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Kitts Cottage Camp, Freshfield Place Farm, Sloop Lane, Scaynes Hill, West Sussex
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Kitts Cottage Camp, Freshfield Place Farm, Sloop Lane, Scaynes Hill, West SussexJames, the manager of both the local affiliated gastropub, the Sloop, and Kitts Cottage campsite, is a wry chap; he looks as if he might have been a highwayman or pirate in a former life, so we're not sure whether or not to believe him when he points to the campsite's eastern treeline and says there's a ghost of a lady who sometimes walks through there from the woods. Certainly it's an atmospheric spot, and on those creepy Sleepy Hollow nights, as the north wind wraps its teeth around your guy pegs and whistles at your door, you might wish that we'd never mentioned it. To be honest, but for your imagination, there's nothing faintly spectral about Kitts Cottage.

The story (coupled with James) just adds to the site's charm, for Kitts is bordered by forest, rolling meadow, and fields. Sandwiched between Lewes and Haywards Heath, the 18-acre site takes its name from a house that used to stand here hundreds of years ago... that's as much as we know, though - perhaps our researcher got lost in the local ales at the Sloop.

There are no style awards or glamping brownie points being won here, Kitts is all about bowling up with your tent and doing all the bard stuff like pitching up and cracking open your cool box, as well as stoking the flames on one of the many designated fire pits. Essentially it's a huge meadow bookended on two sides by alluringly ancient woods and bordered by sheep-grazing fields; there's an area for families shaded by mature oaks, a section for groups further away, and the remainder is left for couples and singles.The eastern treeline is always kept free and uninterrupted for aesthetic purposes - an arboreal canvas that might have come from the brush of John Constable. It makes a pleasant change for taste and nature to triumph over wanton greed.

Kitts Cottage Camp, Freshfield Place Farm, Sloop Lane, Scaynes Hill, West Sussex


James runs it this way to keep things in balancejust like the unspoken eco-agreement with the forest critters that watch you sleep.Your side of the bargain is not to gather logs, or any kindling whatsoever — it's provided to you on arrival. And, in return, the creatures leave you alone, just like in that film The Village. Fires are positively encouraged, though, as part of the site's back-to-basics ethos - returning to camping the way it used to be.

The site sits on a slight elevation, giving great views from the top of the hill. Gazing across the woolly backs of sheep and rusted ploughs, you have to pinch yourself when you remember you're less than an hour from London.

The surrounding woodlands are criss-crossed with public footpaths, one of which leads directly to the much-celebrated Bluebell Railway, a journey into yesteryear with a fully working steam railway system. With its old-fashioned stations peppered with nostalgic signs, octogenarian conductors, and steam billowing from Thomas the Tank Engine funnels, it's a delight for even the weariest of cynics.

Kitts Cottage Camp, Freshfield Place Farm, Sloop Lane, Scaynes Hill, West Sussex


The footpaths from the site are perfect for getting back to nature, and if you don't fancy walking then bring your bike to explore the woody glades, sunburnt fields, and pretty hamlets. The local Cuckoo Trail is a cyclist's paradise - 11 miles of" disused railway track, choking on wildlife and woodland as it meanders gently through quiet hamlets, monuments, and the best of Sussex countryside. It starts in Polegate and zigzags through Hailsham, Horam, and Heathfield.There are plenty of places en route to stop for a cheeky cool pint or a snack, as well as various sculptures in wood and steel to look out for.

In May, keep an eye out for the Orange-tip butterfly, and orchids growing near the path.

COOL FACTOR Back to basics, camping au naturel. Ditch the iPod speakers and lace up your walking boots.

Kitts Cottage Camp, Freshfield Place Farm, Sloop Lane, Scaynes Hill, West Sussex


WHO'S IN Tents, well-behaved dogs (on leads),groups, all folk - yes. Caravans are not welcome, however this is prime ground for campervans.

ON SITE Campfires positively encouraged in the fire pits. Pick up all your wood and kindling on arrival and James will direct you to the appropriate area that will best suit you. As Kitts aims to have the minimum human footprint on the area's eco-system, there are barely any facilities for your convenience beyond a few loos and a central alfresco washing-up area. There's no hot water and just a single exposed cold-water shower.

OFF SITE There's plenty to do if you're looking for organised activities: Sheffield Park and Garden (01825 790231; see www.nationaltrust.org.uk) features 18th-century ornamental gardens (laid out by Capability Brown) bursting with azaleas, rhododendrons, monkey trees, and views to set the soul alight - plus soothing lakes and a nice little tea room to quieten the groaning belly. Twenty minutes' walk from Kitts, the Bluebell Railway (01825 720800; www.bluebell-railway.com) is a heritage steam railway running between Sheffield Park and Kingscote, and a real journey back through time. The old boys that operate it are charming and take you back to another era as they doff their caps, wrinkle their leathery faces, and guide you on to the glorious old carriages, with smoke billowing from the funnels as if you were off to Hogwarts School. Bring on the lemonade and slammy doors, the cucumber sandwiches, and the Famous Five - this is a rare and evocative slice of olde England.

FOOD AND DRINK Apart from food cooked by yourself you'll have to seek warming fare at your local tavern - the Sloop Inn (01444 831219; www.thesloopinn.com), a welcoming gastropub with organic meats from local butchers, seasonal produce, and prices to match the affable atmosphere. Nearby too, at the end of Ketches Lane on the A275, is the Trading Boundaries (01825 790200; www. tradingboundaries.com) - a group of wonderful shops containing treasures from around the world, grouped around an old house, courtyard, and gardens. The cafe there sells light lunches all day. Both places can be reached by public footpaths, and the campsite actually has 3 separate footpaths that meet in Long Kitts and can take you to the south, west, and east.

Kitts Cottage Camp, Freshfield Place Farm, Sloop Lane, Scaynes Hill, West Sussex


GETTING THERE Take the A22 through East Grinstead and Forest Row, 100 metres after the Wych Cross crossroads turn right on to the A275 towards Lewes. When you reach the church at Danehill, turn right following signs to Freshfield (2 miles). Stay on that road past Brickworks and a mile after that you'll see the Sloop Inn on your left. The campsite entrance is approx. 300 metres further on the left-hand side.

OPEN 1 April-late October.

THE DAMAGE Tent plus adult £12 per night, weekend £20 for 1 or 2 nights; child (under-15) £5, weekend £10 for 1 or 2 nights.




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