Nightingales touch down in sussex

double rainbow over the secret campsite

News was spreading around the village that the Nightingales had returned to our little village of Barcombe in East Sussex. Its a long flight from their winter territories in Africa, before they touch down and set up camp near the Secret Campsite.

So, its a great moment when they arrive and start singing. Its hugely loved, annual performances, during April and May.

The village is abuzz with talk of how many have been heard and where their territories are along the dismantled railway track that links the campsite to the village.

First night walk of the year

So, on Thursday evening when the sun had fully set, I ventured out along the railway track to listen.

Luck was in. I was immediately welcomed by a beautiful song from deep within a dense patch of blackthorn at the edge of the campsite. A male was treating me to the long, hugely varied series of melodies. You need to leave any self importance back at home. This enchanting song is not aimed at us. Its target is any passing females freshly arrived from Africa.

I walked halfway to the village and heard 2 more. A feast of sound. In the coming weeks the track will be filled with more males establishing their territories.

Other Nightingale lovers

We are also lucky to have amazing folk singer Sam Lee based in the area. Sam and his team host their Singing with Nightingales events which include a walk and tour of the area accompanied with delicious food and drinks around a campfire.

Nightingales included with your camping trip

But if you fancy a more peaceful nightingale experience you can book to stay with us at The Secret Campsite and enjoy ad hoc ambles along the track, as and when it takes your fancy.

Alternatively, you can tuck yourself up in bed and listen to the nightingales singing though the night accompanied by the odd Tawny owl or a Fox.

If you’re really lucky, you may even get the Marsh Frog backing chorus as the singing season gets into full flow.

Nightingales are dowdy little birds, but they pack a bug punch when it comes to attracting their mates.

Barcombe’s growing flock of nightingales go one step further, attracting lots of people, keen to reconnect with nature and the beautiful songs that they sing.

Easter Activities near to the Secret Campsite

Seaford Beach in East Sussex

The school holidays are now under way and our campsite is now filling up with lots of happy campers. We wanted to flag up some great local places and activities for those who want to explore the surrounding area.

Tree Top adventures at Branching Out Adventures, near Lewes
Tree top adventures at Branching Out Adventures

Branching Out Adventures

Branching Out Adventures is set in beautiful woodland and aims to introduce you to the thrill of treetop activity and adventure. Catering for everyone from aged 4 years upwards (no maximum age limits!) it offers a variety of rope courses and activities. There’s a mixture of high and low rope courses, a big swing, a speed zipwire, climbing wall and various other bouncy activities. Independently run and offering a cafe with drinks and snacks. 

Pre booking is essential. Link here

Buns at the Hubbery Cafe near to the Secret Campsite
Buns at the Hubbery,Swedish cafe

Eat at the Hubbery, Swedish cafe

The Hubbery is an outdoors cafe, approx 25 minutes walk across the field from the Secret Campsite. Serving Swedish “Fika” which translates loosely to mean coffee and delicious cakes plus light lunches. All food is Swedish themed and in partnership with some great Sussex businesses. Seating is outside with some covered options available. Wander across the fields or pre book a table by emailing

Lewes Depot cinema, close to the Secret Campsite

Lewes cinema

Sometimes it rains, or you just fancy a night at a cinema. Lewes Depot is an award-winning independent 3-screen cinema with a bar, cafe, courtyard and art gallery. Serving up a wide selection of films in a modern, thoughtfully designed environment. View more info

Visit Lewes, the tourism office
Visit Lewes – Lists everything you might possibly need!

Local news

Visit Lewes is the local encyclopedia for Whats On locally. With dedicated listings for Detailing Family Fun, Food and Drink, Trails and Tours, Art and Culture, and Countryside, they provide an up to the minute finger on the Lewes and countryside pulse. You can “monitor” them here!

Don’t forget that we will try to answer every question in person at campsite reception. We can also recommend the best beaches, walks, pubs and restaurants too. We have tried all of them!

“Save Our Bridge” the fight for wildlife in Barcombe

The “Save Our Bridge” campaign focusses on an old railway bridge in Barcombe, East Sussex. Church Road Bridge was constructed in the early 1880’s and spans the old Bluebell Railway Line. The line closed in 1958 and many of our campers still use the old railway track to walk up to Barcombe village.

