Two bespoke cabins welcoming couples to a rewilded piece of Gloucestershire.
With a quest to increase biodiversity on her land, Lorraine Robinson counts the arrival of frogspawn on her previously dilapidated site as one of her proudest moments in her enterprise’s development so far. We talk to Lorraine about horseshoe bats, sorting rubbish and doing things solo.
What’s your back story – your life before glamping?
Tourism is in my blood! I opened a holiday cottage in 2006 and a camping and caravan park in 2007. After a divorce I found myself with a 2.5 acre meadow, a wealth of ideas and a drive to do something new.
What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
At the touring park we had become aware of a new trend called glamping in 2011 and set about designing and building our own pods. By the time I was ready to start my new venture the glamping market had grown and evolved in a big way and I decided I wanted to create some unique, luxurious timber cabins to tap into the luxury end of glamping.
The process was a fairly long one with my first planning meeting in September 2016. I didn’t open to guests until December 2019.
How did you research your business before entering it?
I really enjoyed the research stage – I visited other glamping businesses, attended trade shows and spoke to some very knowledgeable people.
Tell us about your location and site
The Roost is a 2.5 acre meadow flanked by ancient woodland with direct access to many beautiful walks, including the Gloucestershire Way, and some great tracks for bike riding. I knew the site was just perfect for glamping. The development of the site had to be handled very sensitively due to our being located within an SSAC for the rare horseshoe bat. Strict controls are in place to control any night time light spill from the cabins.
How did you tackle getting planning?
Planning permission is usually the most difficult and challenging part of any glamping development. I first met with planners, who were very enthusiastic and supportive of my plans, in September 2016 but, once planning was submitted, it got quite difficult to meet all the biodiversity and sustainability criteria.
Because we are near a major European maternity roost for horseshoe bats, I had to designate half the meadow into a ‘bat mitigation area’. This area was where I originally planned to put the cabins so I had to re-plan the site and bring the cabins into a different part of the meadow.
How did you finance the project?
I was incredibly lucky to secure a grant from the Rural Development Fund. I raised the rest of my finance with a business bank loan plus all of my personal savings.
What glamping accommodation do you offer?
I had originally decided to erect several safari tents but quickly realised that, as a solo female, I would really struggle with winter storage and ongoing maintenance and repairs.
After visiting the Glamping Show I became convinced that timber buildings would best suit my circumstances and allow me to become an ‘all year’ business.
What occupancy levels and price per night do you achieve?
The cabins have been very popular – we have been enjoying 95% occupancy levels. Our prices range from £139 up to £200 a night.
How did you work out your brand and how do you publicise yourself?
I really wanted to offer something unique, luxurious and designed around couples. I have had some great, great help with publicity from a marketing friend. She designed my website and I’ve had lots of training on Instagram and other social media platforms – it helps me to reach my target guests really well.
How would you describe your unique selling point?
Sustainability and biodiversity. They are so important – my quest to enhance biodiversity on site is equally as important to me as the glamping business itself.
How did you choose your interior decoration?
I designed every element of the cabins myself. My source of inspiration was Pinterest – I became a bit obsessed! I used a local female carpenter to make much of the furniture using locally sourced cedar and reclaimed scaffold planks.
What challenges have you faced?
I faced some limited but very strong local objections during the planning process and, while the district council was supportive, the parish council was not. I was undertaking the whole process on my own and sometimes it seemed daunting and quite overwhelming.
What are your plans for next season?
I am really excited to be building a second, larger wildlife pond in the bat mitigation area plus I will be enhancing our outdoor fire pit areas. I’ve gained some real inspiration from Pinterest again and am looking forward to creating some seriously ‘Instagrammable’ outside cooking areas.
Describe your average day mid-season
I’m usually at my desk first thing in the morning sorting out overnight emails and bookings. I then drive the 10 minutes to site, stopping off at local suppliers if guests have ordered welcome packs.
Once on site, I start checking the cabins. It’s always a real rush to clean fire pits and wood burners, replenish the wood and clean the windows. Fortunately, I have a great cleaning team who do the bulk of the actual cleaning of the cabins. Once they are cleaned and ready for the new guests it’s time for grounds maintenance – this is a never-ending cycle once spring has sprung.
I then start sorting through the rubbish and hand sort all the recycling – I’m determined to minimise waste going into landfill. Then its home again for a quick cuppa and back in the office to deal with the day’s admin!
Do you enjoy the business?
I absolutely love it! The business has done so well and we get such great guest reviews. What’s more, I’ve won a few industry awards since opening and this year have been named as The Best Rural Tourism Business in the UK. It feels amazing, especially when I look back at what was here before I created The Roost – it was a field full of perennial weeds and builders’ rubbish!
What are you most proud of?
You will think I’m a bit strange but it was the first spring after opening and the new nature pond was full of frogspawn – I was so delighted that life was returning to the site in such a short space of time. It was such a high for me!
Essential Bathing www.essentialbathing.co.uk
BRANDING & PR
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The Roost Luxury Glamping
Gloucestershire GL17 0EE