Located on the edge of Bodmin Moor, this tranquil glampsite covers a range of terrains and offers off-grid comfort for families and couples.
Brother and sister team Rachael and Matt Gifford took over Ekopod in 2017 and have expanded the business to offer a range of accommodation options with different price points. We talk to Rachael about their move from mainstream hospitality and the ethos behind the business.
What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
We started running Ekopod in June 2017. We are a brother and sister team who were previously working in hospitality in Bristol. I was managing a privately-owned independent hotel group and Matt was working in restaurant management for the Casa Mia group.
What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
Our move into glamping was inspired by 2014 backpacking travels that involved wild camping in Russia and staying in gers in Mongolia. We were blown away by the sense of wonder and adventure that being so remote and living so close to nature can create. We came back determined to create an experience in the UK to capture that magic for our guests.
Having 20 years of hospitality experience between us, in hotels and restaurants respectively, setting up a glamping business seemed to be the perfect venture. Our love of the sea, water sports and outdoor activities made the border of Devon and Cornwall the perfect location.
How did you research the business before entering it?
We both had extensive knowledge of the hospitality industry before embarking so had a good idea of what we were letting ourselves in for. To research glamping specifically we stayed in other glamping sites around the country, did a lot of online research into competitor offering and pricing and attended the glamping showcase.
Tell us about your location and site
It’s five acres set in wildflower meadows and woodland on the edge of Bodmin Moor. We’re in an area with international dark skies status so the views of the night sky on clear nights is stunning. Our units are set in their own individual spaces with views over the surrounding farmland and moors, so our guests have the experience of having their own private bit of Cornish countryside for their stay.
We have the advantage of being completely surrounded by countryside but not being too far from the A30, so access is good and it’s easy for our guests to visit the many beautiful beaches, Bodmin Moor, and pretty harbour towns and attractions such as Tintagel and the Eden project.
The challenge is that we are off-grid so the lighting in our pods is solar, the water is from our spring etc. It’s also a little hilly so when we were building the pods moving the building materials around the site was quite hard work, mostly we moved stuff by wheelbarrow, which we continue to do with all our laundry and cleaning products.
How did you tackle getting planning?
We found the planners helpful. When we got the site it already had one unit on it and planning for more. We subsequently made another planning application for additional units, which we did ourselves rather than using a specialist. In our new application we kept the density of buildings on the site very low and we’ve tried to keep everything we’ve done as discreet as possible.
How did you finance the project?
We got a loan to finance the project.
What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We have a variety of accommodation types – a bell tent, a safari tent, a glamping pod and four geodomes. We wanted to offer a range of options for different price points and group sizes.
We only close the geodomes for six weeks of the year. They are a very efficient shape, are well insulated and have a wood burning stove to keep them warm. The rest of the units are open from Easter until October half term.
How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
We publicise ourselves through Canopy and Stars, Visit Cornwall, our own website/social media channels and some other directory listing sites.
How would you describe your ethos and unique selling point?
We have three aims:
To provide a sense of remoteness; all of our glamping units are set in their own space, with private terraces and away from each other
To provide a relaxing way for our guests to get close to nature, enjoy starry skies and outside adventures but with more luxury and ease than a standard camping trip allows. There is no electricity or Wi-Fi in our pods!
To give back to the land by working on habitat restoration for native British species and creating an environmentally friendly business.
How did you choose your interior decoration?
I had done some interior design for the hotel group I managed so this wasn’t the first time I’d done some work in this area. We chose a different style for each unit type and did a lot of online research around the themes we chose, creating mood boards which we used to pick individual pieces of furniture.
What challenges have you faced?
It was definitely challenging building units during the ‘Beast from the East’. I had about six layers on when we were building Eyl geodome and was still really cold, especially as the frame is metal!
Also trying to reclaim the land from brambles and nettles. When we first got it there was nearly nothing else able to grow as the whole site was smothered in them.
What are your plans for next season?
We’d like to put in a tree house!
Describe your average day mid-season
Firstly I’d check the emails and respond to any enquiries. If it’s a change over day we make a list of which units are being cleaned that day and prep all the laundry. Once the guests have checked out, all the laundry and cleaning equipment is taken to each unit by wheelbarrow. We check for any maintenance issues and clean the units. We then stock up the fire wood, toiletries etc. Before check in I put in the cheese, biscuits, milk and other arrival goodies. The rest of the day could be spent on any marketing activity, accounts or ordering.
Do you enjoy the business?
Yes, I love being at Ekopod, it’s such a beautiful site so whatever you are doing you have a beautiful view – I just love being here! The job is also constantly varied, you never get the opportunity to be bored. I also love the surrounding area; I now get to take the dog for a walk on the beach before work which I couldn’t do in Bristol.
What are you most proud of?
Our guests’ experiences; we’ve had some lovely feedback. It’s a lot of hard work but it’s such an amazing feeling knowing that people are really enjoying the experience.
One of my favourite moments was when we were just finishing the geodome Eyl and one of our guests who had booked our bell tent called up and asked if he could upgrade to a geodome because he wanted to propose to his girlfriend. We worked really hard and managed to get it open a couple of days early so he could have it for his proposal. Knowing that such an important moment in someone’s life is happening in something we’ve created is wonderful.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
You need to love it, love where your site is and customer service as it’s long hours so you need to genuinely enjoy it. Hospitality is not a job where you’ll get rich quick, it’s a vocation that if you enjoy will make most days a pleasure.
Clear Sky www.safaritents.net
Boutique Camping www.boutiquecamping.com
Super Control www.supercontrol.co.uk
Canopy and Stars www.canopyandstars.co.uk
The Old Vicarage
Launceston PL15 8QJ