For an outdoor and camping enthusiast I’m surprisingly bad at understanding that weather can change. In the lovely hot weather last week we gleefully booked a last minute weekend at Swattesfield campsite and looked forward to a sun drenched weekend away.
Despite all the weather apps (and everyone I know) telling me if was going to rain I was astonished to see it pouring on Friday morning and, as I’m sure you will be aware, it continued like that for the rest of the day. East Anglia took the brunt of the rain into the evening so we wussed out and delayed our departure until Saturday morning.
I grew up in Suffolk so we visited my parents enroute and finally rolled up to Swattesfield in the late afternoon, and what an afternoon. I always think there’s something a bit melancholy about the flat, beautiful landscapes and big skies in Suffolk and combined with the post-rain lushness and the tipping-into-autumn colours it was absolutely stunning.
Phil, the site owner is super helpful and laid back and we soon had a lovely pitch sorted. The site appears small but it curves round and you can camp in a different field or in the woods. The facilities are basic but clean with lots of hot water and there’s a small shop selling all the basics (and glow in the dark tent pegs which I had never come across before but now covert).
As well as pitches for tents and small campervans you can stay in a pixie hut, a converted hay cart or luxury bell tents. The campsite leads directly into the fields and woodlands which are part of Thornham Walks (more about that later).
One review I read complained bitterly about the train noise on the campsite. Our house is so close to the railway station you can read the departure board from my spare room so it felt like home from home to me, but it’s true there are trains passing the campsite until late evening.
As night drew in we prepared for the most exciting aspect of this campsite… campfire! The campsite sells logs and kindling, in fact you have to use their supplies and we hired a fire pit (basic model – there’s duluxe as well!!). I’m not sure if there is anything more wonderful than gathering round a lovely flickering campfire, chatting or just gazing into the flames. Even SC found it tranquilising and sat for an hour without wriggling on Scott’s knee telling us all sorts of things about school we normally have to use torture style interrogation to get out of her.
The campsite is fabulously, inkily dark at night save for torches bobbing about and fairy lights round tents (goddamn light pollution!). Our only disappointment was the heavy cloud cover as I bet the stars are really amazing on a clear night. We sat out until the fire died away and the AFT was calling.
We awoke for the obligatory bacon sandwich on a beautiful Sunday morning then set off to explore the woods. As we headed off site we got chatting to the site manager Dave who had once driven his motor home all the way to Turkey (“oh, it’s not very far…”).
Thornham Walks refers to about 12 miles of marked trails through Thornham Estate. We managed all of about a mile through the woods and fields before we came across the Forge Cafe and children’s play area and progress ceased. We stopped for a lovely cuppa and chocolate brownie then went for a nose around the nearby art gallery. We spent so long talking to the owner that it was lunch time so back to the Forge Cafe we went. The scenery on the walk is lovely, taking in woodlands, farmland, water meadows and parks, we were sorry that we didn’t have time (or leg power) to explore further on this occasion.
The campsite owner Phil is a Bongo enthusiast, previous importer and runs a Bongo garage on Station Road, Diss. We fitted in a nice Bongo related yarn before heading back to London. We swapped travel tales and he gave us his top Bongo maintenance tips – grease your wheel arches and change your radiator every ten years. We assured him we would be back, Bongo and all…
I don’t know if we’ve just been extraordinarily lucky but there are so many campsites that I cannot wait to return to that I’m worried we may not be able to fit in any new ones next year…!! Life’s so tough 😋