Camping completely independent of any facilities, being truly self-contained, has always appealed but it needs careful organisation and easing of standards and expectations – it’s a tough person who rolls naked across a field for a grass bath. A simple campsite is one that offers the basics of loo and water and has that difficult to define element – ‘character’. It may come from the setting, the wider context or the personality of the owners. Some attract campers who enjoy privacy; others have an air of camaraderie from the moment you start to pitch your tent. Shops, pizza stalls, swimming pools, closely packed pitches and licensed bars add a layer of complexity to sites that shift them from camping holidays to holiday camps.
However, where simple farm sites once cost just a couple of pounds, ‘modern’ simple sites can rack up charges that reflect location, unmarked pitches and character. The emergence of web-based campsite guides – www.ukcampsite.co.uk; the Cool Camping series – www.coolcamping.co.uk ; and Tiny Campsites – www.tinycampsites.co.uk – have all not only spread the word about exceptional sites but actively helped to develop a new theme in sites. More privacy, open fires and an awareness of sustainability are linked to pubs in walking distance to make up a rounded package that delivers a more ‘authentic’ camping experience.
The downside of many smaller, simpler sites is not being able to book them in advance. Over the years, word of mouth and pot luck have been as useful as printed and electronic guides. No pre-booking means risking turning up to be turned away. Or, perhaps, finding that secluded site you enjoyed last year bursting at the seams. It pays to have alternatives up your sleeve and to be flexible in what you expect. You can book National Trust campsites online; many are run by tenant farmers – www.nationaltrust.org.uk.
Campingninja is a free, independent campsite booking site that allows you to browse with search filters for campsites, find availability and book on-line all in the same place – no more phone calls or the frustration of unanswered emails. With hundreds of campsites in the system, Campingninja co-founder Rhian Evans said, “We have a great variety of campsites to book including eco-campsites, small campsites, campsites where you can have a campfire, campsites for all kinds of activities – the list is endless and you can easily search on all of these criteria and more.”