It’s been a few weeks since the May Half Term now and looking at the weather we’ve been experiencing, I feel genuinely lucky that we got the sunshine during our camping adventures in the school holidays!
We headed down to the South Coast for the week with a couple of other families with children, which was nice for E to have company. Apart from one day of rain, it was beautiful sunshine and pretty warm – we managed a few patchy suntans and burnt necks!
Bodiam Boating Station
As a group we stayed at a campsite called Bodiam Boating Station, which funnily enough was just outside the village of Bodiam and about half an hour drive from the coast.
The campsite was relatively small with 25 pitches around the outside of the field and a large area in the middle where the children could play. The site was busy for the whole of half term but pretty peaceful. They also encourage you to have campfires, providing the firepits and kindling (and marshmallows!) so we were able to enjoy chilled out evenings making smores!
There was a cafe onsite (Lime Wharf Cafe) where we had lunch on the day we arrived whilst waiting for our pitches to be ready, and enjoyed a few drinks throughout the week in their beer garden. The downside to this was that the only toilets were part of the cafe building, with separate shower cubicles opening out straight into the garden area. This made it a bit weird walking from the shower to the toilet to finish getting ready/brush your teeth etc whilst people were sitting in the cafe garden eating and drinking!
As the name suggests Bodiam Boating Station offer boat hire (kayaks, canoes, SUPs, etc) and river trips as well as the camping. We took advantage of this transport on our doorstep to enjoy a visit to Bodiam Castle, 3.8miles up river or a leisurely 45 minute cruise. If you manage to make the first trip of the day (10:30am – not a problem when woken up early by children!) then you can enjoy a good 4.5 hours at the castle before getting the final boat back to the campsite at 4pm.
Bodiam Castle itself is a National Trust property so if you’re a member you can enjoy free parking and entry. James is currently a member (mainly so we can make the most of free parking when visiting the Lake District!) but myself and a couple of the children paid to go inside the castle as well. It is very spectacular to look at from the outside with a moat full of the hugest carp I’ve ever seen! You can access the gardens area where there is a cafe and ‘have a go’ archery without having to pay, but opting to visit the ruined interior costs extra.
There’s lots to explore walking around the inside of the castle though – you can climb up several of the towers and walk along the battlements, with great views. When we visited, the armoury was also open giving everyone the chance to try on suits of armour, helmets, chainmail and brandish large swords and shields – the kids (and James) loved it!
The nearby pub, the Castle Inn, is a good option for lunch before heading back to catch the return boat trip.
Rye is a lovely little coastal town where you can wander the cobbled streets past half-timbered houses, popping into quirky shops and tearooms. The first time we visited Rye it was raining and unfortunately we soon discovered that none of the cafes allowed dogs so we ended up grabbing a cup of tea in the garden of one which had tables with large umbrellas – not ideal!
Fortunately the second time we visited the weather was much nicer and we headed down to the harbour where the children could enjoy some time crabbing with their buckets and fishing lines adorned with bacon – I think they managed to collect a good 30-odd in the end!
I left them to it for a short while to take a wander down through Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, a lovely area of conservation with several huts for birdwatching and a fully accessible path. You got great views across the wetlands on one side and over the estuary to Camber Sands beach on the other.
And speaking of Camber Sands, this is definitely somewhere you should visit if you’re in the area. This stunning stretch of sandy beach is home to the only sand dune system in East Sussex, and is hugely popular with families for the miles of unspoilt golden sands. Due to being such a large open space, it gets quite windy so there’s often lots of power kites too which are fun to watch.
I love being by the sea and spent our visit walking along the shoreline collecting shells and listening to the waves. At low tide there can be quite a long walk down to the sea, so its worth checking the tide tables if you fancy a swim!
Have you been to East Sussex? What are some of your favourite places to explore in the area?