Rough Guides editor Rachel Mills road tested a car-free weekend escape in the gently sloping chalk downlands and pretty patchwork fields of the South Downs National Park, just an hour south of London by train.
Get up close and personal with nature
It is possible for city folk to escape to the countryside without foregoing creature comforts. A glut of new luxury camping sites means that you can roll up to a pre-erected tipi, yurt or hut with none of the hassle of hammering in pegs – or arguing about who packed the kettle. I stayed at off-grid Adhurst Yurts, which is set in 100 acres of ancient woodland bang in the middle of the National Park. Perfect for cool autumn nights, the four cosy yurts have proper double beds with duvets (pull out camp beds are provided for children), rugs on the wooden floors, wood burners and solar powered fairy lights that twinkle into the night. Kids will love foraging in the surrounding woodland, the zip line, the open air hot shower and, of course, toasting marshmallows over a proper campfire. And for adults, there’s a couple of great pubs in nearby Sheet, including the family-friendly Queen’s Head, which from next year you’ll be able to reach via a short road-free ramble through the woods.
Image by Rachel Mills
Within walking or cycling distance from Adhurst, you can pick your own fruit and veg at Durleighmarsh until the end of the season in October. The varieties are clearly mapped and labelled and when we visited there were loads of raspberries, blackberries, courgettes and marrows, as well as some gorgeous PYO flowers. The farm shop supports a small range of local producers and sells a range of meat, game, pies, jams and chutneys, and the tea barn, looking out over the tractors working the fields, is a nice spot for tea and cake. There’s also a pretty boating lake in the nearby market town of Petersfield, with a lakeside adventure playground and café, where we whiled away a lovely lazy afternoon. For bigger kids, the lowland heath surrounding the lake is dotted with Bronze Age burial mounds to explore.