Camping has come to the rescue of the great British summer holiday as thousands of new pitches have sprung up in ‘pop-up’ sites across the country. And the good news is that there are still plenty of spaces free this July and August.
‘You can’t magic up more self-catering cottages and hotel rooms but with camping we’ve got so many amazing countryside locations that we’re able to flex up,’ says Jonathan Knight, of camping website Cool Camping.
It has added 5,000 new pitches to its books in the past few months, and only 60 per cent of its camping and glamping sites are full in August. It’s a story echoed by other camping operators, with Pitch Up reporting that it added more than 1,000 new campsites to its books in 2021.
Save our summer! Camping website Cool Camping has added 5,000 new pitches to its books in the past few months
It’s all down to changes in the law brought in last year which doubled the length of time temporary sites can be pitched – from 28 to 56 days. Now, from diversifying farmers setting up a no-frills site in a spare field to country estates which team up with professional companies to provide something more elaborate, everyone’s getting in on the act.
Glamping aficionados Canopy and Stars have introduced Camp Out 2021, bringing bell tents to 12 tranquil destinations across the UK. There’s still peak summer availability at a collaboration with Oliver Bonas on Devon’s Flete Estate. Six pop-up bell tents have been fashionably dressed with furniture and accessories from the lifestyle store, and a bell tent for two costs from £90 per night (canopyandstars.co.uk).
Knight explains that the best summer availability is for holidaymakers prepared to be flexible – either by considering less obvious destinations or by travelling during the week rather than at weekends.
Luxury on site: A coffee cart at Purple Badger Camping, which is located on the borders of Rutland and Leicestershire
Purple Badger Camping, on the borders of Rutland and Leicestershire, is less than ten miles from Leicester city centre but surrounded by woodland and wildlife, with two idyllic fishing lakes. There are nine spacious camping pitches and a three-night stay costs from £75 for a pitch for up to five people (coolcamping.co.uk).
New site Plum Camping at White House Farm is set near a secluded fruit orchard on the outskirts of Norwich and perfect for exploring the Broads and rural Norfolk. A three-night stay starts from £144 for a grass pitch for up to six, or £288 for a bell tent (coolcamping.co.uk).
Woodfrys Farm is set on a 25-acre smallholding within walking distance of the picturesque Dorset town of Shaftesbury. It’s a 40-minute drive to the Jurassic Coast, but with pitches overlooking a lake and a clear chalk stream that’s ideal for paddling, why leave the campsite at all? A week’s stay is from £269 for a pitch for up to six (coolcamping.co.uk).
A bell tent at Cloud Nine Glamping, which is coming to Dorset, Norfolk and the Cotswolds this summer
The team behind Cornwall’s Boardmasters festival have set up Cloud Nine Glamping and their sites offer an enticing mix of luxurious furnished bell tents, a long list of family-friendly activities, and top-notch food and drink. Their site in the Cotswolds still has good availability for its opening fortnight from July 19, with prices from £107 per family, per night (cloudnineglamping.com).
Kymani, new for this year and also founded by festival organisers, includes seven bijou campsites. They still have midweek August availability at their sites at Godstone, Surrey, and Charlton Park, Wiltshire, from £100 per person per night (kymanigetaways.com).
Wild Canvas Camping, on the banks of the River Great Ouse in the grounds of the Turvey House Estate in Bedfordshire, is a pop-up of tents from the organisers of the Tipi Field at Glastonbury. For August only it will offer local food, a bar, family-friendly workshops, a wellbeing yurt and DJ. A three-night stay is from £180 for a pitch for up to eight, or £480 for a furnished teepee sleeping up to six (coolcamping.co.uk).
Pooch perfect: Most campsites will welcome well-behaved family pets
Those who prefer to (whisper this) rough it might also find more availability in scenic locations. New pop-up campsite Suffolk Wild Camping, in Woodbridge, offers basic loos and there are no showers, but what it lacks in facilities it more than makes up for with its atmospheric location on the flatlands around the River Debden.
Three nights costs from £105 for a pitch for up to six (coolcamping.co.uk).
Set on a working farm, Stitchpool Camping, near South Molton on the edge of Exmoor in Devon, has added capacity and upgraded some facilities. There’s plenty of summer availability and pitches are from a bargain £18 per night, with each pitch allowing up to 12 people (pitchup.com).
NONE OF THE GEAR, NO IDEA? WE’VE GOT SOME PITCH-PERFECT TIPS…
Festival in a Bag is a rucksack packed with camping kit
For camping newbies who’ve drawn a blank on hotels and holiday cottages, consider easing yourself in to the great outdoors with a glamping break. ‘They really do cater for novices,’ says Knight, ‘although there’s such a range of what is supplied so do check – some provide everything others just the tent.’
If you’re giving camping a go for the first time Knight advises going with friends who’ve been before ‘they can help you with all the stuff.’
Dip a toe in the water with the Festival in a Bag. A bit like Mary Poppin’s deceptively capacious carpet bag, the rucksack provides a 2-person tent, 2 season sleeping bag, camping mats and water bottle, along with space for clothes and toiletries. (£129.99, festivalinabag.co.uk)
For growing families the humungous Vango Homestead (£1099.00, outdoorworlddirect.co.uk) sleeps six and has some appealing features including Vango’s Midnight technology which stops the bright early morning sun sabotaging your lie-in. There’s also a side pod for additional storage space and it can be pitched in just ten minutes by inflating with the pump. What’s not to love?
Vango Homestead sleeps six and has some nifty features
Or keep it simple and invest in a bell tent. Says Knight: ‘I’ve had mine for 15 years and it’s so easy to put up. I’ve tried lots of other tents but I always go back to that. Also, it looks amazing and people assume it’s harder to put up than it is so there’s lots of kudos. They’re much nicer to camp in because they are made of proper breathable canvas.’
Check out the great range at belltent.co.uk, starting at £346. There’s also a tempting array of accessories for your tent from coir carpets to organic mattresses and candelabra.
Pitch your new tent in the garden or local park beforehand. ‘The last thing you want is to be arriving at a campsite on the Friday night and putting your tent up for the first time just as it’s starting to get dark.’