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…..

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.


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…

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.


  • 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 

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

Spring in the Secret Shelters

As we emerge blinking from the chilly, dark December months, our thoughts turn to the start of the camping season in March.

We will open on March 25th for intrepid campers and their willing families. However, for those who aren’t quite ready to lie about in the camping meadow under canvas tents….. just yet, we have the perfect solution for you. Stay in one of the Secret Shelters at the Secret Campsite instead!

Secret Shelters

Our 3 Secret Shelters are all very different. One is up a tree. One is on a platform. One is hexagon shaped. All accommodate different sized groups.

The Okra

We introduced the Okra at the Secret Campsite last season. Quirky and comfortable are the main hallmarks. It has a bold five-sided shape with precision wooden cladding and a simple interior. The Okra comfortably sleeps up to 3 people which includes a maximum of 2 adults.

The top double bunk bed always elicits the bellow “bagsy the top bunk” from young and old. We do this too! Last summer we commissioned our talented friend Sandra Hurst Chico, to weave a curving willow screen around the Okra pitch, providing privacy and seclusion for our guests.

the OKRA at the Secret Campsite Lewes
Woven willow fence at the Okra

The Tree Tent

Our famed Tree Tent was the first of it’s kind to go up in England. It is suspended on 3 sturdy oak trees and accessed via wooden stairs onto a small platform, perfect for a sundowner or warming hot chocolate. Or caffeine for the faint hearted. In summer 2021 we extended the platform and rejigged the stairs to provide a less steep incline. Sleeping 3 people (2 adults and 1 child), the Tree Tent offers fantastic views across the campsite and onto the South Downs National Park.

Located on the edge of the woodland, The Tree Tent sways gently in the breeze and its 2 windows and clear roof transports you to the land of Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree Be prepared to hear the owls hooting very close by!

The GridShell

Back on the ground with The Gridshell. Sleeping a maximum of 5 people (max 4 adults) The Gridshell has 2 double futons with mattresses and 2 extra rollout mattresses for those sleeping on the floor. Built from locally sourced wooden laths of ash, thats curved to create a shell shape, it is a popular family choice. Sandra wove her magic here again, to create a willow dining canopy offering light protection from sun and showers.

The Gridshell at The Secret Campsite Sussex
Sunny days in The Gridshell

Cooking at our Secret Shelters

All 3 of our Secret Shelters have fire pits where you can cook your meals over the open fire. We provide basic cooking equipment for you too, kettle, saucepan, mugs, plates and cutlery. The Secret Teapot is also open during office hours, offering liquid refreshments, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, plus locally sourced beers, cider and gin.

Local pubs and restaurant options?

We are spoilt for choice for good pubs and restaurants. Options include The Royal Oak, The Peacock, The Five Bells and a multitude of options in Lewes

There’s some more great images of the Shelters on our Instagram too.

So if you fancy a Spring break, where you are surrounded by nature and still enjoy some creature comforts then take a look at our Secret Shelters, perfect for March and April trips!

Better still if you book before 20th January 2022 you’ll get the 2021 prices.

Changing bookings at The Secret Campsite during the Covid outbreak

Spacious pitches at The Secret Campsite Lewes

Its been a very challenging time for everyne over the course of the pandemic and we are keen to revert to our normal trading conditions as soon as possible. This will allow us to focus our efforts on working with the wildlife that we have in abundance here which has always been the main focus of The Secret Campsite.

To acheive this for the 2022 season we ask all of our current and future customers to accommodate a few additions to our normal Terms and Conditions: for anyone who books after today.

  • We will happily reschedule any booking that can’t be enjoyed as a result of a member of your family needing to isolate. Resceduled bookings will need to be to a date within 12 months. In order for us to do this, we will need to see an official NHS confirmation to this affect. This will detail the member of the party who is no longer able to stay and we will reschedule this families booking.
  • Unsurprisingly, we will reschedule all bookings if The Secret Campsite is forced to close.
  • If you are concerned we would advise you to have a look at taking out travel insurance. Travel Insurance will be able to provide cover for a wide range of situations that might arise.

We have implemented a strict management plan to help minimise the risk of transmission whilst you are staying with us at The Secret Campsite. You can read about this here

If you have any concerns or would like any of the information clarified please get in touch. We love speaking with people, and we’ll always make time to chat.

We’ll even tell you what creatures we have just encountered including the badger that ran through the campsite car park last night.

The Secret Campsite welcomes the Okra

Inside the Okra at the Secret Campsite

We have mentioned the Okra before. It’s got a bold 5 sided shape with precision cladding and a simple interior. It was built here last summer, by Jason Thawley, of Tree Tents who also designed both our Tree Tent and our Gridshell.

The Okra will be available to book from May 17th.

The Okra accommodates up to 4 people. There is a maximum of 2 adults.

Inside the Okra you will find 2 double sized bunk style beds, with one accessed via a short ladder. There’s also a small day sofa, perfect to sit on whilst playing a board game or cards, plus low level lighting.

round window in the OKRA at the Secret Campsite

The large “porthole” shaped window ensures guests occupying either the top bunk or bottom bunk can enjoy the natural light. The Okra sits in the Orchard area at the campsite and has its own firepit with simple seating.

