The first photo I took at Embers Bentley campsite, near Lewes in Sussex, showed the 10yo running into our bunting clad bell tent and the 8yo running past it for the trees. This set the tone for the weekend, the 10yo and I snuggled under blankets reading and watching the world go by while Mr A slept off tonsillitis and the 8yo ran wild with new found friends with whom he formed ‘Team Savage’.
Eventually the 10yo joined the outdoor games too, as the older kids whittled sticks (under adult supervision), leapt in the long grass and pushed each other round the site on wagons.
Embers Bentley, one of three sites in the Embers family, is a glorious clover filled field leading down to a river, with pitches around the edges only, leaving plenty of room for kids to run free, while making it easy for grown ups to keep an eye out. There is a small field of tall grass and trees leading down to a small stream which was perfect for adventures. The kids we met at Embers were really lovely and keen to make friends, their parents seemed like minded too. What at first glance just seems like a field, turns out to be so much more.
The pitches are very well spaced and each has a firepit, so it’s a wild and cosy camping experience. It’s not easy to find a campsite where every pitch has its own campfire, where there is safe space for kids to run completely free from traffic, and where you have amazing attractions just a stroll away.
You can take your own tent, or have a tent or bell tent pitched for you. We’ve stayed in bell tents before and we love them, somehow they manage to always be a great temperature and to be both warm and cosy, and light and airy. We were able to drive our car to the pitch to unpack, before returning it to the car park, which is in sight of the field. We brought our own airbeds and bedding, which we inflated in no time with a pump that plugs into the car.
Having our own campfire was a real highlight for us. They are fire pits really, so incredibly safe as each fire is contained and has a metal fire guard that fits over it too. You can buy wood on site, it’s excellent quality as it is used in the wood fired pizza ovens too, it burns rapidly, so within half an hour of arriving we were unpacked and snuggling round a warm fire baking bananas and chocolate.
A red vintage caravan serves wood fired oven pizzas, there are picnic tables to enjoy them at. We sampled these on the Saturday night, and they were awesome and arrived to the exact time slot we booked.
The brand new oak washblock has underfloor heating and hot showers. It’s shiny new inside, but not your average camping shower block, the tiles glisten and beg to be touched, like rock faces, while the wooden slatted shower floors give the place a cosy Scandi feel. Even the washing up areas are pretty with Belfast sinks, fresh mint and washing up supplies.
The little shop has some lovely treats including hot chocs, teas and coffees in the morning, Mr A was ill and I ran out of time and energy with our packing leaving us without chairs or stove, but for a weekend it was fine. The local ice cream is gorgeous too. The staff are a font of warmth and local knowledge, there is such a friendly feel, they are lovely about letting you charge the odd thing too.
Embers Bentley is nestled in a fabulous setting, part of the leafy Bentley estate, where the neighbouring attractions have something for all ages. Branching Out has a play area, zip lining through the trees, a 3D swing and low and high rope courses for the daredevil tweens and teens. You can pay for whichever bits you fancy so it is affordable too.
My youngest conquered his fears on the low ropes course, he struggles with heights so he was incredibly proud of himself and pronounced the zip wire epic. My eldest is utterly fearless, no idea where she came from, and took on the highest zipwire, which involved a ladder climb followed by a climbing up hooks on the side of a giant tree before she even reached the zip wire platform. Then she tested and loved the giant 360 swing so much she had to have a second go immediately afterwards. More in our video!
Bentley Motor and Wildfowl Museum is a five minute stroll from the site and a lovely laid back place. We were all impressed with the vehicles, from the Penny Farthing to the Aston Martin, to a Bentley that is one of only 4 in the world. There is no connection to the Bentley car in the estate name by the way, in case you were wondering as I did. The 1961 camper van and Smokey the feral cat were great to meet too.
The cafe was a great place to warm up with a bowl of hearty soup, as it drizzled a bit on Saturday morning. They do all day brekkie, burgers, hummus, halloumi, avocado type foodie heaven meals, and a kids’ menu.
Mine were a bit old for the Bentley Model Railway, but little ones would love this, and the woodland play area. We didn’t do the wildfowl park justice as it rained and Mr A was poorly, but there is plenty of room to explore here without having to get in your car. We also enjoyed spending pocket/bribe* money in the craft centre and shop (* to get the youngest to do the zip wire on the low ropes when we thought we were stuck forever).
Back at the tent we loved lazing under blankets reading, with the kids fully in view across the field…
There is loads to do if you venture further afield, you are so close to Lewes, which is a pretty town with intriguing shops and a castle. Our old stamping ground, Brighton is only 25 minutes away, so we managed to catch up with a couple of friends. Embers Bentley would be a brilliant base for a South coast adventure, pop into Brighton, walk on the South Downs, visit the seaside at Birling Gap, explore Lewes and come back and chill at the campsite.
We quickly saw the simple genius in the Embers sites, space, fires, good food, great attractions and unplugged fun in the fresh air. There are two other sites at Polesdon Lacey, in Surrey and Beaulieu in the New Forest, both of which are also brilliantly located. More info here, I also have a discount code, book one night midweek and get the next night free! What you waiting for? EMBERSCAMPING25.
And yes, we do have a video, and it’s my best yet I reckon!
Paid collaboration with Embers Camping, editorial and opinions remain my own.