The stunning South Downs is known for it’s striking chalk cliffs, fresh sea air and epic long-distance walks. That’s why camping in the South Downs is becoming more and more popular every year.
There are several good campsites in and around the South Downs – we recommend some of our favorites in this article.
Wild camping in the South Downs is also possible, although wild camping is technically illegal in most of England. It is, however, sometimes tolerated if certain guidelines are adhered to. If you are determined to wild camp here – like many who walk the 160-km South Downs Way do – we have some tips and guidelines to be a considerate camper later on in this article.
So grab your tent, some walking boots, and a healthy dose of enthusiasm. It’s time to begin your South Downs camping adventure!
Camping in the South Downs
The lush green South Downs and its beautiful range of chalk hills have been a popular camping destination for decades, thanks to the timeless towns and remarkable scenery throughout this region.
Many campsites are located close to some of the main walking, hiking and cycling routes, and so can be a good place to stay if you are planning a multi-day walking or cycling holiday such as the South Downs Way.
A good book with many of the walking trails in the South Downs – like this one – or a book which details the South Downs Way, can be an invaluable resource in helping to plan your walk and what campsites you should stay at.
An ordnance survey map would also be useful to take with you, especially if you plan on wild camping in the South Downs – we have more on that later.
However if you’re looking for some great campsite recommendations, below we share some of our favorite campsites in and around the South Downs.
Some of the best campsites in the South Downs
Housedean Farm Camping
Situated on the South Downs Way, this campsite is perfect for walking enthusiasts who want direct access to the region’s famous hiking routes.
However Housedean Farm is also a fantastic campsite in itself. Serene and unspoiled, we love the views here, and every pitch comes with its own fire pit. After all, there’s no better camping experience than making a roaring fire under the moonlight.
This national park woodland campsite is the ideal getaway for those who want a taste of nature, but with hot showers, flushing toilets, and a quirky side.
Along with camping and caravan pitches, there’s also some really unique glamping options here, so you have the option to stay in an (actual) helicopter, fire engine, bus, or treehouse!
Situated close to the South Downs Way, there’s also access to many cycling and walking routes, so it’s a great place to be based if you’re looking for an active holiday.
Manor Farm Campsite
Manor Farm campsite is little known, but for the panoramic views alone it should be.
Set on a working farm, this friendly campsite is basic and rural – but with that comes a proper sense of camping, and a real feeling of being close to nature.
The sunsets at night here are spectacular, and the access to walking and hiking routes are top notch too.
Fox Wood Campsite
Situated on the edge of the South Downs, Fox Wood Campsite is perfectly located to explore the region – including the historic cathedral city of Chichester.
The pitches are spacious and secluded, and with entertainment and food options at the weekend like a circus, mobile bar and food van, Fox Wood knows how to please the whole family!
Wild camping in the South Downs
Like other areas of England, wild camping in the South Downs isn’t officially allowed, however people still do it. Although campers are allowed to pitch their tent if they have the permission of a landowner.
However as the South Downs are a popular walking and hiking area, many outdoor enthusiasts often wild camp here. If you are planning to wild camp in the South Downs – and can’t be swayed to stay in a campsite instead – we’ve compiled the following guidelines to help keep you out of trouble and camp in a considerate manner:
- You should camp in the same place for one night only, and pitch your tent discretely and in a remote place which will not be easily seen. Therefore don’t camp in or near settlements, someone’s farm or on cultivated land. If you think you’re on private land, always seek out the landowner and ask permission. They may request a small fee.
- Campers should set up their tent at dusk, and take it down at dawn. A tent that is discreet, blends in with the landscape, and pitches quickly is best. Therefore a lightweight walking tent like this one would be a great investment for someone planning to wild camp in the South Downs.
- If you are walking a main trail you should camp away from the path as a matter of courtesy.
- When wild camping in the South Downs you must never make a campfire. For cooking, use a storm cooker. Our recommendation would be the Swedish brand Trangia, as their storm cookers are safe and virtually indestructible. Portable solar ovens, like this one by GoSun, are also a good fuel-less option.
- Take any rubbish with you, and leave your camping spot exactly the way you found it.
Below are our top tips for camping in the South Downs.
Tips for camping in the South Downs
- Heavy rain can happen in the South Downs – even during the summer months. Therefore make sure you have a rainproof tent that can survive rain. A lightweight one-man walking tent like this or similar would be perfect. For a good value tent that fits more than one person, this mosquito-proof one would work well too.
- Keep an eye out for animal poo – if there’s a lot near your perfect camping spot, you may end up being woken up by some enthusiastic animals at 3am!
- There are many water sources in the South Downs but remember to always have plenty of water on you when you’re walking and camping. A space-saving collapsible water bottle would be a good purchase.
- If you’re wild camping, then go to the toilet at least 30-50 meters away from water sources, such as rivers. Make sure to use a trowel (like this folding one) to bury any human waste – don’t just leave it out in the open.
- Like many rugged and wild rural areas around the world, there are flora and fauna to be aware of. So read up and make sure you know what to expect in the region or area you are planning to wild camp in.