Old track bed looking North from Barcombe Bridge. Photo credit Ian Cairns

Wildlife and walkers

The dismantled railway is an amazing green artery. It forms a section of the wildlife corridor running from the Ouse Valley through Knowlands Wood past The Secret Campsite and continuing to the Ashdown Forest. It is home to a multitude of wildlife including bats, badgers and hedgehogs. It provides a safe place for wildlife to move freely and cohabit. To nest, reproduce and raise their young.

There are moves afoot by National Highways to infill this old bridge with an estimated 1000 tons of concrete and aggregate. This would force the animals onto the roads and remove their safe passage with potentially fatal consequences. Infill would prohibit the passage of walkers. Lockdown’s have seen an increase in walkers accessing their local paths and appreciating nature on their doorstep with all its associated health benefits.

Putting a barrier that stops free passage of wildlife and the public is typical of societies “put nature last” approach. For a more heartening approach to Nature, visit Get Nature Positive campaign.

The history

The railway bridge forms part of the Historical Railways Estate managed by National Highways. An enforced pause on the entire programme of infilling historical railway assets was put in place, following a national backlash over another proposed infill in Great Musgrave, Cumbria.

But under emergency powers, if there’s deemed to be a threat to public safety then National Highways can, in the words of Lewes Councillor Zoe Nicholson “stealthily move ahead”.

Local campaigners asked 2 eminent engineers to evaluate National Highways plans for Church Road bridge. They concluded that there is no immediate risk that the structure will collapse, but that remedial work is required at an estimated cost of circa £70,000.

Local residents have formed a Facebook pressure group, “Planet Barcombe” and have been lobbying local MPs, and politicians to raise awareness of the cause. “Stealth measures” may be in place by National Highways but Barcombe residents are pulling their weight vociferously in support of the local wildlife.

Times are changing and people are waking up to this short term and selfish approach, Nature is becoming important again.

Want to know more?

You can follow more on Twitter @BarcombeBridge and on Facebook @planetbarcombe 

Plus use the hashtag #StopTheInfill . Sussex Bylines have written an interesting article here.

Do have a watch of Dr Burnside, a landscape ecologist, has made a video about Barcombe bridge and its importance as a corridor for wildlife.

Local campaigners! Do watch Dr Burnside’s video on YouTube

Fun activities with children near The Secret Campsite

Tree fun at Branching Out Adventures near to the Secret Campsite

The Secret Campsite is perfectly nestled between the small villages of Chailey and Barcombe. And within easy striking distance of the bigger towns including Lewes and Brighton.

South Downs Way near Lewes

There’s lots of great activities and days-out for families of all ages. The activities suggested offer entertainment for all kinds of weather (yes it can sometimes rain at the Secret Campsite). Plus they are reasonably well priced too. Some are even free. Choose a brisk walk across the South Downs, perhaps at Firle Beacon, or a sunny day spent exploring rock pools in Seaford. A good rainy day option might be a farm day with animals. There’s lots of fun days to be had exploring East Sussex!


A popular summer day out is The Pells Pool in Lewes. This is a seasonal outdoor Lido, and also the oldest documented freshwater pool in the UK. It’s beautiful and very popular. It offers great value swimming throughout the summer months until November. There’s also a baby pool, a snack kiosk plus bike racks available to use. Do check the website or their Facebook page before you visit as things sometimes change.

Beach huts at Seaford Beach East Sussex

Beach activities

Seaford beach also offers a fantastic aquatic adventure with its unique selection of rock pools along the beach, perfectly placed under the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters. When the tide is out, the sea reveals wonderful rock pools which offer hours of fun catching crabs, prawns or shrimps!
Afterwards pop along to Frankies , a small kiosk serving hot drinks and delicious homemade cakes. Or there’s also a great fish and chip shop, Trawlers, about 5 minutes walk away too.

Middle Farm

Middle Farm is located close by beautiful Firle village (do check out the Ram Inn too if you can). The Farm has lots of animals to see including llamas, pigs and sheep. Plus a play barn, picnic area, tea room and farm shop.

Historic Newhaven Fort

Newhaven Fort is a fantastic day out for any weather and any ages. We have been a few times and really rate it. There are lots of exhibitions including artefacts from the war, the home front and information about local history. The exhibitions are based within the fort ruins overlooking the sea, and there is a play area and a tearoom there too.

Ride the steam trains

Sussex is lucky to be home to two steam railway lines both offering an opportunity to travel on the steam trains!

The Lavender Line is based in Isfield, approximately 15 minutes drive from The Secret Campsite. It offers a 2 mile round trip, with idyllic views of the local countryside and is a great adventure. You can also see the coal office which has a model railway with parts of the railway that they used to use!

