Camping in a Bell Tent at Fakenham Farm on the Isle of Wight

Camping in a Bell Tent at Fakenham Farm on the Isle of Wight

We spent the last week of the summer holidays camping in our beloved bell tent at Fakenham Farm, a tiny campsite on the Isle of Wight. We stayed for seven nights, our longest sojourn under canvas this far, and it was utterly blissful.

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Fakenham Farm is a very small campsite set within a small farm just outside St Helen’s village, and a ten minute walk from St Helen’s Duver (the nearest beach). Now, if you want spotless facilities, a swimming pool, a club house and so on, I have to tell you - Fakenham Farm is probably not for you.

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If, on the other hand, you want wide open green spaces, sheep passing by a metre away from your tent, a glorious sea view, a few other campers dotted around in caravans, friendly owners who basically leave you to get on with it other than freezing your ice packs on request, and don’t mind sharing a single WC and shower, then you’ll love Fakenham Farm campsite as much as we did.

 A green field and farm buildings outside the tent.

A green field and farm buildings outside the tent.

 Penny versus sheep. The sheep literally couldn’t care less.

Penny versus sheep. The sheep literally couldn’t care less.

 We were a bit worried about how the dogs would react to having farm animals so close by (this is literally outside the tent door as you can see, albeit separated by a wire fence) but all that happened was Enrique tried to lift his leg on a sheep :-)

We were a bit worried about how the dogs would react to having farm animals so close by (this is literally outside the tent door as you can see, albeit separated by a wire fence) but all that happened was Enrique tried to lift his leg on a sheep :-)

We occupied a massive pitch - I’d estimate about 200 square metres - with a view of the sea to the front, and the animal farm to the side. Fakenham Farm is home to a delightful assortment of fauna, including black fell ponies, Shetland ponies, ducks, geese, chickens, pigs and piglets, emus (rheas? my large bird knowledge is limited), sheep, and a very loud donkey called Moses who brayed at substantial volume at any hour of day or night that he damn well pleased. As campers, we had access to roam freely around amid the animals, who were separated off from the camping area by a wire fence, but otherwise appeared to be largely cohabiting together (the ponies, large pigs, emus and grumpy Moses had their own areas)

 Our biggest and smallest girl exploring the paths around the farm. You can see the point of our tent in the background.

Our biggest and smallest girl exploring the paths around the farm. You can see the point of our tent in the background.

 Big Mama pig and baby piglets during golden hour. The piglets routinely wriggled out from under their fence and romped around the fields with obvious glee.

Big Mama pig and baby piglets during golden hour. The piglets routinely wriggled out from under their fence and romped around the fields with obvious glee.

 Big furry Rixy strollin’ around the field.

Big furry Rixy strollin’ around the field.

 Girls versus noisy Moses. The big one is wearing a crown cos it was her birthday.

Girls versus noisy Moses. The big one is wearing a crown cos it was her birthday.

 A large furry beast was discovered outside the tent, gnawing on an old tennis ball.

A large furry beast was discovered outside the tent, gnawing on an old tennis ball.

There are also absolutely loads of random old cars and trucks in one of the fields. The kids loved roaming around peering into them.

 Why so many abandoned vehicles? Unclear. But fun :-)

Why so many abandoned vehicles? Unclear. But fun :-)

 And also an occasional digger! This one wasn’t rusting in a corner, it was in active use for various farm-related manoeuvres.

And also an occasional digger! This one wasn’t rusting in a corner, it was in active use for various farm-related manoeuvres.

We managed to pack an absolutely tremendous amount of equipment into the car. Two adults, three kids, three dogs. One large five metre tent with awning. Five chairs, four sleeping bags (one double), five sleeping mats. Two tables. Eight colourful plastic tubs. Ten metres of bunting, twenty metres of fairy lights, one stove, two belly baskets, two rugs, three duvets, seven pillows, one faux fur electric blanket, one baby Weber bbq, two wicker hampers, five sacks of clothes, four pairs of wellies (Andre is too relentlessly urban to wear wellies), four parkas, four anoraks, one sun tent, and one dog crate. Boom!

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 My dad made us a brilliant wooden contraption to stabilise our Pocket Rocket stove.

My dad made us a brilliant wooden contraption to stabilise our Pocket Rocket stove.

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 Wildflowers in gin tin vases :-) Plus a golden dinosaur egg, obviously.

Wildflowers in gin tin vases :-) Plus a golden dinosaur egg, obviously.

 Rugs, blankets and flexi tubs inside the tent, along with a table covered by an antique tablecloth that belonged to my grandma.

Rugs, blankets and flexi tubs inside the tent, along with a table covered by an antique tablecloth that belonged to my grandma.

 Two belly baskets and a cute spotty furry belly in a basket.

Two belly baskets and a cute spotty furry belly in a basket.

 Having three over-excited dogs romping round and round a circular open plan tent isn’t always ideal, so we brought our crate with us for the smaller two to have some quiet time in.

Having three over-excited dogs romping round and round a circular open plan tent isn’t always ideal, so we brought our crate with us for the smaller two to have some quiet time in.

At night time we toasted marshmallows on the Weber, switched on the fairy lights, and snuggled up under the awning drinking gins in tins while the girls slept like sweet little exhausted possums all wrapped up warm and snug in their sleeping bags.

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 I bought these outdoor fairy lights years ago in a Habitat sale, and they’re still going strong.

I bought these outdoor fairy lights years ago in a Habitat sale, and they’re still going strong.

Fakenham Farm has a lovely cafe on site called the Solent View Cafe. It gets mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, but we found it to be absolutely charming with a delicious menu and incredibly reasonable prices.

 The Solent View cafe.

The Solent View cafe.

 The best full English breakfast I have ever had in my life. The fried bread was an absolute taste sensation. Thoroughly recommended.

The best full English breakfast I have ever had in my life. The fried bread was an absolute taste sensation. Thoroughly recommended.

We didn’t eat at the cafe every day - cooking in your tent is part of the fun. After a few days of classic camping fare I could feel scurvy coming on, so bought a bag of spinach, wilted it in a pan, and ate the whole thing. Scurvy dodging at its finest.

 Frying eggs for breakfast, with the help of a naughty furry cleaner-upper.

Frying eggs for breakfast, with the help of a naughty furry cleaner-upper.

 Anti-scurvy breakfast.

Anti-scurvy breakfast.

Part of the fun of camping in a bell tent is the accessories. I have more accessories for the tent than I do for our actual house :-)

 Flamingo bunting, floral garland made with artificial roses and silver birch branches, an antique mirror, and festoon fairy lights on the centre pole. Standard.

Flamingo bunting, floral garland made with artificial roses and silver birch branches, an antique mirror, and festoon fairy lights on the centre pole. Standard.

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 Suspending a mirror from the centre pole is genuinely practical for getting ready in the morning. If it happens to be gilt and antique style, all the better :-)

Suspending a mirror from the centre pole is genuinely practical for getting ready in the morning. If it happens to be gilt and antique style, all the better :-)

We absolutely loved camping at Fakenham Farm and will be back next year. The whole week cost just over £100 including electric hook-up, which is insane compared to how much we normally pay for a week in a cottage in Bembridge.

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Bye bye, lovely tent. We’ll see you in May next year. Or maybe in December cos I’ve read about people using their tents to create Christmas grottoes in the gardens which sounds amazing and I’m totally planning on doing it :-)