The willow tree is said to be a symbol of new life and adaptability. It’s certainly resilient. A broken branch planted in the ground forms a new tree; cut it down and it grows back. There’s a particularly striking specimen willow on a farm in a place called Staplefield. Its unusual form is such that two limbs grow parallel to the floor at a perfect height for sitting on. Come sunset and a small group of people often gather on these natural pews to marvel at the colours in the sky. This is, in fact, The Sunset Tree; the namesake and symbol of a new campsite that’s taking root in Sussex.
Set up as a sociable and safe place for people to holiday and regain a sense of community after the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, it’s rather appropriate that it’s a willow that campers are drawn to on this site. But, even so, it’s not the heart of the place. That honour is reserved for the communal campfire where campers are welcome to share stories, play instruments and perhaps even have a sing-a-long. It’s the vision of campsite owner, Adam, whose background in festivals and the arts is evident in this relaxed and rustic site which pops up for a few weeks in summer.
There are 18 informal and unmarked grassy pitches and two pre-pitched bell tents available to hire. You can choose to camp in a quiet area at the top of the site or down in the main camping space which is closer to the communal campfire and edged by a little wood. By day, the woodland is all that’s needed by way of a playground, by night it’s lit with fairy lights. The sociable side of the campsite is, in some ways, its defining factor but there’s no pressure to join in. There’s enough space in the two-and-a-half acres for people who are just here to enjoy the rural Sussex setting too.
The village centre of Staplefield is just 100 metres from the farm entrance and has two pubs, a cricket ground and a small kids’ play area. Gardens, grand houses and pretty Sussex villages are plentiful round here with Nymans National Trust gardens, the closest, less than two miles from site. The Ashdown Forest and the South Downs National Park are a short drive away and bustling Brighton, and it’s beaches, are easy to get to thanks to the site’s proximity to the A23. The road is worth a mention here as you should expect some noise from traffic, though it’s often well-muffled by trees. However you spend your days, if it seems quiet when you return to site, just look towards the willow. If it’s sunset, we can almost guarantee you’ll see the silhouette of campers enjoying the warm embrace of The Sunset Tree. Maybe you should join them.