The Bluebell Railway is located next to Sheffield Park Gardens and Tea Rooms and offers a train ride on the trains too! There is also a museum where you can see the model of the original bluebell train, a chance to operate the signalling box and see the locomotives.

Hang upside down

For those wanting to clamber and hang upside down in trees, we thoroughly recommend the independently run Branching Out Adventures. Located approximately 15 minutes from the campsite, at Halland. It’s a great place to wear out energetic kids whilst offering exciting opportunities for younger members too. They might even go to bed early, allowing you a peaceful evening around your campfire! Booking ahead is essential as it’s very popular.

Sussex is very rich in history and there are plenty of new places to explore! Please do ask at Reception if you have any questions or queries. All the sights we recommend are family-friendly and are not too far away from the campsite. Enjoy!

New Year walks close to the Secret Campsite

Swimmers at Seaford Beach

Lockdown #3 is enabling us to really appreciate the countryside that surrounds the Secret Campsite. Lewes is still open for business of sorts. Do check out the latest info outlining Home Deliveries and Takeaways. Plus the local shops that can offer delivery here.

Seaford Beach Sussex


We have been striding out over to the beaches, particularly at Seaford. Here we were treated to the sight of swimmers in late December who after swimming then sat and chatted in the water. Note it was freezing cold! The little takeaway cafe was open when we visited and treated ourselves to wonderfully scalding hot coffee. Many of our campers love the rockpooling that’s available at Seaford, so do check this out next time you pay us a visit.

Cows grazing on the South Downs near Plumpton

The South Downs

The South Downs however require a thermos flask if you want a drink. We saw in New Years Day up on Firle Beacon. Thick fog so no view but we did manage to spot a neighbour en route. A bracing 4 km walk over the top and back was a fantastic start to the New Year.

Despite having lived here almost 20 years I had never been to nearby Telscombe. Its a beautiful spot, close by to award winning Breaky Bottom Vineyard. We had a wonderful 2 hour walk over the top of the Downs and saw a Kestrel, and a few fellow walkers too. You can read about some of the other South Downs Way walks here.

View over the South Downs at Plumpton

Chailey Woods

Closer by to the Secret Campsite, we have been walking through Chailey Woods and Knowlands Woods most days. These Woods are famed locally for their bluebells and mushrooms too. Neither are prevalent right now but they are wonderfully peaceful.

Morning sun near Knowlands Woods

Wishing you all a very happy new year until we reopen for camping on 26 March 2021. Bookings can be made here .

Walking the South Downs Way

Family Hiking!

As a family we have walked the length of the South Downs Way. We started doing this when our youngest was 5 years old and we finished when she was 13. These hikes took place over annual October half-terms. We still love walking up on the Downs and found it a haven during Lockdown.

Walking The South Downs Way near Lewes

Walking as a family is wonderful. A real time opportunity to check in on each other. Remember past escapades and plot new adventures. Yes there’s moans and groans. They are normally remedied by “eat whatever you want at the pub”!

There is more to discover in addition to The South Downs Way. There’s a plethora of other great circular walks to discover. The South Downs National Park covers three counties, with traces of past civilisations amongst the hills and paths. These include the Hill Fort at Devils Dyke, and Saddlescombe Farm in the Domesday Book

Route Guides

10 Adventures offers free worldwide Route Guides, including The South Downs. Their downloadable routes feature the best hikes in the South Downs with varying distances, gradients and ease. You can join some of these from The Secret Campsite or drive to a start point close by.

Try the Hassocks to Lewes Hike ( or vice versa), a distance of 18 km, with time length of 5-6 hours. This could be joined from the campsite at Offham. Or perhaps the Glynde and Mount Caburn Hike. 10.5 km long and 3 – 4 hours to complete.

Looking over the fields along the South Downs Way

Walks and pubs

Sussex is a great county to explore. The South Downs offer lots of opportunities for short and long hikes. Particularly good hikes are those finishing at the pub. Check out this list from The Telegraph “Perfect pub walks:10 great routes in the South Downs” . Walks situated close to the Secret Campsite include the Weald Walk around East Chiltington finishing at The Jolly Sportsman and the Firle Beacon & Charleston Farmhouse Walk finishing at The Ram Inn

Come and tell us where you walked, it allows us great feedback with other campers too!

Where to get food during your stay at The Secret Campsite?

