Notes from a sustainable journey by The Quiet Site’s Daniel Holder.
I had failed to catch the judge’s eye as a jockey, enjoyed a degree in electrical engineering, took a graduate job in London and then set up my own business in former Yugoslavia, just before the country fell apart.
“But I don’t want to spend six weeks helping run the family campsite,” I protested as mother continued without drawing breath. I was at a loose end and the phone call came possibly just at the right time. 30 years later I am still here. Indeed, I enjoy it so much I have bought the company (where is Victor Kiam now?).
Our campsite nestles on the fellside overlooking Ullswater. 100 pitches, 25 statics, a lovely bar and cottages set in 10 acres; we are talking idyllic. With an engineering background, a long-term interest in the environment and a blank canvas, improvements soon started to happen.
Our water treatment plant was struggling under an increasing load so my first move was to install a new reed bed to deal with our waste grey water. Eye watering amounts of cash later our waste water is now cleaned through four reed beds where the hungry bacteria eat all the impurities. The reeds add oxygen to the water through their roots enabling the bacteria to survive. The clean water is then pumped back up to our service block to flush the toilets. Not a drop is wasted. Of all our projects, this first one is still the most elegant and satisfying.
Subsequent projects include solar thermal panels to pre-heat water used for heating and hot water. During June and July these panels often provide enough heat for the whole site without any additional heat sources. Every degree these panels raise the water temperature by is a degree we do not need to heat the water by, so they do good business even in the winter.
A wood chip Biomass boiler replaced six oil and gas boilers and is controlled, in conjunction with the solar thermal panels, by a microprocessor. The woodchip is sourced within 10 miles. Our own PV panels supplement our sustainably sourced electricity. We are onto our third electrical site vehicle.
We offer glamping cycling holidays with two other lake district parks. Pod’n’Pedal holidays are completed using cycles, pods and trains. What’s not to like?! (www.podnpedal.co.uk).
I built our first home grown glamping unit using my childhood Lego on my desk. Five months later we opened our first full size Hobbit Hole to the public. The response from both planners and guests was phenomenal. Awards, national press coverage and permission to build 15 came very quickly. Essentially, we are burying a highly insulated space in a hillside with awesome views. They are virtually invisible from more than a few meters away. They come with Scandinavian levels of insulation (Britain has some of the worst insulated houses in Europe, mainly due to the traditionally low gas prices). They use around 25 per cent of the energy used by a traditional caravan or motorhome by combining very high levels of insulation with a small heat source.
This year’s project has been to transition our site shop to ‘zero waste’. This presents daily challenges but has enormous rewards on all levels. The zero waste philosophy should have particular resonance for all holiday park operators as we have to deal with all inputs and all outputs…!
Introducing glamping units 10 years ago has enabled us to operate year-round with reduced running costs. Like many sites we started with locally made wooden camping pods.
As we know, glamping means different things to different people. In the USA, glamping is a direct substitute to a 5* hotel; hundreds of dollars per night for a safari tent in an exquisite location, often with a butler thrown in! Canvas safari tents only lend themselves to a short summer season due to the lack of insulation and are not on our wish list due to this and high energy running costs.
I believe here in the UK our guests are looking for more of a comfort upgrade on camping that is weather independent and can be used year-round. Camping pods, cabins and bespoke spaces like our own Hobbit Holes are very popular.
The recent craze for squashed statics doesn’t seem to inspire the special glamping wow factor either and appear to represent the static manufacturers trying to cash in on the popularity of glamping.
We are starting to exchange our unattractive static holiday caravans with attractive glamping cabins.
Static caravan design has essentially remained unchanged since the dawn of time and remains as unattractive now as they were then. Indeed, about the only change as far as I can see is that they have become larger. Glamping offers a much more acceptable image. I wonder if the static caravan, in its present form, is coming to the end of its life? We will continue to introduce new and innovative glamping units to further lower our appetite for energy. The Lego is out on the desk again!
We belong to the British Holiday Homes and Holiday Park Association (BHHPA), which provides us with a first class knowledge base and enables us to access best practice quickly and affordably. Regular branch meetings enable us to keep up with like minded people who are facing the same issues. As sustainability is going to be increasingly important going forwards having access to some of the top minds in the country is a no brainer.
We ask our guests to respect the four R’s ‘Reduce, Refill, Reuse, Recycle’. We have a loyal and growing customer base who value what we are trying to do and choose us over other similar sites because of our proven credentials.
The world is facing enormous environmental challenges and it is up to business as well as individuals to make a difference. After 30 years we are well on the way to becoming completely carbon fuel free. We are already carbon neutral but there is always room for improvement.
Looking forwards I see a joined up sustainable travel policy, lots more cycle paths, highly efficient modern living spaces that blend into our spectacular scenery and a close collaboration with other businesses.
Good environmental practice is always good business practice, and our industry is superbly placed to make a difference.
The Quiet Site – www.thequietsite.co.uk