Ask Periwinkle

Rural business entrepreneur Periwinkle shares his decades of experience in making money from people outdoors

Dear Periwinkle,
I want to offer something truly unique at my glampsite, any ideas? (Timothy, Cumbria)

Most industry insiders think ‘hot tubbing’ has had its day. Yet it’s amazing just how much fun people can have while wet. And there’s no drop in demand for this sort of thing. So don’t throw the baby out with the tub water just yet. Chatter amongst the über-cool suggests that the ‘natural’ swimming pool is trending right now.

No, a natural swimming pool isn’t a disused pond containing a submerged bedstead, the remnants of a Ford Cortina and enough plastic bottles to give David Attenbourgh the dry boak. A natural swimming pool is a scientific marvel on a par with the Eden project and possibly costing as much.

The creation from scratch of a delicate eco system is a hefty undertaking and cannot be achieved by adding tap water to your idea of Adam and Eve’s vegetable patch from Genesis (Ma Nature’s go at this took 4 billion years).

A word to the wise (in the spirit of getting back to nature): forget ‘swimming pool’.Save £20k and think about the following; it’s not how God did it, but follow these steps to success:

  • Dig a hole
  • Fit it with water
  • Add frogs (I recommend using volunteer frogs only; throw a random frog in a pond against its will and you’re asking for trouble – she’ll hop it first chance she gets
  • Add weeds, believe me they’re not hard to find
  • Decant a brace of minnows into the mix as a sop to the environmental lobby
  • Stir and leave it two years. With a favourable wind at your back, you might create an eco-friendly swimming hole. Just don’t ask me to be the first to jump in.

Periwinkle Manor House illustrationDear Periwinkle,
My wedding business is ticking over nicely at the Manor House but could offering accommodation on site boost our revenue? (Will, Herefordshire)

Absolutely. The smart money right now is on weekend-long weddings – extended celebrations and pursuit of that fluffiest of social phenomena: ‘getting togetherness’. This is a cat that can be skinned in a number of ways.

Clear out the servant’s quarters (and any servants too). Depending on how much you love your granny, you can either ‘retire’ the old goat to one of the farm cottages or just stick 500 quid in her handbag and shove her on the next bus to the Outer Hebrides. Then, once you’ve insured any inanimate objects answering to Wedgewood, Chesterfield or Gainsborough, voila! The Manor House is now the ‘Party House’.

Should either you or your guests’ insurers find you don’t have the stomach for hard business decisions regarding your granny, just add glamping in the grounds – pods or cabins for year round use or bell tents and tipis for the summer. You can hire these in from ‘pop up’ suppliers.

There will be an overhead for furnishing, cleaning and staffing,of course. But by offering ‘exclusive use’ you will attract an exclusive* clientele. (*‘Exclusive’ is used here in the old Norse sense of ‘totally minted’).

Dear Periwinkle,
Having invested in a permanent events marquee at our farm venue, we would like to maximise on public event opportunities throughout the year. What should we have on our list? (Marion, Hampshire)

Good call – get the tent up and screwed to the barn.Then you don’t have the tiresome job of wrangling tent flaps up and down more times in a year than you hang out washing.

How to make it pay? Obviously there’s parties for Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s day and Easter. There’s craft and hunt parties too.But you can ring in the changes with other less obvious stuff:

  • Why not try a May Day celebration for the Morris men? Personally, one sip of that Morris dancing juice, and I’m waving my stick around like there’s no tomorrow
  • Summer Solstice – for the druids. They like a party that lot
  • Halloween zombie parties are good but I recommend you don’t let any real zombies in; they’ll only lower the tone. And they’ll scare the prentendy zombies, and they are the only kind with money to spend.

The equation to always bear in mind is this: party = captive audience = cash bar plusasmany up-sells as you can get away with!

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