Hush Hush Glamping

A two pod adults only escape with alpacas.

Sign to Hush Hush GlampingWhen Alice Pond and Kevin Jones decided to live together at Kevin’s family farm, they turned to glamping as a diversification strategy. We talk to Alice about working three jobs to pay for the start-up costs, hand to mouth survival through the pandemic and the couple’s pride in what they’ve achieved through grim determination.

What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
In 1949, my husband Kevin’s grandfather bought a farm in the mid-Wales Radnor Valley, and it soon became the family’s sole business venture. Kevin is a sixth generation farmer and also runs his own contracting business offering precision drilling fodder beet and swedes and hedge trimming.

Despite not coming from a farming background, I have always been fascinated by animals. I went to Hartpury College to complete a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management and secured a job as an owl centre manager at a local farm park. Kevin and I met during this time. I decided to leave my job and we discussed at length our next steps.

Hush Hush Glamping interiorI was very aware that the animal job opportunities were lacking in the area so we were faced with two choices; relocate to find work I was passionate about (but Kevin would have to leave the farm) or move in with Kevin’s parents to be at the farm (but there would be no opportunity for me to follow my passion and the financial prospects for Kevin were bleak).

We decided to move to the farm with the intention of beginning a diversification project that would allow us to support ourselves whilst being able to both pursue our passions. We wanted to create a glamping offering and an alpaca business but we needed funds until our project was fledged. I changed vocation to become a project manager at the local council and we both worked weekends at a local chicken shed, packing eggs. I also began working as a virtual assistant (VA) in the evenings.

In Autumn 2020, I left ‘employment’ and set up my own web design and VA business, Wise Birdy, that I could operate from home whilst overseeing the glamping and alpacas.

What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
As you know from our stories, the farm and the agricultural contracting business were unable to financially support the whole family (a sad reality of most farms nowadays which causes younger generations to relocate and opt out of farming leaving behind older generations that struggle with the workload). We wanted to be a part of the farm but knew diversification would be the only means to achieve that.

We researched our options, from grape vines to bike tracks to horse livery, before settling on glamping and alpacas. We opened our first pod, Hare’s Form, in July 2019 and our second pod, Huacaya’s Cush, in April 2021.

Hush Hush Glamping viewHow did you research the business before entering it?
We did a lot of Googling! We researched suppliers and drafted in help from our local McCartneys branch to assist with the planning application. We didn’t find a lot of the information easy to come by, which has led us to create our own ‘Glamping Business Start Up Guide’ to make the process easier for other prospective glamping business owners.

Tell us about your site and any challenges its location presents
Nestled underneath the Radnor Forest in Mid Wales at 1,300ft above sea level, overlooking the three counties of Powys, Herefordshire and Shropshire, in the company of inquisitive alpacas and woolly sheep, Hush Hush Glamping’s setting is in a rather special spot. Local walking trails can be accessed on foot right from the pods, making it a great base to explore the countryside. Surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of acres of farmland, Hush Hush Glamping offers such a peaceful, distraction-free and idyllic setting to unwind in. Based in a dark sky area, guests are often blown away by the sparkle in the skies at night-time.

A challenge we have faced that causes an ongoing issue is the access road, as neither the local council nor Forestry Commission will take ownership or responsibility which has resulted in it falling into disrepair. This is a regular complaint in these rural areas from other residents and business owners, as a lot of roads have been removed from local council lists and left to go to ruin.

Hush Hush Glamping at nighttimeHow did you tackle planning?
We drafted help from our local McCartneys agent. However, it was a painfully slow process that took nine months with various delays (not for serious reasons, but because our local council is notorious for being slow in processing and communicating between departments). After eight and a half months of waiting, I wrote a strongly worded email to the head of planning expressing our disappointment and frustration copying in local councillors and two weeks later we were granted planning permission.

How did you finance the project?
We borrowed approximately 50% of the money required and each worked multiple jobs to fund the rest to get our first pod up and running.

What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
We chose pods as they can be kept warm year round, withstand the wind and rain we experience here and look attractive at the same time. We are open all year except for January when the weather is less than desirable here and there is risk of guests being stranded in snow.

