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17 things we've learned about opening a campsite on our farm

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

  1. We thought that having people come and stay in what is essentially our garden would be too intrusive. But in 3 years, we’ve had no issues at all with noise or trespass, everyone seems to be really well behaved!

  2. Compost loos work absolutely fine for small groups of sober adults. As soon as you have larger groups, drunk people or kids, they can become a bit of a nightmare. They are simple to use, but if the instructions aren’t followed, then they become pretty messy and unpleasant. Installing new flushing loos this year which feed into our sewage treatment plant has been a real gamechanger.

  3. Getting a licence via an Exempted Organisation was quick, cheap and painless. Whilst Planning Permission can in theory grant you greater freedom, the time, cost and uncertainty involved made it a non-starter for us. We applied for our licence with Woodland Champions Club in Spring 2021 and it was granted before the month was out. The licence allows us up to 10 tent pitches and 5 caravans/shepherd’s huts which is absolutely plenty for us in our first few years.

  4. I cannot fathom how some sites do their own linen and have time for anything else in their lives. We use AirLinen who deliver fresh, clean towels and bedding for around £20 a set, and the cost is just baked into the price of the bell tents.

  5. The most commented on feature we have is the showers. The structures are incredibly basic, just pallets screwed together with some basic cladding. But the hot, gas powered Camplux showers work a treat, and it turns out a warm shower with spectacular views over the fields towards the common is a winning way to start the day.

  6. Nobody ever books the logs & firelighters when they make the booking, but everyone inevitably wants it when they are here. We’ve tried leaving the wood store fully stocked and letting guests help themselves, but inevitably people burn whatever they can see and it costs us a fair bit, so we do still have to ration it.

  7. Cars and campsites don’t mix. We’ve tried allowing people to drive to their pitch, unload and park off-site, but it’s just too dangerous. When full, we could have 50+ kids on the campsite running around, hunting for bugs, throwing frisbees, hiding in the long grass and kicking footballs, which is more important than being able to drive next to a tent. We provide a couple of trolleys and wheelbarrows to help cart kit across the site.

  8. Deckchairs and UV don’t mix either. Our first batch all started to rip at the same time after a couple of summers outside, hoping our new ones last a bit longer!

  9. Everyone wants a fridge, but it’s not an easy thing to have off-grid. We have no electricity on our campsite. These days, everyone has a portable charger to keep phones topped up, but larger appliances need more juice. A small camping fridge would work fairly easily with a 100 watt solar panel, but we’d either need 3 of these setups which would just cover the bell tents, or a much bigger fridge and solar setup to power a larger fridge. Fortunately, we have the cafe on site which caters for all cold, hot and alcoholic drink needs at least. We do often lend a coolbox with some ice out as a backup solution.

  10. We thought when we first started to offer camping that guests would be bored and need more entertaining. A lot of people are happy to sit in a deckchair all day, do some bbq and switch off from normal life for a day or three. We’re lucky where we are that there’s no shortage of things to do with the kids nearby, or pubs to visit for those who want to get out and about.

  11. The best events we’ve had here have tapped into all parts of our business here, and similarly, those who enjoy their stay the most tend to get the most involved. The overnight cycling events with Temple Cycles and Trash Mile where everyone has stayed on-site, had some food and drink from the cafe, enjoyed some music in the hangar in the evening and some recovery yoga the next day too have been some of the best weekends here. For 2024 we’re looking into more packages which include camping and access to gym, pilates or yoga classes too, as well as the sound baths. Having a dry-hire wedding venue which needs a big tidy up on the Sunday works a lot better when half the guests stay on site and can be bribed to help with coffee!

  12. When it’s hot, get the sheets in the bell tents changed as early in the day as possible, it’s a sweaty job otherwise!

  13. Bell Tents need bases. For our first year, they sat straight on the ground below. This direct contact gives a route for mould and mildew to migrate to the canvas and take hold of the tents. We now use a base of 36 pallets under each tent which keeps the base aerated and the canvas away from vegetation, which keeps them cleaner for longer. A 6x6 deck would have been in the thousands, but using pallets was a tiny fraction of this for a similar result.They’re also easier to store over the winter. We will sell this years at the end of the season, and start new again for 2024.

  14. We don’t include linen with our additional fold-out beds. They are £10 each to rent for the night, and the linen on top is another £18, which we found made them uneconomical to book. Now we don’t offer the linen, and encourage guests to bring a sleeping bag instead, but this can get lost in the booking process. We are looking at ways to make this better for next year, including a larger Bell Tent option with a second or even third fixed bed included.

  15. We have a unique location, which is at the core of all the elements of the business. For the camping, it means that 90% of our bookings come from people who live within 5 miles of here, which I think is pretty unusual for a campsite. Be it parents with kids trying a night outside for the first time with the safety net of a short trip home, or seasoned campers trying some new equipment before a bigger trip further afield, it’s nice to fulfill a need from the local community that we did not know existed. We’ve had a lot of campers from the Netherlands and Belgium this year too, so it’s always nice to have those from a little further away too!

  16. It takes time to grow. We haven’t done any paid marketing, relying on word of mouth and increasingly from HipCamp reviews. The more bookings we have, the more efficient we get at managing the process and this year despite having over 200 bookings, vs 50 and 90 in the last 2 summers, it’s actually been a lot easier to manage changeovers. Not having compost loos definitely helps on that front!

  17. The best bit about the campsite is looking out and seeing groups from all walks of life, often from opposing corners of the globe sharing a beer and toasting marshmallows around the campfire and generally having a lovely time.

If you have any questions about opening a campsite on your own farm, drop us a message, we'd love to try and help.

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