Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Swallowtail Hill - Glamping in East Sussex

Heading out of London on a Friday night, not knowing where I was going, the car laden with clothing and paraphernalia to cover all eventualities… I was feeling surprisingly relaxed! Normally a bit of a control freak; there was actually something very calming about NOT being in charge. Brownie points to the Other Half already.

Designated map reader, I knew where we going geographically but I still had no idea what our ultimate destination was. We finally “arrived” at 10pm, when we drove down a dead-end road in the middle of nowhere, parked the car and were greeted by a lady with a torch and a wheelbarrow. A usual Friday night then?

Weary and bleary eyed we piled our belongings into the wheelbarrow (and the rest – clearly I packed for all occasions) and let our host lead the way. Down the hill, past the pond, the log-fired shower and the eco loos (more of them later), we followed the scent of the camp-fire until we reached our home for the next two nights: a huge and inviting bell tent deep in the Sussex countryside.

Swallowtail Hill Farm is a small farm in East Sussex run purely for conservation. They offer quirky accommodation in two 5 metre bell tents and one converted horse-box! Despite my many bags, all you need to bring with you is a sense of adventure and some scruffy clothes – everything else is provided, from pots and pans to use on your camp-fire, to wind-up torches, old-school games like Connect Four and a great selection of paperbacks. If romance is high on your list then the horse-box is your best bet as it's tucked away on it's own, nestled between a wild flower meadow and two magical ponds. We're talking 10 out of 10 for rustic romance.

With the August weather less than summery we didn’t spend as much time as we would have liked relaxing around our tent and camp-fire: which is what Swallowtail is made for. In fact, on our last morning, like true Brits, I insisted we cooked our breakfast over the fire despite the fact that it was raining, with severe weather warnings being issued for later on in the day!

Rain or shine there is plenty to do in the area. We went to Camber Sands on Saturday and had a fantastic “blow away the cobwebs” walk along the miles of uninterrupted white sand. We then pottered round the cobbled streets of the picturesque town of Rye (a GDG favourite, click here for our review), popping in to Lamb House (home to the author Henry James), having delicious cupcakes, and buying a hat (as you do) before heading back to our tent to have a pre dinner glass of wine around the camp-fire.

Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten to mention the “facilities”. Seasoned camper that I am I’m pretty used to basic loos and showers, but I have to say the eco loos at Swallowtail were something else… There are two loos, grandly named the Henderson and the Buckingham, each serving a different function if you catch my drift! I actually became rather attached to these loos by the end of our stay: they were clean, well maintained and they made you feel very eco-friendly! The wood fired shower is equally unusual. Looking like something out of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang it gives you a wonderfully warm shower despite feeling like it might explode at any moment!

Anyway, back to Saturday night! We went out for dinner – I know, I know, totally against the rules of camping, but hey, this is “glamping” so technically it doesn’t count!?!? We had a fantastic meal at the Tuscan Kitchen Rye (somewhere we’ve been before and LOVED, read our review here) and after several glasses of wine, grappa and limoncello we made our way home in a taxi, narrowly avoiding three wild board who were apparently also heading home after a night out! Wobbling through the fields to our tent was the perfect end to our evening, and crashing out on a comfy double bed is so much more preferable to a toppling over in a sleeping bag and landing with a thud on thin roll mat.

Next morning we gallantly cooked our breakfast in the rain (refusing to use the gas stove under the shelter provided) and sadly said goodbye to Swallowtail… for this year. We’ll definitely be back, probably with friends, and probably earlier on in the year when the wild flowers are at their best and the sun is feeling a little more sociable!

If you want to plan a weekend date to really get away from the stress and strain of London life then this is the place for you. The tents are seriously comfy and Chris and Sarah (the owners) have provided everything you could possibly need. All you need to supply is someone suitably romantic to share the weekend with…

Other Half really did excel himself this time!

Miss Mary x

Swallowtail Hill Farm
Address: Hobbs Lane, Beckley, East Sussex, TN31 6TT
Phone: 0845 3372948
Fax: 01797 260389


  1. Rock on!

    And the name "Swallowtail" is certainly giggle-worthy.

  2. If I ever go camping again it would certainly be here. I hate sleeping bags. I feel trapped in them, so a double bed would be ideal!

  3. I feel trapped in them too - but am about to spend the next two nights in one!

    p.s. by day I am an interior designer in London and i LOVE your blog! I look at it daily :)