What occupancy levels and price per night do you achieve?
Hare’s Form hits around 80% occupancy with an average price per night of £93 (depending upon season and weekday/weekend nights). Huacaya’s Cush hits around 60% occupancy with an average price per night of £172. Both rates have of course been impacted by Covid.
How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
We do our branding ourselves as I run Wise Birdy and have the knowledge to do so. We use the services of a copywriter to assist with marketing content and SEO work on our website and advertise with particular agencies. We have strong marketing and social media strategies in place to continually improve our online exposure.

Hush Hush Glamping alpacasHow would you describe your ethos and unique selling point?
We are an adults-only glamping site that caters for those who want to escape into nature without compromising on home comforts. Our main selling points are the view, the alpacas and being adults-only.

How did you choose your interior decoration?
Kevin was tasked with the groundworks and I was left in charge of interior decoration! In both cases with our pods, the initial internal furnishings were directed a lot by budget, as funds were tight. However, we gave Hare’s Form a glow-up in 2021 when we had the time and spare funds to do so and intend to do the same this year for Huacaya’s Cush. The items chosen are of good enough quality to withstand constant use but also have an aesthetic value too.

Hush Hush Glamping accommodation and viewWhat challenges have you faced?
Covid of course! That is a sure answer for anyone who has been in the hospitality industry over the past couple of years. We had only been open with our first pod for eight months when the first lockdown happened. It was an incredibly difficult couple of years as we had laid money out to get the business on its feet and we then faced outgoing bills with no income. Thankfully, over 75% of guests were happy to reschedule their stays so we did not need to refund their deposits. Even then, at times, we weren’t sure how we were going to afford to eat, but we made it through day by day, week by week.

Initially, we also faced delays with the building of our first pod as the contractor kept delaying which led to us cancelling our first guests. We chose a different supplier for our second pod and were much happier with the level of care shown and timelines were kept in check.

What are your plans for next season?
For the upcoming 2022 season, we are planning on a glow-up for our larger pod, Huacaya’s Cush, to create an Instagram-worthy outdoor seating area underneath the glass pergola and interiors to lust over.

Hush Hush Glamping alpacaDescribe your average day mid-season
We typically leave our guests to self-check in and do not see the majority of them as they enjoy their glamping break in total peace. However, there is still much work to do besides guest interaction as we take care of enquiries, keep our social media up to date, work on marketing strategies, ensure changeovers are completed and keep on top of maintenance jobs. We also look after our alpaca herd and Kevin works on the farm whilst I work as a VA and web designer.

Do you enjoy the business?
We both enjoy the business as it has provided us with a future at the farm and allows us to have a flexible working pattern. It is also wonderful to share such a special location with our guests. Seeing the lovely reviews is the best thing!

What are you most proud of?
In honesty, everything we have achieved! Considering neither of us had previous experience in accommodation letting and our minimal budget, as well as a global pandemic that halted travel for months on end, we managed to pull off something short of a miracle in getting the business to where it is now and couldn’t be more pleased with ourselves for persevering – the incredibly long days, tears and empty bank accounts were worth it! And we are so pleased with the responses we have received from our guests.

What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
We do not operate in any other hospitality sectors, but we do run an alpaca business, which works wonderfully with the glamping pods, as guests enjoy seeing alpacas appearing right outside the pods.

What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Do your research so you know your niche/USP and make that a prominent part of your marketing strategy. Consider your target audience and build the accommodation to suit – you don’t need to cater for everyone, but you do need to cater well for your target audience. Enjoy the process!

Hush Hush Glamping bedroom interior


ADDRESS BOOK

PODS
Modulog (Hare’s Form) www.modulog.co.uk
Arch Leisure (Huacaya’s Cush) www.podfactory.co.uk

BOOKINGS SYSTEM
Bookalet www.bookalet.co.uk

DIRECTORY SITES
Cool Stays www.coolstays.com
Go Glamping www.goglamping.net
Host Unusual www.hostunusual.com
The Wanderlist www.thewanderlist.uk

BRANDING & PR
Wise Birdy www.wisebirdy.co.uk

INSURANCE
NFU Mutual www.nfumutual.co.uk

Hush Hush Glamping accommodation


DETAILS

Hush Hush Glamping
Fostings Farm
Kinnerton
Presteigne
Powys LD8 2PF

www.hushhushglamping.co.uk

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