We are both seasoned campers but not so enthusiastic about characterless campsites set in open fields. Wild camping is frowned upon in England, yet it is one of life's great pleasures, so we felt we wanted to create a campsite that harnessed all the nice bits about wild camping but with its own facilities.
On our own camping trips, we would travel by public transport and bike - so the journey became part of the holiday. We wanted to build a site where folks could enjoy the same, but not necessarily have to bring everything but the kitchen sink in order to do so. Once we'd established the kind of site we wanted to run, and where we wanted it to be, then came the job of finding the right site. But in the end, the right site found us. and by some clever trickery the universe made sure we also got a derelict pub to breathe new life into.
Once we had our piece of land (an overgrown beer garden) we began work turning it into a campsite. First, we had to cover the legal side of things. When we presented our ideas to the planning department they were keen and excited, ours was to be the first alternative campsite (now known as 'glamping') in Suffolk, and they were keen to attract more tourists to the area. Locals were equally keen. not least because their village pub had been closed for over 5 years by then and was looking like it might never be a pub again.
Then came the physical side of things, which friends and family played a massive part in, coming to stay with us for long weekends of clearing and building by day, and a campfire by night. The campfire was a melting pot of not only the day's prunings but also ideas and plans. Our site grew organically, working with limited funds (since we'd spent all our money buying the site) meant things happened slowly, but this turned out to be a good thing as when you're doing something new it's good to give yourself as much time as possible to think things through. Also, we wanted to use recycled and natural materials as much as possible - which again slows the process down somewhat.
Just over two years after we'd bought the site, Alde Garden opened on 11 June 2010. Since then we've made lots of changes, but we've kept the site to our original dream - wild, green, quiet, wildlife-friendly, and the most important bit - a campfire at its heart. We feel a fire is an essential part of camping, and our years of travels to festivals and youth hostels, as well as the two years of friends' visits, firmly set the plan for one communal fire place.
Folks have privacy by their accommodation; we've made sure to encourage great screening for that feeling of seclusion when wanted, but the fire is a place to gather and meet new people. I'd say the most memorable moments here, for me, have been around that campfire. Not just in the early days when it was us and close friends, but also hearing the gentle sound of guests getting to know one another and sharing stories and tips on where to go locally. It is magical.