I was slightly nervous when Embers Camping asked if we would try out one of their campsites for a couple of nights. I'm happy to admit I'm not much of a camper, (having said that most camping has been at festivals and that's a different experience in itself right?) preferring my creature comforts and home routine. The last time we camped was at Camp Bestival and it rained the whole weekend so I was also nervous asking my husband if he would be up for it again! However, we agreed we did really wanted to try it again and when they said we would have a pre-pitched bell tent with bunting, fairy lights, sheepskin rugs, roll out beds and wood fired pizza I was sold! I love the idea of making some childhood memories with weekends away like this for the kids so we just prayed the weather would be good and we wouldn't be stuck inside all weekend. Although we agreed if that was the case we would just go to the pub!
For me camping with young kids means you need some perks to make your life easier. Yes you can turn up and pitch your own tent (we looked on with wide eyes as the people next to us set up the most epic tent with every bit of camping equipment know to man), but you can also hire bell tents (sleeping up to 6 people) for £70 a night which means you literally can just turn up and enjoy the weekend. This also saved us from having to commit and buy all the camping equipment which is a lot of stuff to pack into your car too. You may be more inclined to the true outdoorsy experience but for us, a bell tent with beds was the way forward and the perfect set up.
We turned up on Friday afternoon (you can get in from 2pm) and were greeted by the lovely Robyn and Michael who run and manage the site and cook the freshly made wood fired pizzas and breakfasts (if you want them) everyday. They were very helpful and informative, even telling Finn about a secret Gruffalo trail on the site! You can drive your car right up to your pitch to drop all your bags off before parking it up away from the site. This made a big difference (memories of festival camping where you have to walk for miles with your kit) although you could also borrow carts to transport your stuff too which looked fun. The pitches are set up around the perimeter of a field so it feels really spacious and each pitch has a fire pit which was a major camping highlight. We had some friends staying on the pitch next to us so we set up our chairs around one fire pit and kept each other entertained, eating lots of marshmallows of course.
The campsite shop was really well stocked and open until late, selling everything from sausages, kindling, firewood, coffee and ice to treats like sweets, and local Sussex ice-cream. You can pre-order your pizzas and agree a rough time you want to pick it up from the pizza cart (the night we stayed they made nearly 100 pizzas!). They were yummy and perfect for eating around the firepit and the start of a lovely evening. You could even get a dessert pizza with nutella, which of course the kids loved! On our second night we did a BBQ with burgers, steaks and chicken and you can hire a griddle that sits on top of the firepit which helps turn it into a BBQ.
The Embers Campsite at Bentley Estate in East Sussex (just under 2 hours drive from London) is set in rural picturesque grounds. There is plenty of space for exploring, running and playing. A few minutes walk away is the Estate's Motor Museum and Wildfowl Park which also has an adventure playground, tea room, trampolines and miniature railway - plenty to keep the kids happy. I highly recommend the railway which takes you around the estate in around half an hour and you can stop and get off along the way if you like. The South Downs National Park is also a few miles away and you can visit the seaside (Birling Beach which we sadly didn't get around to checking out). We were very lucky with the weather so did spend most of our time relaxing around the fire pit enjoying a few drinks whilst the kids played. On our second day we went to a lovely pub for lunch by the river called The Anchor Inn where you could even hire a boat. The pretty historic market town of Lewes is also nearby and worth a visit if you have time.
The on-site facilities which were all housed in a big wooden cabin were really well set up and clean. Separate toilets for men and women and lots of sinks outside for washing up. The solar powered showers were nice and hot and I liked the green credentials with water efficient devices to reduce waste. We were situated quite close to the toilets and showers which with young children suited us really well.
The bell tents were big enough to sleep 6 people so we had lots of space - we even ended up putting Violet's travel cot up as she does tend to wriggle around a lot. The kids all went to bed pretty late as it didn't get dark until around 9pm and they were up at 5am on the first morning which was a bit of a killer but luckily we had an iPad to hand which meant sneaking in a few more zzzz's. Luckily the second day they treated us with a sleep in.
The bundle beds which you an hire as an extra are well worth it for the comfort they provide in getting a better nights sleep. The are a self-contained, fully-bundled bed, complete with a slim, self-inflating mattress, built in luxury duvet and pillow with ultra cosy sheets - genius. It was nice to snuggle into them each night and yes it did get cold in the middle of the night so make sure you bring some warm layers! We were all feeling pretty knackered the next morning but nothing that fresh air and a cup of coffee couldn't cure!
Breakfast consisted of bacon or sausage baps which you could buy freshly cooked off the campsite bbq. We also has some croissants and brioche rolls which we had taken with us, it's definitely worth making sure you have some snacks and food basics with you in a cool box. These are my other camping essentials:
- Chairs - for adults and kids, we had simple folding chairs and had bought some little plastic ones for the kids at the last minute which were novelty and they loved
- Table - its nice to have a table to actually store your stuff on otherwise you will keep knocking that bottle of wine over!
- Blankets - for using inside and outside the tent
- Picnic rug
- Lighter or matches for the firepit
- Marshmallows and skewers - for toasting over the firepit
- Wellies, flip flops or crocs - something quick and easy to slip on for walks to the loos and using in the showers
- iPad - for those early starts to keep the kids entertained whilst you carry on sleeping!
- Onesies - fun to get into once the sun goes down
- Bin bags - for rubbish, wet clothes etc
- Toys, ball, sticker books - these did come in handy when the kids weren't running around as entertainment
Thanks for having us Embers Bentley! We had some fun quality time as a family and definitely made a lot of memories, Finn is already asking when we can go back. I highly recommend this campsite if you're looking for somewhere in a pretty setting with a good set up and a few creature comforts thrown in. This would also be the perfect spot to hold a big celebration - you can hire out the whole campsite and have your very own festival. Embers - we will be back!
There is also a second campsite at Polesden Lacey in the Surrey Hills.
*Please note I was gifted my stay at Embers Bentley and this post was commissioned by Embers Camping but all opinions are my own.