Whether it’s hopping on the tube, cycling through Stratford’s Olympic Park or paddling a canoe up the River Thames, you’d be surprised how easy it is to reach some of the nearest campsites to London. This month, we’re keeping the carbon footprint down and asking the East London-based editors at coolcamping.com for their local recommendations – picking out the best campsites on the very doorstep of the capital.
Five miles beyond the M25, this riverside campsite is easily reached by bike but still offers a deceptively rural feel. Snuggled amongst the greenery of Lee Valley Park there are less than 17 pitches in total (12 by the river, 5 in the woods), with minimal facilities and a thoroughly wild feel. Campfires are permitted and canoes can be launched, while catch-and-release fishing is also possible.
25-minute train from London Liverpool Street to Broxbourne Station, then 10 minute’s walk. Or a 15-mile bike ride (or canoe/boat) down the River Lee Canal from Stratford or Hackney.
Leave the tent in London and hideaway in this chestnut orchard, where a pair of 19th-century living vans – once used by local workmen – have been transformed into comfortable glamping abodes. Iron wheels and replica paintwork, retain the vintage feel, while inside, you’ll find double beds, oak furnishings and beautiful stained-glass windows. The Kent Downs provide fruitful walks – it’s 20 minutes to Old Soar Manor and 40 to National Trust-owned Igtham Mote – while evenings usually end with stargazing from the site’s wood-fired hot tub.
40-minute train from Charing Cross to Tonbridge or from London Victoria to Borough Green & Wrotham. Arrange in advance to get collected by The Nut Plat Retreat, or walk or cycle the remaining 3¾ miles and receive a complimentary breakfast basket on arrival.
Feel like your kids are leading too much of an urban existence? Ride the train past Richmond, Hampton Court and alight just shy of the M25 before entering this wooded wilderness, where former British Army captain, Ian Brember, runs family-orientated bushcraft courses. Learn wilderness first aid, cook over an open campfire, forage for fungi and try your hand at archery, all before pitching your tent for the night. For the real deal, campers can also set up camouflaged hammocks for a kip between the trees.
Getting there: 45-minute train from London Waterloo to Chertsey Station then a 15-minute walk. If driving, it’s less than two miles from junction 11 of the M25.
Three cheers for whoever it was at the Environment Agency that thought it would be a good idea to open a handful of Thames locks to tent campers. Picturesque Cookham – typically unsophisticated, with a tap, shower hut and toilets but little else – can only be reached by boat or along the towpath. The result is truly peaceful patch of grass with no vehicles and plenty of birdlife. There are a smattering of good pubs in Cookham village too, a short walk away.
30-minute train from London Paddington to Cookham Station then a 20-minute walk (or shorten with the number 37 bus). 25-mile bike ride from Richmond (though more like 35 if you follow the Thames the whole way) and good access by boat. No car access at all. Book in advance.
Gangs of friends looking to re-create that summer festival will feel at home on this Essex farm, host to an array of glamping options, from bell tents and yurts to an up-cycled grain silo in the woods. Well rehearsed at throwing wild gatherings, there’s plenty to keep groups busy; from fishing, foraging and mountain biking to hosting BBQs around a central firepit. There’s a complete kitchen on site and covered games area for rainy days, while the nearest pub is a short walk away.
50-minute train from London Liverpool Street to Marks Tey or Chappel & Wakes Colne. Then a 25-minute walk from the latter or arrange for the campsite owners to pick you up.
Found what you’re looking for? Discover Cool Camping’s full collection of recommended campsites near London here.