As a Londoner, I’m always looking for excuses to get out of the city (temporarily, of course) on a cheeky weekender. For some time now, I’ve been trying to find an appropriate glamping experience that’s feasible from London. While there are a few options for glamping within easy reach of London, almost none offer decent transport links due to the obvious rural setting of most glamping accommodations. So, I was excited when a rep from newly formed glamping search platform
I’m originally from Kent, so I had a good idea of transport in the area. I’d never been to Pluckley per se, but to the surrounding countryside – namely Biddenden’s Vineyard a few miles down the road. Biddenden’s strong cider was my drink of choice as a teenager when I would go into the pub with my coat zipped up over my school uniform and nurse a lukewarm pint of the good stuff; the good strong stuff that is. You can pick up a bottle from the orchards, or from Pluckey’s Farm Shop.
Pluckey is pretty well situated nearby to Ashford – a major town with fast train links to London’s St Pancreas. But Pluckley also has its own station which is just a pleasant 20-minute walk from Gooseberry Fields. Depending on which London station you leave from your travel time by train should be roughly an hour – not bad! The only thing to bear in mind if coming by train would be how much stuff you bring with you. You don’t need any heavy, cumbersome camping stuff – but our main supplies were food and booze, naturally. With that said, you could get away with turning up with nothing and buying it all there (at a slight premium, naturally) as the site offers its own sausages to purchase, as well as a small honesty bar where you can grab bottles of wine, beers and soft drinks, amongst other things.
Check-in time is 4.00pm which means there’s plenty of time to “set up camp” (read: open bottle of wine, serve generously) before the sun goes down. But, you definitely need to be prepared for when it does as it can be chilly. Each luxury bell tent comes complete with a double bed (plus two single beds, if needed) with mattress and duvet, plus cute additions like fairy lights, electric lanterns plus a cool box, set of all kinds of utensils, a gas hob and a BBQ/fire pit complete with wood and natural firelighters.
Apparently, neither of us had actually lit a fire before, which we found out as the sun was going down! So making our dinner was quite the evening of entertainment. We sat for about an hour staring at it, trying to make it work, getting it going and then accidentally letting it go out while checking Insta and then somehow or another it magically took, and we were able to cook burgers and halloumi, plus veggies from the onsite veggie patch! The vegetable and herb garden has to one of the selling sectors of Gooseberry Fields. Yummy tomatoes of all colours, marrows, strawberries, onions, lettuce and a host of fresh herbs are available for guests to use. Freshly picked chives really made our toasted breakfast bagels extra yum!
As well as a glorious vegetable garden, Gooseberry fields also has its very own resident pigs! They’re super sweet and made me feel terrible about enjoying bacon so much. In keeping with that theme, they also sell their own sausages, made from last years pigs which are said to be delicious. The pigs clearly have a great life at the site so it’s probably the most responsibly sourced meat you’ll come by! Also on site are two beautiful wood-powered hot tubs; one public and one private which are lit every Weds and Sat for guests. Also on these days, guests can use the onsite pizza oven to make a delish pizza from scratch! Apparently, pizza making kits will be available to purchase onsite again next year, but we bought our own little kit and simply used fresh veggies from the garden, along with mozzarella, which was super fresh, delicious, and – dare I say – even healthy!
Gooseberry Fields is blessed with some extremely pretty and super-eco friendly compost toilets. I, personally, had my first compost experience at Glastonbury this year and found them to be preferable to the long-drop by far! I’m pleased to report the standard of cleanliness was much higher at Gooseberry Fields, and the toilets are housed in custom made little huts complete with super-cute details like plants, eco-friendly toilet paper and a big pot of sawdust for toilet purposes. I’m told there are also regular toilets for the traditionalists out there! There are also onsite shower facilities available. However, after my unhygenic 6 days of baby-wipe showers at Glastonbury, I have an entirely different perspective on how dirty you need to be to really need a shower.
Close to the main house, there’s a converted barn where you can find washing up facilities, a big fridge for communal use, the pizza oven and gas hobs for cooking. With several picnic tables, it’s a great outdoor setting of an evening with fairy lights adorning the walls and beautiful fresh flowers at every table. Inside the barn is an added bonus – a large seating area that can be utilised in bad weather. As I’m naturally scepitcal of nature, this seemed like a great idea to me! Inside you can also find the honesty bar and fridge where you can grab booze.
Pluckley is just a small village but has several options for outings such as a two-hour circular ramble through the surrounding countryside. Detailed maps and directions are available onsite. There are also several cute pubs – the nicest perhaps being The Rose and Crown (20 min walk from camp) which has a really yummy food menu, pretty beer garden, sells Biddenden Cider and has plenty of space for kids to run around. There’s also a pub in Pluckley village which is said to be “the most haunted pub in England” – I never did find out what basis this was on, but hopefully in the friendly Casper way and not in the headless Pirate kind of way. There’s a third pub located close to the train station which is handy if you’re coming to or from the station and also serves food.
For a short walk visit Pluckley’s Farm Shop to pick up a number of bits and bobs (you could potentially do all your shopping here) they have a wide selection of local beers and cider, fresh veggies, cheese, local meat cuts as well as jams and pickles – all locally sourced, of course. It’s located just a 5-10 min walk from the camp so handy for anyone who doesn’t have transport and doesn’t want to lug things with them. Although this gamping trip can be made without a car, having a car would, of course, be helpful depending on what you want to get up to exactly. There is a local bus that runs through Pluckey also, so there’s the possibility of using this depending on where you’re wanting to go. The issue with a lot of English villages is that they aren’t super pedestrian-friendly (i.e. not pedestrian-friendly at all) and Pluckley falls into this category mostly, but it’s perfectly acceptable to walk on the roadside in this kind of area, just be careful! Maybe for those with small children walking around wouldn’t be ideal. If you happen to be a bike owner, this would be the perfect mode of transport to bring on the train from London to make the area more accessible.
We took our own roadside tour which took in two pubs, cute little cottages and napping sheep – so there’s much to be said for just taking an amble around the area. But if you like, you can simply do sweet F A around the campsite. If you make sure to include either a Wednesday or a Saturday night the day it almost planned for you: hot tub in the afternoon and pizza in the evening. Plenty of time for seeing all the site has to offer in the daytime – feed the pigs some discarded apples from the plentiful apple trees, check out the veg garden and chicken, and have a good old natter with Kerstin. They have a super cute Cockapoo too that’s like a little excitable cloud and loves a cuddle.
I have to give it to Kerstin and family, they have created a fantastic space here. No detail has been spared, and it really shows! I had always wondered exactly what the differences were between camping and glamping… is it just pre-assembled tents? No. It’s more than that. It’s creating a 5-star experience in a camping environment, and it’s so darned cute! I think any woman would find the bunting-tipped tents, faux fur throws, dainty flower vases and fairly lights very hard to resist! Gooseberry Fields also hosts events such as supper club and yoga retreats – which it seems an excellent space for. Hen parties, even. Gooseberry Fields has 8 bell tents which can feasibly house 32 people in total, so could work even for wedding accommodations or similar.
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