I never thought I was cut out for camping – being a fan of stilettos, champers and shiny hair – but then I had a child and now just try and stop me (although I must admit that we go in a campervan complete with fridge and power. Camping as a child is magical – I vividly remember going to Eurocamp in France, making friends, taking a saucepan to collect frites, running around in wide open spaces. And if you’re after a break that childhood memories are made of then look no further than Wowo (aka Wapsbourne Farm) in Sussex. We went with friends over the Royal Wedding Bank Holiday weekend (thanks, Wills & Kate) and loved every minute.
WoWo is genuinely child paradise. There are rope swings, climbing trees, grassy fields and scope for imaginative adventure wherever you turn. Virtually everyone there has children, so you’ve got unlimited potential for friendships and Swallows and Amazons style gangs to be formed. Add into that, pizza-making workshops (cooked in a seriously efficient home-built wood-fired oven), chickens (and chicks when we were there), storytelling sessions and bushcraft (who sniggered?) courses and you’re talking constant entertainment. It’s also just 10 minutes walk from the truly fantastic Bluebell Railway at Sheffield Park – well worth a visit, whether your little ones are train enthusiasts or not. Alfie loved every minute of our stay and still talks about it, despite my worries that he would be too young to enjoy the experience. Two of the other children in our party were older and I think he really grew in confidence over the three days, daring to cross bridges, climb trees and try swings he never would normally.
From a parent’s perspective there are lots of pros. Pitches are around the edges of fields, leaving the centre free for games and chaos. Each pitch has a communal firepit surrounded by four benches, so great for groups – we were five adults, four kids. The ‘free-range kids’ ethos discourages people driving around the site unneccessarily (there is a £5 fine for using your car to collect firewood – wheelbarrows can be borrowed for free) and the speed limit is 5mph if you absolutely have to drive. Rain? No problem. There is a huge barn complete with sofas, table tennis, books and board games. There is a brilliant walk (well signposted with laminated maps you can borrow and return on the way back) through gorgeous woodland to The Sloop, a country pub with great garden and above average pub fayre. No dishes specifically for kids when we went which was slightly disappointing, but the kids coped with the adult portions pretty well.
Our neighbours were delightful, as was everyone we met over the course of the weekend. It’s a friendly place and the emphasis is on community and getting involved – free soup is available (and delicious) before the storytelling sessions – just bring a bowl and spoon. We loved the shop offering bread, vegetables and honey made on site and other local goodies – the local ice cream was to die for (it was hot, what can I say?) If I had to name a downside, it would be the showers. Not enough and no thought that the majority of people would be going in with kids – my friend had to hand her baby to a lady to hold while she grabbed her towel. Blocks of compost loos (which I don’t actually mind) are in most fields, with flushing toilets provided near reception. My other half pointed out that most campsites we visit cost half the price and have amazing facilities, but in WoWo’s defence I would say that you’re paying for the ‘back to nature’ experience and the wonderful atmosphere and setting are worth their weight in power showers. Go. Book now. We’ll see you there.