Four years ago we discovered Burnbake in Dorset. A beautiful, quiet campsite with small grassy pitches nestled in woodland. Dappled sunshine shone through the trees, children played on a simple rope swing, footpaths meandered away into the woods across a babbling stream. Free hot showers, a lovely shop in a charming wooden cabin selling just what we needed. Situated within a few miles of Corfe and its ruined castle, Kimmeridge with its rock pools, Durleston Head with its breathtaking cliff walks, Worbarrow Bay for swimming and Swanage for fish n chips, it was perfect for a weekend away with the children. Burnbake was close to home but felt like we were a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of urban living.
We vowed not to tell anyone about it. But of course word got out and the site became more popular. Anywhere that has been featured in the Guardian will not stay a secret for long. We went twice last year and each time found ourselves squished into the last pitches, packed up close to other campers, listening to the sounds of other families around us wondering if, really, our love affair with Burnbake was over.
Half the campsite was recently closed and given over to super-deluxe eco-lodges which although very beautiful leave little space for campers. So it was with apprehension that I drove to back to Burnbake last week for the first time in a year, to give it one last chance.
Our weekend visit in June 2017
I planned to get there as early as I could, well before the Londoners arrived after work on Friday night. The car was packed quickly with my new reduced minimalist gear, and we left as soon as the kids came out from school. Through Bournemouth, across Poole harbour on the chain ferry then straight through the glorious country lanes towards Corfe, happy and excited to be out in the countryside already. There it was. Burnbake.
The campsite shop, small but filled with everything you could ever need
It was 4.45pm on a Friday afternoon and the campsite was already packed. People had come early and spread random equipment around on the ground to save places for their friends to join them. I drove round twice wondering if I should give up when I found the last empty clearing and grabbed it quickly. Our friends arrived, we set up our tents and sat down to enjoy our good fortune, watching other vehicles circling for pitches. By 6pm the ‘FULL’ sign was up.
There is now an overflow field for latecomers, just a large empty field next door with no facilities (or shade) and we watched people from it streaming past us to the toilets, shop and to fill their water bottles. I can see trees have been planted there, so the owners are making an effort to expand the site in keeping with the forest feel.
Despite its popularity, the disappearance of the woods, increased night noise and the queuing for showers, I have decided I still like Burnbake. Its just so lovely camping in all those trees and I haven’t found another site which feels the same. This campsite still has its charm but I miss the quiet days when we first discovered it, and its endless sunny glades to choose from and wish I could sneak back to have that experience one more time.
Happy children sharing stories outdoors on the campsite
How to get in
Burnbake don’t take reservations, so if you’d like to visit its best to try mid-week or off-season. School holidays will be packed but if you could arrive on a Sunday afternoon for a few nights you might be lucky. Arrive as early as you can or send a friend on ahead to grab a pitch for you.
If its already full, don’t worry. Its a popular area for campers so there are several other campsites within a couple of miles. You could try Norden Farm, Downshay, Tom’s Field… and if you find one you really like, don’t tell anybody!
Its a great area to explore, this is the picturesque village of Corfe with its famous ruined castle, owned by the National Trust