When Murray McPherson took his children camping for the first time in the UK he wasn’t impressed.
‘It was awful’, says the South African, who’s been living in the UK for fifteen years. Murray wanted his children to experience camping like he had as a child back home. He wanted lovely spacious locations where his children could play and explore safely and campfires are allowed. So he set up a campsite near Beaulieu in the New Forest in 2013 and then another at Bentley in Sussex in 2014. Embers campsites are aimed squarely at families with children.
We’ve been invited to stay at Embers Bentley during the summer holidays and I spoke to Murray by phone recently about the site.
Murray tells me that he likes his campsites in great areas where people want to be rather than in unused fields in unsuitable locations. Embers Beaulieu is on a farm near the village of Beaulieu in the New Forest. It’s within walking distance of the National Motor Museum and a short drive to the sandy beaches of Bournemouth. Embers Bentley is in East Sussex on the Bentley Estate, home to the Bentley Wildfowl and Motor Museum. It’s just a few miles to the South Downs National Park and a 20-minute drive to my favourite beach, Birling Gap.
Embers campsites are for tents only: caravans and motorhomes aren’t allowed. I’m sure this makes for a relaxing, natural camping experience. You can either take your own tent or stay in an Embers tent which is pitched and ready for your arrival. This is perfect if you don’t have a tent, if you’ll be arriving late or if your tent takes so long to put up that you can’t face using it any more (ahem – ours is a great tent though). If you’re staying in a pre-pitched tent you still have to take your own bedding and other equipment though. There are 35 pitches at each site but that may increase to 40 at Bentley.
I think that camp fires are the best bit about camping. It’s lovely sitting around a fire outside in the evening and it’s a great experience for kids to cook on a campfire. Many campsites don’t allow camp fires but at Embers they’re encouraged. Each tent pitch has a fire basket with a tripod so that you can have a camp fire and cook on it. Large bags of firewood cost £5 from the camp shop.
Each site has a communal wash block with hot showers as well as a shop selling basic provisions. There’s no electricity on the pitches but Murray says you can recharge your phone or other devices at the shop. There are always staff on site and they’re trained to help and guide campers. If you get stuck when you’re pitching your tent they can advise you, for example.
No cars are allowed on Embers campsites. You can drive to the edge of the campsite to unload your stuff and then park it in a separate area. There are trolleys to transport your gear from your car to your pitch. This is excellent as there’s no need to worry about your kids getting run over while they’re playing outside.
After speaking to Murray I’m looking forward to staying at Embers – it sounds perfect. I’ll write about our trip after we’ve been.
Camping at Embers cost £20 per adult and £5 per child per night. Children under the age of four are free. Outwell tents sleep up to five people and can be hired for £25 per night. Safari tents sleep up to six people and can be hired for £30 per night. Hired tents can be pitched and taken down by Embers staff for £20.