A site comprising 10 safari tents, with a Gold Award for Green Tourism
Husband and wife team Richard and Wendy Field have diversified from dairy farming into glamping, and hold proud their commitment to sustainability. Having been unsuccessful in securing a Camping and Caravanning Club certification, they decided to dive into the more profitable world of luxury accommodation. We talk to Wendy.
What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
Matt (my husband) was a third-generation dairy farmer, and I (still am) a physiotherapist working part time in the NHS. We have two children, Ben and Emma, who are 10 and 14.
What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
Dairy farming was becoming increasingly hard work. The price of milk was dropping, it was difficult to find good staff to help, and Matt decided he wanted to have a change of direction before he became too old!
How did you research the business before entering it?
We had been glamping ourselves as a family. I was attracted by the idea of a tech-free family break, and Matt spending all day every day outside did not want to consider traditional camping. We really enjoyed the holiday but at that stage we were not considering a change of direction.
When we made the decision to diversify we initially thought we would have a Camping and Caravanning Club certified site but were turned down as they didn’t want another one in the area, so we decided to look at doing camping/glamping ourselves. We looked at other sites near us and felt that we could do better.
Tell us about your location and site
We are in a rural location on a farm, so you feel you are getting away from it all, yet we are only 15 minutes from the cathedral city of Worcester. The field is flat which is helpful, and surrounded by footpaths around the local area. The challenges are the difficulty in getting here by taxi or public transport – taxis are expensive, and it is a 30 minute walk to the local bus stop.
How did you tackle getting planning?
We got a local company, Moule and Co, to put in the planning permission for us – we felt it was worth investing money in getting professional help. Permission was relatively straight forward, although I don’t think it would have been if I had attempted it myself.
What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We started off offering bell tents as they were pretty and relatively inexpensive to buy. Having spent money on groundwork, shower blocks, the septic tank etc, we were unwilling to invest a lot of money on the tents as well. The bell tents were good, and we had good feedback, but they took a lot of time and effort to clean and change the linen as the beds were in the corners of the tents meaning you had to squat/kneel to change them. The carpets needed vacuuming too as they got filled with grass, which involved a generator.
This year we have invested in 10 safari tents, and we are really happy with them. They are sturdy with a wooden floor, and are full height for cleaning and changing linen.
How did you research and source your glamping units?
We met a lot of people at The Glamping Show, and eventually decided on Clear Sky as a supplier.
How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
We worked with a local company, Maros Holmes, who helped with all the branding. The owner Helen came round and knew exactly what we were after, in fact she has since opened her own glamping shepherd hut. She organised professional photography and set up the website. It is important to find someone who you can explain your vision to in plain English and that they have the design knowledge to translate it into fonts and pictures!
We advertise on Cool Camping and Pitchup as well as GroupAccommodation and Away with the Kids. We use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as well for advertising.
How would you describe your ethos and unique selling point?
We are very keen on promoting our green credentials. We are the only campsite in the West Midlands to achieve a Gold from Green Tourism, which is our USP. Green Tourism was really helpful in giving us lots of suggestions as to how we could make the business more eco friendly.
In terms of green tourism, it was a route we went down as the business naturally lent itself to being green. There is electricity in the communal barn but not in the field as we use solar lights and lanterns so electricity consumption was low. The water is pre-heated in a biomass boiler that uses waste wood that would otherwise go to landfill, so the electric showers in the shower block also consume very little energy. We have done a lot of up-cycling – even the fire pits are made from old washing machine drums! We recently twinned our toilet block with one in the Democratic Republic of Congo (www.toilettwinning.org) as part of our commitment to supporting communities around the world.
How did you choose your interior decoration?
We wanted a vintage feel to the tents as I love that look, so we have quilts, bunting, fairy lights, cushions etc. to give that look. We have a lot of groups and wanted a theme for the whole site rather than lots of different interiors, but with upcycled furniture they are all a little bit different.
What challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge has been trying to combine the glamping with farming and physiotherapy. To do it properly requires time and effort. I have some help making the beds but we do the rest ourselves as that helps us to keep an eye on quality. Customer service is a very important part of what we do.
What are your plans for next season?
Next year we are looking at getting log burners as we don’t currently have any heating in the tents. We have recently bought a wood-fired pizza oven for the site, which has been great fun, so we will look to do more with that next year.
Describe your average day mid-season
There is no such thing as an average day! Day to day, outside of our commitments with regards to family and our other jobs, the campsite tends to be mostly used at the weekends.
A typical week would be cleaning up at the beginning of the week, stripping beds, cleaning our cooking sheds, and tidying the communal barn. Thursday/ Friday we make all the beds up with fresh linen, make sure the sheds have barbecue coals, gas for the burner, wood for the fire pit and tea towels, clean the shower block and mow the field, which takes around three hours.
When guests arrive we welcome them individually, make pizzas on the Friday night, then check up on them and keep the toilets and barn clean Saturday and Sunday.
Why do you enjoy the business?
We really enjoy the site, which is vital to making the business a success. It is hard work and if you don’t genuinely enjoy meeting people and going out of your way to make their holiday great then this isn’t the business for you.
We have met people who have become friends for life, and there is nothing better than reading a great review and knowing it was all appreciated.
What are you most proud of?
I am proud of the fact that we didn’t give up and we did it – I have lost count of the number of times I have said ‘Believe to Achieve’ in the early stages when I didn’t think we had enough time/money/energy to carry on.
I am proud of being number one on TripAdvisor for alternative accommodation in Worcester, proud of our Green Tourism Gold Award, and proud of the fact that for the second year running we have won Visit Worcestershire’s award for the best Camping, Touring and Holiday Park.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
We are holding a wedding next year, and have done lots of birthdays and hen parties where people rent the whole site and have food and music. So far it seems to integrate well into the normal running of the site.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Do your research as to your USP, and make sure customer service is a top priority. Save money where you can, but know where you need to spend it to get the job done properly.
Clear Sky www.safaritents.net
Cool Camping www.coolcamping.com
BRANDING & WEBSITE
Maros Holmes www.marosholmes.co.uk
Moule & Co www.mouleandco.co.uk