The Anchor Inn at Barcombe near to The Secret Campsite

The Secret Campsite is rather well placed for pubs, restaurants, cafes, farm shops, farmers markets and takeaways too. Sussex seems to cater for foodies!

Farm shops

Holmansbridge Farm Shop is 2 minutes walk from the Secret Campsite. It sells a wonderful selection of meat, deli products, fruit and veg plus shop made foods too. The sausage rolls, scotch eggs and pasties are a particular favourite. Plus local wines, spirits and ciders.


The nearest pubs are the Royal Oak in Barcombe, which is a 20 minute walk up over the fields (ask us for the quickest route!). Or try The Five Bells in Chailey, approx 40 minutes away. You will find an enviable selection of gins here including Chailey based Generation Eleven Gin!

A great walk is over to the Anchor Inn at Barcombe Mills This is a good pub with the added allure of being incredibly scenic and offers boat hire too. Other great country pubs to try include The Griffin Inn over at Fletching Fancy a carvery? then pop down to The Rainbow just down the road which currently offers a full day carvery on Wednesday and Sundays. With all these pubs, do call ahead to check opening hours and current restrictions surrounding COVID.


Our current favourite is the Swedish themed Hubbery Cafe, open Friday – Sunday 10-5 pm. Accessed via beautiful Knowlands Woods it’s a great new pop up. Lewes is rammed full of good cafes. Personal outdoor cafes favourites include Cafe du Jardin and Lewes Depot .

Farmers Markets

Lewes Friday Food Market operates weekly from 9.0- 12.30 at Market Street Lewes. Stallholders vary and may include breads from Flint Owl Bakery, meats from Harrys Kitchen, Cheeses from Cheese Please alongside fresh coffee, organic fruits and veg.

Lewes Farmers Market operates on the first and third Saturday of each month at Friars Walk Car park, Lewes from 9 am to 1 pm. This is a larger food market and offers plenty of choice of local Sussex food and drinks producers.


Plenty of great options here. Erawan does amazing Thai as does Pailin. For Chinese try Castle Chinese . If you are after fish and chips then head to South Street Fish Bar at 9 South Street Lewes, BN7 2BT or call 01273 474710. They currently close at 9.30 pm.

Goodies for sale at The Secret Campsite
Goodies at Reception…

Onsite goodies

Here on site, we sell a few goodies too. Including wonderful meat boxes from Townings Farm and currently 6 exciting flavours of Lickalix ice lollies (these lollies have plastic free compostable packaging). Sussex based Folkington’s stock a range of presses and juices here too.

We are always keen to hear about Sussex food and drink adventures, so pop by and tell us your favourite food haunts while you were camping here.

It’s swimming time!

Beach huts at Seaford Beach East Sussex

There are some glorious places to go wild swimming whilst you are staying here at The Secret Campsite. Sussex boasts some truly marvellous spots. Although one destination definitely won’t be our pond. It’s dried up and even the Great Crested Newts that live with us here on site would struggle to get damp wriggling around in it.

Barcombe Mills

Fortunately there’s some other great local options. Nearest to the campsite is Barcombe Mills. Described as the worst-kept wild swimming secret in Sussex ! it’s a marvellous 5 km stretch of deep, clear water with very little current. You can access the water at any point. We recommend avoiding the area around the Anchor Inn Pub which gets very busy. You can walk to the Mills from The Secret Campsite approx 60 mins over the fields. There’s a small car park there, which gets very full when it’s hot and sunny. Please be aware that there are nearby sewage works. But you will be joining a crowd of locals who come back time and again.


Striking further afield, try Cuckmere Meanders, located close to Seaford. Here there are oxbow lakes that are cut off from the main river. These natural meanders are large and shallow with average quality water. Its best to avoid drinking the water. So take your on drinks rather than joining the cows and sheep sipping from the river.

Seaford Beach

If you fancy open water swimming, you can head down to Seaford Beach. It’s a pebbly beach and accordingly very painful to walk on. But it has free parking, is rarely busy and has a couple of coffee kiosks on the beach close to the Martello Tower. We are big fans of Seaford beach and there is a great fish and chip shop there called Trawlers.

Saltdean Lido

Heading in a Westerly direction then check out the very modernist Saltdean Lido . They offer a range of morning, afternoon and evening sessions available and recommend pre-booking online. Brighton offers great open water swimming opportunities. We tend to just paddle there so don’t have any top tips worth sharing, however this lady does!

