Ask Periwinkle

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

Dear Periwinkle,
We have grand plans for our old tythe barn, converting it into a wedding venue. The problem is the neighbours. Any tips on winning them over?
Grace, Kidderminster

Alert readers of recent Periwinkle postbags understand that I eschew conventional wisdom in preference to a Bohemian approach. That this has often led to costly litigation is neither here nor there. Free thinking spirits, among which I consider myself the foremost, cock a snook at the law and let the devil take the hindmost. So I offer you a choice.

Conventional wisdom with re-purposing barns is awash with faux sentimentality — a melange of touchy-feely, love-thy-neighbour, hand-wringing fiddle-faddle, penned by people who haven’t even bothered to read Donald Trump’s The Art of the Deal.

Conventional wisdom would have you engage with your neighbours as early as possible, over tea and a freshly opened tin of Rover Assortment, with both parties accepting from the outset that compromise is inevitable. Typically, those taking such advice offer to turn off amplified music after a mutually agreed time. Or offer their barn free of charge for events their neighbours might want to hold.

In my opinion, no one of voting age should engage in such a backbone-less negotiation. But if you must be even-handed, try to cajole your neighbours into providing B&B services to lodge your marauding hoards and share in the profits. After all, if anyone’s going to vomit all over anyone’s bed linen, surely it’s best that it isn’t yours.

Dear Periwinkle,
I want to make some landscaping improvements to my glampsite before the season gets underway. What are the current trends and how can I create something a little different?
Graeme, Southport

Whatever you do Graeme, pay no heed to so-called ‘experts’. They’ll have you acting like a latter-day Capability Brown: planting and landscaping until your back or your bank balance gives out. There is some merit in landscaping between accommodation units as this can give an element of privacy to guests and you may even be able to get a couple more units in the same space if done well. However, the same experts recommend ‘bee-friendly’ landscaping solutions. Now, colour me stupid if you like, but the idea of embarking on a business enterprise based on canvassing the opinions ofPeriwinkle Manor House illustration the bumble bee nation simply doesn’t make sense.

My advice is to forget trends and give experts the elbow, opting for something with a tad more panache: Teletubby Land would be my choice. Gently undulating lawns with the odd foam flower and bunny rabbit.

The more adventurous could go the whole hog and submerge their accommodations in the earth with periscopes for nature watching. Bringing nature to stay is a great crowd pleaser – bees, butterflies, creepy crawly things and more. In fact, you could even buy a huge geodesic dome and Eden Project your way to a glamping biosphere, just watch out for the snakes.

Dear Periwinkle,
My business partner and I are at loggerheads on what event we should develop at our venue. I fancy Medieval re-enactments but he is all for building a ‘muddy run’ obstacle course. We only have so much capital to invest – what’s your call?
Gunther Sturm and Siegfried Drang, Blackpool

Sensible types see the muddy run course as a long term investment. Once it’s built punters can get muddied up throughout the year, every year. The sensible squad also like to team up with an obstacle course promoter to save you the expense by building the course for you – you then take a cut on every runner splashing merrily through it. The medieval event could then be held independent of the obstacle run on another date – placing your eggs in two baskets instead of the proverbially dodgy, one.

To all of which I say: Booooring! Life’s too short for taking the long view. Employ a bit of lateral thinking instead – what about a medieval themed mud run! – eh? How do you like those Cox’s Pippins? With a full re-enactment of the Battle of Bodger’s Wood which took place in the rain-sodden winter of 1452.

Keep safety uppermost in your mind for the powder puff brigade: Rubber battle-axes, cardboard arrows and tinfoil breast plates. But do provide full-on 16 stone battering rams fashioned from the oak trees of merry England for the desk jockeys – the sort that come down from the big smoke with pretensions of machismo fuelled by watching too many Steven Seagal DVDs. They’ll not be able to lift them but you’ll have fun watching them try. For both groups, avoid boiling-oil at the death slide and the Health and Safety Executive won’t come near you.

If you would like to benefit from Periwinkle’s words of wisdom, please email your questions to

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