What would you do if you decided you wanted to ditch the rat race? Would you add camping and glamping to your escape plan? We spoke to Jeff and Karina who have done just that, and have managed to set up a unique camping retreat in the idyllic rural location of North Devon, right next to the Hartland Peninsula. It’s a spot where you can’t really imagine getting further away from city life, noise, pollution and the pressures of modern life. This is a place where the night stars look brighter than ever and the only noise pollution you’ll have to suffer at night is the hoot of owls and the noise of wildlife in the bushes.
Loveland Farm was the result of a trip to Canada, when a trip to get away from it all turned into a ‘eureka’ moment when they were introduced to a camping pod set amongst the trees. The tree pod and its location inspired them to set up their own Geodome and camping business. Now they have a peaceful collection of tent and campervan sites together with a glamping area, which they are currently in the process of expanding. We caught up with Karina to talk about their experiences and if they would recommend others to do the same if they also wanted to ditch the rat race.
Tell me a bit more about your campsite.
We have a two tier field which offer camping for tents and campers, with facilities set up in beach huts along the side of the site. We also have a Geodome for a unique glamping experience with its own kitchen and shower area, decking terrace and dining area.
How long is your trading season and do you find it is impacted by the winter weather?
The traditional camping area has a trading season that lasts for about 8-9 months of the year, while the glamping Geodome has a 10 watt wood-burner and luxury beds so the season continues throughout the year – which even surprised us a little! We’ve found that traditional campers like to use the Geodome during the colder months when they can’t use their own tents to go camping.
How do you find your customers and what booking process to you use?
We have our own website with booking available direct from there, but we also use Canopy&Stars, which is simple and has so far resulted in a good number of bookings.
Who tends to book your glamping facilities?
70% of visitors have never camped before and it’s simply a new experience they want to try out. Some get it more than others, but they all leave having loved it.
Do you have any eco-credentials?
We feel passionately that we should be a good example to others of what we can do to recycle waste, grow our own food and generate our own electricity, so we work hard to deliver solutions to all of these.We are particularly proud of our solar energy generating capacity and our composting toilets, which we’ve had hand carved into elaborate thrones to make that particular eco-experience a bit more luxurious. We also sell local produce to cut down on the carbon we generate as a business, and make a lot of our own produce, which also adds to the genuineness of the experience we provide. One couple said they were ‘blow away’ when they tasted our own home reared pork sausages, saying they had ‘never tasted sausages anything like it in our lives’. It seems that at times staying here can almost be an educational experience for some.
We haven’t completely detached ourselves from the rat race as we also run a fashion line of clothing as well as our camping and farm business. We have a similar environmental ethos with all our businesses, which is very important to us.
What can you tell us about the level of competition in the glamping market at the moment?
locally all businesses are very supportive of what we do. There is competition in the market, but it can definitely take it. This is because people like glamping for different reasons and the market is opening up and attracting a lot of different options to try out. There’s enough room for everyone who wants to offer something original and high quality.
It was claimed in a recent article that businesses could earn up to $25,000 / £15,000 per glamping tent per year for a luxury experience. Do you believe this is true?
It is all dependent on the uniqueness and exclusivity of what’s being offered to the customer. You’ve also got to take into account the cost of what you’re offering and all the little extras. For example, we offer a large cinema style projector, which gives visitors a private cinema experience in our Geodome. We also have a huge wood-burner, significant under-floor insulation and a power shower. However, in answer to your question I would say that yes it is entirely possible to make that and more with excellent facilities.
How has setting up your campsite influenced your own family?
Everyone gets involved in helping out during the busy periods. Jobs such as cleaning, moving firewood, sorting out the recycling, etc. all need doing frequently and the family becomes a team at busy times. We’ve also found that everyone contributes their own ideas for the site and have developed brilliant social skills as a result of it. Now they don’t think twice about getting involved when they need to. We also like hanging out at our own communal fire pit to chat to customers. This is a great way of getting feedback and giving more of a personal service to everyone, particularly when it comes to discussing fun activities in the area and secret beaches to visit.
What are your plans for the future of Loveland Farm?
We are in the middle of trying to get permission for another glamping pod. This one will have a transparent roof to allow for sheltered stargazing at night.
Do you have any advice you would give about the permissions process?
It can be an expensive process as you have to organise surveys to support your application. We’re having to provide tree, ecology, land and local economy surveys. It can seem never-ending, but my advice is to get a specialist to help with all of it. Consultants might be expensive but they are invaluable in helping you get through the ‘red tape’ process. After all getting through is the important bit, as opening up the site and getting great customers and feedback are the rewards… and you can only get those if you can get through the permissions process.
A huge thank you to Karina from Loveland Farm for sharing her experiences with Inspired Camping. For further information or to book a visit to their beautiful campsite, please click here.