Pells Pool Lewes

By no means last on the list is Pells Pool in Lewes. It’s the oldest freshwater documented outdoor public swimming pool in the UK, a mere 150 years old. It’s very popular and online booking is essential with no tickets sold at the door. There’s a range of swimming sessions available starting at 7 am!

Public transport to The Secret Campsite

trains going through the countryside

With a bit of forward planning, it’s relatively easy to use public transport to get to and from The Secret Campsite. It may take a bit longer but it’s great for the environment and the hedgehogs prefer it.

Just be prepared for some longer timetable gaps. We all cheered when a Sunday train service was eventually introduced at our local station at Cooksbridge earlier this year!

Cooksbridge station

The nearest station is Cooksbridge, BN7 3QG but there are no taxis waiting there and an irregular bus service, so plan ahead. Cooksbridge is located approx 2.5 miles away from the campsite and served by Southern Rail and some Gatwick Express trains. The station code is CBR. To view the current rail travel timetable click here . On arrival at Cooksbridge, you now have 3 options.


You can walk to the campsite, though be aware, much of the walk is along a road with no pavement or street lighting. It takes about an hour depending on how much kit you have with you.


Taxis are better than driving the whole way yourself and we suggest trying either GM Taxis, Lewes Station Taxis and the independent Cavendish Cars. You will need to pre-book these.


There are 2 buses that call at Cooksbridge Station and it’s approximately a 10 minutes bus journey, followed by a half hour walk. We’re the secret campsite after all. The bus stop is located outside the station on the left hand side heading north. Take either the 121, and get off at Chailey School bus stop, cross over the A275 and take the footpath from the back of Ibstock Brick Works through Chailey Woods to the campsite (approx 25 minutes).

Alternatively, take the 122, getting off at Barcombe Village and walking along the old railway track to the campsite. Follow the QR code route here . Current bus timetable is here. Please check pre-travel.

Lewes station

Or you can travel to Lewes Railway station and jump in a taxi from Lewes, for approx £15-20. There’s a taxi rank outside the station or book ahead using GM Taxis or Lewes Station taxis. You can wait for the buses 121 or 122, which depart from the bus station opposite Waitrose. Current bus timetable is here.

Haywards Heath station

Alternatively, Haywards Heath station is approx 25 minutes by taxi and around £25-30. There’s a taxi rank outside the station (plus a new adjoining Waitrose store). Haywards Heath is approx 60 mins by train from Victoria.

Our address

The Secret Campsite is located at Brickyard Farm, Town Littleworth, Cooksbridge, East Sussex. BN8 4TD.

We are the 5th driveway on same side after Holmans Bridge Farm shop, if travelling up from Lewes. Or if travelling up from Haywards Heath, look out for “White Lodge” sign post and we are the next driveway on the left hand side.

We look forward to meeting you here in Sussex.

Things to do, eat, and see near to The Secret Campsite

Boating at The Anchor Inn Barcombe Maynard Frith

Sussex is a wonderful place to visit and there’s plenty to do, eat and see whilst you are here. Here’s a list of places that our campers seem to enjoy. Please check the company website for current times and all opening details.

Sussex visitor official websites

Sussex Top Attractions



Family Attractions

Branching Out Adventures (use booking code TSC20)

Drusillas Park small animal zoo

Bluebell Railway

Newhaven Fort

Hurstmonceaux Observatory Science Centre

Lavender Line

Lewes Castle

Farleys House & Gallery

Anchor Inn Boating at Barcombe

Places to swim

Seaford, Brighton, Cuckmere Haven beaches. Rockpooling at Seaford.

Great Lidos at Saltdean and Pells Pool Lewes .

Wild swimming at Barcombe Mills (Though be aware that there are sewage works located close by)

Houses and Gardens

Sheffield Park and Garden (NT)

Borde Hill Garden

Michelham Priory

Alfriston Clergy House (NT)

Anne of Cleves House Lewes

South Downs Heritage centre

Nature and Walks

South Downs Walks visit South Downs National Park Authority

Walks from The Secret Campsite to South Downs Way

Cycle rides near Lewes and Falmer try The Cuckoo Trail

What’s on with Sussex Wildlife Trust

Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves or perhaps Lewes Railway Land


Ditchling Museum of Arts and Crafts

The Royal Pavilion


Lewes Depot

Uckfield Picture house

Food markets

Lewes Friday Food Market

Lewes Farmers Market