OKRA firepit at the Secret Campsite

There is a small decking area at the front of the Okra where you can sit and relax with a local cider or two, after a days walking around Lewes or the South Downs. Or perhaps just a day spent onsite doing Nothing Much.

However you choose to spend your time here, we can bank on one thing…

One of you will shout “Shotgun” the top Bunk!

top bunk OKRA The Secret Campsite

Autumn at The Secret Campsite

Sheep at the Secret Campsite Lewes

The sheep arrive

This season went by in a flash and now we are deep into November. A particular highlight is the new sheep coming to graze off the camping meadow. They arrive and tread warily out of the trailer. Then hesitate but upon hearing the rattle of a bucket, will charge straight into their new home for the next month or so. Sometimes the new sheep headbutt our 2 sheep. I do find this painful to watch, but once the pecking order is established it becomes more harmonious!

Sloe Gin

Generation Distillers Sloe Gin
Sloes foraged from The Secret Campsite

The meadow is currently the source of sloes and rosehips. Our friends at Generation Distillers, located in nearby Chailey, have created a wonderful sloe gin using The Secret Campsite sloes. Check it out next season. Perfect for enjoying around the camp fire. In the interim we can assure you that it is delicious. And we will endeavour to not drink it all!


Hedgewitch foraged cordials
Locally foraged cordials from Hedgewitch

Our forager in residence, Jane Hedgewitch, has been harvesting the rosehips in the meadow too. Jane has a long history of rootling in the hedgerows and makes fantastic cordials, extracts and preserves that she sells here and often at Lewes Friday Food Market too. This summer we enjoyed (and stocked) her delicious Wild Cherry Blossom Cordial. You can read a bit more about Jane in a feature by Muddy Stilettoes Sussex here.

We are currently working on lots of exciting new projects at the Secret Campsite and hope to reveal more in our next newsletter. You can sign up for it here

Cool Camping Instagram “Takeover”

We were thrilled to be invited to “takeover” Cool Camping’s Instagram earlier this week. It represented a great opportunity for The Secret Campsite to tell our story, with a real “day at the campsite experience” theme. It was also a leap of faith for Cool Camping too. We have worked with them since we started, they reviewed us back in our early days and most probably you used their booking system when you booked your stay here.

So armed with their Instagram log ins, I sat down and thought how best to tell our story. In marketing terms we have lots of “content” and lots of lovely photos. But we wanted to show it as it is. So we whipped out the camera, combed our hair (still no hair appointments freed up yet after Lockdown) and did a lot of takes in the meadow.

Live filming

I pitied the lovely camper snoozing on his pitch as Tim did 10 takes, all identical, with each one faster to try and cram the required points into his 15 second clips. It was a comedy act of suddenly talking very fast for the last 5 seconds.

Real camping with nature at The Secret Campsite

Real camping

We featured an intro by Tim, explaining our story and how we transformed an old run down garden nursery into the Secret Campsite. This entailed renovating old buildings, planting a lot of trees to provide natural screening for campers and a wonderful wildlife habitat. And what we think “real camping with nature” actually is.

The Okra Dining Pod created at The Secret Campsite
The Okra Dining Pod

Our Secret Shelters

Then we ran some video interviews with Jason Thawley. He has designed all our Secret Shelters including The Tree Tent, The Gridshell and the Okra . We also featured a sneak peek of his new ” Okra dining pod” .This is aimed at the hospitality sector for socially distanced outdoor dining opportunities.

The Secret Wildlife Festival programme 2019

Secret Wildlife Festival

Tim introduced the Secret Wildlife Festival, our annual fundraising festival run in conjunction with The Sussex Wildlife Trust – sadly cancelled for 2020 but it will resurface for 2021. The Festival is a wonderful way to reconnect with Nature and Wildlife, the schedule is put together by the hugely informative Michael Blencowe and his colleagues at Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Scrub scrub!!

The COVID clean!

We filmed the COVID clean. This takes place 5 x per day, involving bleach solution, multiple buckets, gloves, and face masks. This is in addition to the normal daily deep clean. It’s really not very interesting to watch but filmed in Slo-Mo makes it visually far more amusing! Our last newsletter relayed our COVID policy which prompted lots of relieved comments so we understand how important this is.

Marbled White Butterfly at The Secret Campsite by Colin Gibbs
Marbled White by Colin Gibbs


We featured lots of wildlife photos, including butterflies, moths and grass snakes. We were delighted to welcome people from the Sussex Butterfly Society here last weekend. Colin took a beautiful photo of one of the many Marbled Whites who spend the summer here.

BBQ and campfires at the Secret Campsite


Finally, we turned our attention to arguably the best part of any camping trip, the BBQ and campfires. Tim’s a dab hand at lighting campers fires, secretly, we do have a blowtorch here too, when all else fails.

We loved the opportunity to introduce The Secret Campsite to a new audience over at Cool Camping. We had the occasional technical drama which hopefully passed by unnoticed!