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Aide Garden, The White Horse Inn, Low Road, Sweffling, Suffolk
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Aide Garden, The White Horse Inn, Low Road, Sweffling, Suffolk
If there were an annual award for 'English campsite with the greatest diversity of accommodation', the owners of Aide Garden would be permanently practising their acceptance speeches and making mental notes not to blub on discovering that they've triumphed over Angelina Jolie again.

Guests to this former pub garden, on the edge of the little village of Sweffling, can choose between a stay in a bell tent, a yurt, a dpi, a gypsy caravan, and a 'wooden tent on stilts' (inspired by a trip to New Zealand). Alternatively, they can bring along their own tent and camp in the time-honoured fashion. Indeed, youthful owners Mane and Mark encourage non-campers who have booked into the more glampy accommodation to bring along a tent to give traditional camping a try. Battle-hardened tentophiles, meanwhile, can spend their final night in the yurt or the gypsy caravan, say, as a bit of a naughty treat (there's even a cute self-catering cottage for those who need to bait the hook for less enthusiastic campers).

However you decide to stay here, the vibe remains the same. A garden kept deliberately wild (and with its own friendly hedgehog) combined with facilities artfully constructed from reclaimed and recycled materials engender a laid-back atmosphere, where the sixties and the tenties collide to rather pleasing effect.

Aide Garden, The White Horse Inn, Low Road, Sweffling, Suffolk


Take the brilliant jungle shower, for example, made from wood Marie and Mark have picked up. Showerers can hitch up one of the site's bags of solar-heated water to enjoy an (entirely modest) outdoor shower. It's definitely worth a go; not only is it pleasantly surprising how warm the sun can make the water, but there's the added bonus of a view of next door's free-range pigs. (There are also two spotless conventional showers for those for whom cleanliness is next to indoorsiness.)

The pathways around the 0.89-acre (they've measured it) site; the Donkey Shed shelter that trebles as a kitchen and dining room (the straw-bale seats are a particular hit with kids); the bookcase in the yurt... they've all been lovingly crafted by hand with materials that would otherwise have gone to waste. Even the wood-burning stoves have been created from discarded gas bottles by a friend of the couple. And if you're more into cycling than recycling, you can borrow a bike from the cluster, which even includes a tandem, kept on site.

Aide Garden, The White Horse Inn, Low Road, Sweffling, Suffolk


After dark, myriad colourful solar-powered lights and sun jars give the place a magical dingly dell feel, an impression enhanced by the soft glow from the brick pizza oven (bring your own ingredients and become italiano for the night), and the rosy blush of the communal fire.

There are big plans afoot for the coming years. Aside from building the wooden tent on stilts, Marie and Mark are reopening the pub - The White Horse - whose garden forms the campsite. They also plan to build a compost loo and open a little shop selling hand-made recycled crafts.

Aide Garden, The White Horse Inn, Low Road, Sweffling, Suffolk


Visitors should note that there's one space at the very top of the garden that's not open to guests - where there's a teeny tiny tent in residence.'That's ours', laughs Mark.'We hated the idea of not being able to camp here ourselves so we've got our own tent up for whenever we want to treat ourselves.' A campsite that's so good the owners camp there themselves? You won't get a better recommendation than that, not for all the donkey sheds in Sidmouth.

Aide Garden, The White Horse Inn, Low Road, Sweffling, Suffolk


COOL FACTOR Never before, in the history of human camping, has so much variety been packed into 0.89 acres of garden.

WHO'S IN Tents, glampers-yes. Campervans, caravans, dogs, groups - no.

ON SITE There's a communal campfire near the bottom of the field and 6 small bring-your-own-tent pitches scattered around the side in cosy nooks and crannies beneath or behind trees.The loos, in buildings attached to the house, are very clean (2W, 1M, plus a compost loo), and you can choose between a conventional shower (1W, 1M) and the jungle shower under the trees. Kids love the numerous chickens and ducks that wander about the site, while a diablo and poi are available for any minors who live in hope of running away to join the circus some day. A room is given over to a freezer, a fridge, a washing machine, and microwave. There's also a covered kitchen/dining area with gas cookers, straw-bale seats, cutlery, crockery, pots, pans, tea, and coffee. A mobile shop stops at the campsite on Fridays from noon to 2pm, but there's no shop in Sweffling itself. There is some occasional traffic noise from the road that runs past the site.

OFF SITE Framlingham Castle (01728 724189; see www.english-heritage.org.uk) is an astonishingly fine yet little known 12th-century fortress with frequent child-friendly events. The coastal gems of Dunwich, Southwold, and Aldeburgh are within striking distance, as is the world-famous bird reserve at Minsmere (see www.rspb.org.uk) with nature trails, hides, and visitor centre. More birdwatching, as well as walks along the Aide Estuary and boat trips are all to be had at Snape Maltings (01728 688303;www.snapemaltings.co.uk), whose concert hall is the home of the Aldeburgh Festival (01728 687110), co-founded by Benjamin Britten and held every June.

FOOD AND DRINK If you visit before Aide Garden's White Horse pub has reopened, a pleasant 8-and-a-bit-minute stroll through a meadow will take you to another White Horse (01728 663497; www.whitehorserendham. co.uk) at Rendham - there's a third White Horse close by too, nobody knows quite why - where you can get a decent bite to eat and sup some locally brewed Earl Soham ale. The extensive Friday Street Farm Shop (01728 602783; www. fridaystfarm.co.uk) at Farnham sells its own home-grown fruit and vegetables and doubles as a cafe.

GETTING THERE Be ye warned - satnav will take you on a rather circuitous route through Sweffling. Rather you should aim for the small town of Saxmundham on the A12. From there, take the B1119 west. Pass the White Horse in Rendham, round a sharp left- then right-hand bend, and immediately after another sharp left-hand bend, turn right at a crossroads and you're at Aide Garden.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT If you can get yourself to Saxmundham station (www.nationalexpresseastanglia.com), Marie or Mark will generously collect you and take you the ЗУг miles to the site for free, if you give them some advance warning.

OPEN Easter-October.

THE DAMAGE Small tent (up to 4-man) £12 in high season/£10 in low season, per night; large tent (more than 4-man) £18/£15; wooden tent (sleeping 2) £35/£30; bell tent £45/£40; tipi £65/£55; gypsy caravan £70/£60; yurt £75/£65. There's a discount for those staying for a week.



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