range of activities to try and find all tese creatures. This will include:

  • Moth traps
  • Trail cameras
  • Woodland walks
  • Forest school activities
  • Mammal traps
  • Bat walks
  • Butterfly hunts
  • Dawn chorus walks
  • Secret Cinema
  • Forest school
  • Communal barbecues
  • and more…..

Better still, this year we will be joined by a team of astronomers. Derrick and Paul will be viewing the moon and stars and answering super galactic questions with their usual patience and enthusiasm. If the weather behaves we may even get to look at sun spots and sun flares on our very own local star.

the moon from the secret campsite
the moon through a telescope

We have fantastic dark skies at the campsite, which makes for an amazing star show on clear nights

On Saturday evening we fire up the campsite barbecue. It’s a popular and very sociable, bring your own supper event. Festival goers can cook with others whilst they discuss and compare the days excitement and sightings.

Although the weekend is filled with a wide range of activities and events, you don’t have to join everything. The more relaxed amongst you will pick and chose the talks, walks and activities you want to attend.

You can spend time relaxing and chatting around a campfire whilst enjoying the sites and sounds of nature.

Previous festivals

Have a look at previous festivals to see what happens over the weekend.

butterfly hunt at the secret wildlife festival
slow worms at the secret campsite

When is The Secret Wildlife Festival

This year’s festival will he held over the weekend of 28-30th June so make sure you save these dates in your diary.

How do I buy tickets?

 Sign up to our wildlife events list and be one of the first to know when tickets go on sale.

When do tickets go on sale?

Tickets go on sale in February. Tickets always sell out super fast. We only have 20 pitches available for the weekend and the festival is filled with a wide range of exciting activities. It’s a perfect weekend for the wildlife fans in your family. It’s also an opportunity to meet other enthusiasts as well as experts who have the time and knowledge to answer your question, however small.

What will it cost?

Tickets for this years wildlife festival include 2 nights camping and entry to all events.

Adults £104,

Children 3-16 £52,

Under 3’s £26.

All under 16’s get a free Lick -a-lix lolly on arrival. Photo ID will be required! haha

We all look forward to meeting you. That includes the Adders, Glow worms, Bats, Voles, Hedgehogs, Elephant Hawk Moths, White Admirals and even the lowly Red Kite.

adders matimng at the secret campsite

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…..

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