Soaring demand for staycations coupled with British holidaymakers’ desire to enjoy the freedom of the road and discover hidden gems has sparked an exciting initiative which is benefitting happy wanderers and rural businesses alike.
Family-owned Trek Campers Limited, which hires out high spec campervans from its Worcestershire base, is encouraging UK holidaymakers to look beyond a trawl of busy beauty spots and stay in the heart of rural communities on farms diversifying after Brexit.
Extended planning rules designed to boost the British travel industry affected by the pandemic are enabling temporary campsites to open for 56 days instead of the previous 28 and providing opportunities for farmers to welcome curious campervanners and dip their toe into diversifying.
Kim Walton, who owns Trek Campers with husband Andrew, said: “More people than ever are enjoying the benefits of holidaying at home – simplicity, freedom of the road and getting off the beaten track to discover the joys of our rural communities who are meeting their need by providing temporary sites for holidaymakers and offer a taste of the countryside, local knowledge and recommendations.
“With the loss of EU subsidies, farmers now have to think how to run a profitable business. Pop up campsites are a quick and cheap form of diversification a farmer can try and there is certainly demand with many of our campervan customers reporting that campsites were selling out during peak season,” added Kim, who also advises rural businesses on diversification.
One of the campsites being championed by Trek Campers is Walnut Tree Meadow near Wymondham in Norfolk, which was launched in 2018 as a natural progression from another farm diversification – a dog friendly business hub. After meeting criteria set by Freedom Camping Club, which identifies safe and suitable locations for campsites, the site was awarded an exemption certificate for five tent pitches. There was no need for planning permission.
Owner Kathryn Cross explained: “Once we mowed the field it immediately looked perfect. After building a shower unit and washing up sinks we opened the following summer. We’re now in our third season and lots of visitors are repeat bookings.
“Our USP is we’re dog friendly as we have lots of dog-centred activities on the farm from agility to swimming to grooming and exercise fields as well as farm walks. Visitors tell us how peaceful it is but are also close enough to the nearest town and can travel easily around Norfolk. We now have exemption for 15 pitches but our maximum this year is six so everyone has plenty of space.”
Kathryn would definitely encourage farmers to follow in her footsteps: “It’s a good investment if you don’t mind sharing your farm with others. There is some work to do such as cleaning, emptying bins and mowing grass but once you’re up and running the costs are minimal. We’ve met some lovely people and it’s great to hear them say how much they have enjoyed themselves.”
Experienced campervanner, Brendan McMahon, prefers visiting community sites to conventional campsites. “It is a different experience as you can effectively go off grid. You’re always made to feel welcome in the heart of the community, can see so much more of the local environment and sample fresh local produce,” he said.
Due to the pandemic, the UK holiday season is expected to roll on well into the autumn with discerning campervanners eager to seek out less busy sites in stunning locations.