Autumn’s my favourite time of the year but these days it can also be a bit of a downer as it marks the end of our camping season. Recently I bought a Quechua pop-up tent for overnight camps and it was looking like the tent wasn’t going to get tested until the Spring. Luckily October surprised us with a weekend of mild dry weather so we grabbed the opportunity and booked a quick ninja dash away.
Our destination was Forgewood Campsite just South of Tunbridge Wells, in Kent. This site was featured in Camping Ninja‘s last newsletter and it ticked all our boxes. Available for just one night, dog friendly, not too far away, rustic, and wood fires allowed!
It only took a couple of hours to get to Tunbridge Wells but that place is one big traffic jam. Half an hour of slow crawling to get through it and out the other side. On the way home we used the B roads to the West instead to avoid the town and it was much prettier and faster.
As you drive in the entrance to Forgewood there’s a cute little cafe on the right which sells excellent food. It’s pricey though and the portions are small. We had lunch (sandwidges, pannini, and drinks) for approx. £13 and it was just the ticket after a bit of a drive. They also sell bottled beers and wine. Not sure if the cafe is affiliated with the campsite but it’s right next door to reception and the toilet/shower block.
The campsite is new this year (2010) and the facilities are basic. The toilet/shower blocks are portacabins and ‘reception’ is a teeny tiny shack. However everything was clean and well stocked while we were there. It costs £12.50 per person per night so it’s expensive but for just one night it was doable.
There are two major choices when choosing your pitch. Wood or field. Cars can drive through the woods but need to be parked in the field. We went for the field rather than the woods as we had a bad experience with noisy rain and acorn throwing squirrels the last time we camped under a tree. We bowled up to the tree line, picked a spot next to an existing fire pit, and parked up. It was very quiet with a few people in the field and a few cars parked about. Upon closer inspection of the woods though we could see some big groups camped in there nestled between the trees.
Although the ground was a bit slopey (which had me sliding down to the bottom of the tent in the middle of the night) it was lovely and soft, grassy and clean. Definitely tent country. We pitched the new tent in about 2 seconds (amAZING tent, review coming soon) and settled in with a couple of beers. Including one local one bought from the cafe that got the thumbs up from Nev.
It’s our first time camping somewhere that allows wood fires. We bought a bag of logs from the campsite guy. He comes round on a little quad bike with a trailer selling them for a £5 a bag. Again bit expensive for damp logs but we hadn’t brought our own. We also rented a campfire grill for £5 (per night) with a £40 deposit. They sell these at reception or rent them out and they turn a wood fire into a BBQ. After a bit of scrabbling round in the woods for kindling and raiding the back of the car for newspaper we set about building a cooking fire.
Okay. So we’re not the most experience fire builders in the world. Eventually we succeeded and cooked the sausages and toasted the marshmallows. What we did learn is that it’s probably a good idea to bring firelighters, dry kindling, and possibly our own logs too. Ensuring that everything is thoroughly dry. Pink VW campervan neighbours had done that and had a cosy little fire burning as it got dark. We had lots of fun though and the marshmallows were fantastic.
Forgewood is a very relaxed site. To quote from their website, “Camping at ForgeWood is about getting back to nature and enjoying camping the old way. There are no Caravans or electrical hookups, just the basics needed to make it a real break from the technocrazy world we live in. You make your own space, light your own fire, build your own shelters and give your kids the chance to run free in the woods.”
At nighttime there was a little bit of noise from the bigger groups camped in the woods but we were far enough away we could sleep well. Dogs are allowed off the lead near your tent but on the lead when away from it. As always some people have a free-range attitude with their dogs which caused an issue when two unleashed dogs came over and tried to steal Dogface’s breakfast. (Dogface does a great impression of Mr Furious from Mystery Men under those kind of circumstances.) We had plenty of space to ourselves though and it was lovely and peaceful 99% of our time there. Also the grounds are pretty large so I imagine you could be even more isolated if you wanted to.
Sunday morning we went for a quick dogwalk before we packed up and headed home. Again from their website, “Forgewood is an ancient woodland situated in the High Weald on the Eridge Park Estate. The Estate itself was created by William the Conqueror when he gave the land to his brother Odo. The Nevill family inherited the estate in 1448.”
We saw ‘caves’ on the map and had to hunt them down. After a LOT of mud and a bit of getting lost we found them and they’re awesome. Really creepy with an ancient yew tree growing over one entrance. We hadn’t brought torches, as never for a minute did we think they’d be as big and manmade as they are, so we didn’t explore inside. Right next to the cave entrances is a big patch of marshy boggy land. All very creepy on an Autumnal day approaching Halloween.*
We really enjoyed our night away. It’s a bit too expensive for us for a long holiday but lovely for a weekend break in Spring or Autumn. I’m sure we’ll visit Forgewood again to camp in the woods, explore the caves and, most importantly, toast some marshmallows over a fire.
More photos can be found here.
If you’re planning a visit to Forgewood and have any questions about our trip please feel free to ask in the comments.
* “The Chalybeate Springs and the associated ice caves amongst them. It is hard to believe that workmen manually dug 50 metre caves just to store ice sourced from the springs. With a torch you can walk through them.”