Pods and ‘sitootery’ spots launched at retreat and education centre

Nichola Balfour outside one of the wooden camping lodges.
Nichola Balfour outside one of the wooden camping lodges.

A taste of the great outdoors is being offered to families at a camping experience set up just a stone’s throw away from a colliery village.

The Barn at Easington has added to its retreat and education site with two camping pods, which join two caravans and space for six tents.

Ellin Hare and Nichola Balfour outside one of the new pods at The Barn at Easington.

Ellin Hare and Nichola Balfour outside one of the new pods at The Barn at Easington.

Funds generated by campers will support community arts events and celebrations, which are put on primarily for those from East Durham.

While the camping accommodation has drawn in guests from across Europe and Scandinavia, it is hoped those close to home will also take the chance to experience a quick getaway and discover the countryside on their doorstep.

One of the pods is a luxury microlodge which can accommodate four people with a kitchen and bathroom.

The other is a family pod, which has space for two adults and two children and has under floor heating and an electric point.

We are passionate about this area and the beautiful coast of East Durham and getting people outdoors here, even if they’re just from down the road.

Nicola Balfour

Each have their own “sitootery”, where people can sit around a fire pit, cook outdoors and watch the sun set.

The project was launched in 2012 at Thorpe Lea Farm, north of Easington Colliery and close to Hawthorn.

It is run by artist Nicola Balfour, film-maker Ellin Hare and musician and sculptor Jon Codd and counts film screenings, music events and creative sessions among its events held in and around its barn so far.

Nicola, who has worked in early years education, said: “The community is really amazing around here and this is really for groups of people, families.

Inside one of the lodges.

Inside one of the lodges.

“The pods are a little like wooden tents in a way and they have electricity and under floor heating and you can stay dry, but you still have that outdoors experience.

“We felt it was really important to connect with Easington Colliery and we wanted to forge a relationship with the community so that people feel this is a place that they can use and where community events bring people together.

“We also work hard to make people feel that the arts are something for them.
“We are passionate about this area and the beautiful coast of East Durham and getting people outdoors here, even if they’re just from down the road.”

The team say they could have turned the land into large glamping site, but say they wanted to keep the focus on smaller camping plot.

One of the activity areas at Thorpe Lea Farm.

One of the activity areas at Thorpe Lea Farm.

There is already access to toilets, with showers to be built soon.

It also welcomes school groups, with regular visits made by Seascape Primary in Peterlee, and teams up with Cafe Together Project, a volunteer-led cafe which serves up meals at Easington Colliery’s methodist church each Thursday lunchtime.

Inside the barn area at The Barn at Easington.

Inside the barn area at The Barn at Easington.