Welltrough Hall Farm
Over the past 3 years, you have expanded beyond the CL and added a further 12 pitches, a shepherd's hut and a couple of ‘Pods’ what were the biggest hurdles in doing this? There's no doubt that planning consent was both long-winded and expensive. For example, we had to get a consultant in for the first set of additional pitches which cost £2,000 and I then needed a Newt survey which cost me £1,300. I did a lot of the groundworks myself, which helped keep some costs down.
10 years ago you were a farmer spending 100% of your day looking after cattle and your arable operation how has that changed? Well, today I probably spend 60% of my time on tourism operations and 40% farming. We've recently sold the cattle and I get contractors to work a lot of my arable land. My grass is being sold off the field for silage. I've turned my cattle sheds into straw storage and my silage pit now stores 18 caravans. I do all the cleaning, site maintenance, pod & Shepherds hut cleaning etc. myself. I also manage the bookings, website and social media. It all takes time, but it’s a good business, I enjoy it and it makes a better return than farming alone.
Nick, what do you think are the key aspects of your success? It's a mix really, good photos on the website, and a strong presence on social media, particularly Facebook. Our booking system is vital because half of the day I'm out on the farm and it allows people to book online, and of course we've got fabulous views and I am very obsessive about keeping the toilets, showers and the whole site clean and tidy.
Did being the runner-up of the CL of the Year help? I'm not sure it did. I think some people didn't book because they thought we would be too busy, I certainly didn't see bookings increase because of the announcement.
To increase occupancy without expanding or investing what would you advise? Don’t charge any extras, it really hacks people off. Good photos of your site are crucially important. I'd also suggest that you have a social media presence particularly on Facebook and think very hard about putting a booking system in as they save you loads of time when they are set up. You probably need a website too.
If you were advising a CL that wanted to invest in their facilities what would you suggest? If you were advising a CL that wanted to invest in their facilities what would you suggest? In my view adding toilets, and possibly showers, would be a good investment. If you have time on your hands then consider adding some kind of glamping operation. Glampers provide a good return on invest ment but you do need to spend much more time looking after them than Caravanners.
Does your glamping operation attract a different type of visitor? I thought that my first pod would take 3 years to pay off but in fact we managed it in 18 months which prompted me to order a second pod and install a shepherd's hut with toilets and showers.
What has been the return on investment for your glamping operation? I thought that my first pod would take 3 years to pay off but in fact we managed it in 18 months which prompted me to order a second pod and install a shepherd's hut with toilets and showers full stop
Do you think that your glamping operation which you run alongside the CL has impacted the CL status in any way? Well we're not expanding any further because I've reached the limit with our electricity consumption. Yes, there have been a few comments in the reviews on the Caravan Club website, but the vast majority of people are very happy and my occupancy is good so I'm happy with where it is today. At the end of the day, it's a business and I had to make it a success, a CL alone was not viable.
This interview was conducted in June 2019