Dimpsey Glamping

A single unit glamping operation with the emphasis firmly on heritage and luxury

Situated on an historic farm in Somerset’s Blackdown Hills, the Dimpsey shepherd’s hut offers year-round accommodation with a handmade feel. Open Air Business talks to owner Emma Warren about what she describes as “five star luxury in a field”.

Dimpsey Glamping
Pic: Ben Carpenter Photography

What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
We moved to our current home in 2010, about the same time as we stayed at the Yurt Farm in Wales, our first glamping experience. We had such a great time that it set us thinking that we could potentially offer glamping on our small farm in Somerset – and it was an idea to which we kept returning. Then I met with Tom Dixon from Canopy & Stars, and he inspired me to think about how we could make things really special. We first opened properly in May 2015.

How did you research the business before entering it?
We did plenty of camping and glamping, as well as staying in B&Bs and hotels. We talked to potential customers and asked them what would interest them.

Tell us about your location and site
We are based on the Blackdown Hills in Somerset, easily accessible from the A303 and about half an hour from the Jurassic Coast. We are lucky to have great walking and cycling straight out of our drive, and also lovely pubs such as the Candlelight Inn just a mile away from us.

The Dimpsey shepherd hut is based on the edge of a newly planted orchard in its own private space, with great views out over the Blackdown Hills.

What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We looked at all sorts of different options like bell tents, yurts and pods – and, in the end, settled on a shepherd hut as it was the solution that best fitted our needs. It also provides year-round glamping for guests, which we wanted to do. All of the options have their own merits, you just have to select the one that is best for you.

Describe how you researched and sourced your glamping units
Once we had settled on a shepherd hut, we looked at all the ones available on the market and came up with a list of the ones we liked and visited them to see what the workmanship and feel of the company was like. In the end, we chose Blackdown Shepherd Huts as we felt that they offered top quality in their build and were willing to be flexible and adapt what they had to our specific needs.

Glamping bed
Pic: Matt Sweeting Photography

How did you tackle planning?
By this point, we had decided that we would have a shepherd hut and Blackdown Shepherd Huts put us in touch with a local company that deal with planning applications for them – and they were really helpful. We are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a Site of Special Scientific Interest on our farm, so we had to be mindful to do something that was sympathetic to the landscape. A shepherd hut was perfect as there would probably have been one on the farm back in the day, and the oak cladding matures and fades back to a grey colour that sits in the landscape nicely.

How do you publicise yourself?
Through our website and through Canopy & Stars. We are also very proud to have won the Gold Award for Somerset in the recent South West Tourism Awards, which gave us a lovely thing to talk about. I’m fairly active on social media and have spoken at the Glamping Show and the Farm Innovation Show as a Canopy & Stars owner and as a member of Niche Brands, who help glamping businesses to grow. It’s great to be able to share what we’ve learnt.

How would you describe your ‘style’ or unique selling point?
We are all about giving people the time to slow down, to relax, recharge and rediscover one another. Our guests are generally couples who want some peace and quiet – and we provide that. I like to think that we offer 5* luxury in a field – we really do go that extra mile for our guests.

Interior
Pic: Ben Carpenter Photography

How did you choose your interior decoration?
We wanted to reflect the heritage of shepherd huts, so everything is either made in the UK or vintage. I have a friend who is brilliant at sourcing things, so she and I worked together and came up with a unique look for Dimpsey that reflects the handmade heritage of the shepherd’s hut itself.

What challenges have you faced?
We were new to the hospitality business, so we had to learn how to provide a great guest experience and how to deal quickly with any issues that arose.

What are your plans for next season?
We are improving our outdoor kitchen facilities and providing more food from the farm, as well as reviewing more local places so we can recommend really great places for our guests to visit and dine out.

Describe your average day mid-season
I do other things as well as the shepherd hut, so I’m generally doing that during the day. The lovely Megan who works for me, does the hut changeovers in the week and hubby and I do it at weekends. I’m usually to be found taking photos for our social media, sourcing new things for the hut or dealing with the bookings. My favourite job is helping people plan surprises for their partner – we’ve had five proposals here so far.

Pic: Matt Sweeting Photography

Do you enjoy the business and why?
I absolutely love it – it’s so amazing to know that we have given people a really lovely break. Reading the feedback in our visitors’ book inspires us to keep coming up with delights for our guests. There aren’t many industries where you get the opportunity to see the process all the way through to happy customers.

CatIn what other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate and how do they integrate with your glamping operation?
We’ve learnt so much about the glamping sector that we are now helping other glampsites to set up and to get the word out there about themselves. I originally come from a business development background and, as part of Niche Brands, collaborate with four ladies who offer website design, social media and PR. My part is to input some glamping business experience.

What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Do what you enjoy – it makes everything so much easier.


ADDRESS BOOK

ACCOMMODATION
Blackdown Shepherd Huts – 01460 929774 www.blackdownshepherdhuts.co.uk

WASHROOM / WC
Blackdown Shepherd Huts – 01460 929774 www.blackdownshepherdhuts.co.uk

HOT TUB
Hikki (available to buy from Dimpsey) www.hikki.se

COOKING
The Garden Oven Company –  01256 581014 www.garden-oven.co.uk

INTERIORS
Various – of special note Winser & Hill Curtains www.winserandhillcurtainmakers.co.uk

BOOKINGS
Bookalet – www.bookalet.co.uk

PROMOTION
Canopy & Stars – 0117 204 7830 www.canopyandstars.co.uk
Cool Camping – www.coolcamping.com
Cool Stays – www.coolstays.com

INSURANCE
NFU Mutual – 0808 274 9600 www.nfumutual.co.uk

DETAILS
Beetham Lane, Chard, Somerset, TA20
01460 477770
www.dimpsey.co.uk

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