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ForgeWood Barn, Sham Farm Road, Danegate, nr Tunbridge Wells, Kent
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One of a bright young generation of new campsites, Forge Wood has taken Cool Camping principles and applied them beautifully. The site opened fully in 2010 after a low-key try-out the previous season, and it has proved to be an instant hit with that killer combination of campfires, woodland pitches, a tents-only rule (with the exception of the odd vintage campervan), and a laid-back approach.

ForgeWood Barn, Sham Farm Road, Danegate, nr Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Forge Wood - like Bedgebury (pi 57) about 15 miles away, and Wowo (pi38) in East Sussex -is a solid example ot the new breed of simple yet contemporary campsites, a movement that's been gathering momentum for a few years now. These sites totally 'get' that people want to let their kids roam around woods making camps and dens and getting dirty.They totally get the importance of the campfire, of providing a generous hoard of chopped wood and plentiful marshmallows.They get that people don't want rules and regulations and just want to go with the flow. They get that a camping trip is about being out amid nature, immersed in the experience of the wild. And they totally get that today's tent campers don't want to share these magical pockets of nature with shiny white caravans sporting satellite dishes on their roots. Banning caravans is always a popular move among the tent fraternity.

What Forge Wood and others are doing so well is putting the unassuming tent camper back at the centre of things. With an attractive mix of ancient woodland and open fields, this site gives tenters space and freedom. But the pitches within the woodland are the ones that stand out - surrounded by a sprawling, undulating thicket, unkempt and scattered with fallen branches, and left to the influences of weather, nature, and time. It's a beautiful place to camp. It truth be told, it's not entirely untouched - a regular visit from the tree surgeon ensures that all potentially dangerous overhanging branches are removed before they fall on an unsuspecting camper's head. But don't let small details get in the way of the romantic ideas - it looks untouched, and you do feel like you're camping out in the wilds. A bit.

Such splendorous surroundings are a result of the fact that Forge Wood is situated in a quiet corner of the vast Eridge Park Estate, a 3,000-acre expanse of countryside and farmland incorporating Britain's oldest deer park.The countryside site has been preserved since the 11th century, when William the Conqueror gave the estate to his half-brother Odo, a man of vast wealth and questionable morals who ended up in prison for embezzlement. Today the estate belongs to the Marquess of Abergavenny, and although it's not open to the public, there are rights of way along parts. Venison from the estate is available at Forge Wood in the form of sausages, burgers, and steaks — ideal for the campfire. Firewood and marshmallows are also sold at reception, as are handy little cooking thingamajigs, which allow you to use your pots and pans on the fire instead of the gas burner, so there's no doubt this place supports a strong campfire culture. In case this site needed anything else to recommend it, then the fact that there's a pub and a station nearby would seem to top it all off nicely. So for London-based campers, it's possible to get here in just over an hour, including a stop for a pint of Badger at the Huntsman.

ForgeWood Barn, Sham Farm Road, Danegate, nr Tunbridge Wells, Kent

COOL FACTOR Expansive ancient woodlands and a campfire culture.

WHO'S IN? Tents, occasional vintage campervan, dogs -yes. Caravans, motorhomes, groups of under-21s - no.

ON SITE Campfires encouraged. Pitches available in the woods or the fields. Many pitches are inaccessible by car; campers are encouraged to leave them in the car park. Rope swings and random kids' shelters can be found in the woods, which are used as a giant playground for young campers. Portakabins are used for the facilities and reception - part of the plan, the managers say, to provide a truly low-impact environment. Without permanent buildings, this entire site can disappear out of season and be returned to nature with no sign that a summer campsite exists. The facilities include free hot showers, washing-up sinks, disabled facilities, and ice-pack freezing.There is no shop as such, but fire grills (from £5 per night) and cooking equipment are available to rent or buy; firewood, marshmallows, and other bits and bobs are also available at reception. At the other side of the car park is a tea room, open daily in summer, which serves snacks, afternoon teas, and light meals.

OFF SITE Walks through the Eridge Park Estate start from the campsite; maps are available at reception, which will take you variously to historic ice caves, a Victorian folly, and a Saxon fort. A trip to nearby Croombridge Place (01892 861444; www.groombridge.co.uk) is a very worthwhile excursion, with its renowned formal gardens and the excellent Enchanted Forest attraction for kids, which includes treetop walkways, birds of prey, and huge swings. Further afield, but equally worthwhile, is Bewl Water (www.bewlwater.co.uk), a huge, picturesque reservoir with an activity centre, kayaking, sailing, a zip wire, and a big playground for children. Kids can also go 'Hydroballing' -walking across water in a giant, transparent bubble. The Waterside Bistro (01892 893923) has views out across the water. The historic spa town of Tunbridge Wells is only 4 miles away, and has castles, gardens, and aged houses to explore.

FOOD AND DRINK The Huntsman pub (01892 864258), next to Eridge station, has a pleasant beer garden, ales from the Badger Brewery, and a changing menu with an emphasis on locally sourced, seasonal produce. Head into Tunbridge Wells for a host of options including, for something a bit special, Thackeray's (01892 511921; www.thackerays-restaurant.co.uk) on London Road - a modern French restaurant in a beautiful 17th-century weather-boarded villa.

GETTING THERE Eridge Park is just off the A26, between Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough.Take the turning on the south side of the A26, towards Rotherfield and Mayfield. This is Sham Farm Road; follow for a mile and the site's on the left.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT Direct trains run from London Bridge to Eridge station in as little as 50 minutes; other connections are available via East Croydon. From Eridge station, it's about half an hour on foot (about 2 miles), or 5 minutes in a taxi. Tunbridge Wells station is 4 miles from the campsite and has better taxi connections.

OPEN April-October.

THE DAMAGE Adult (over 16 years old) £12.50 per night; for families, the rates are £10 adult/£5 child over 3 years old.

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