Compton farmers among landowners planning for boost in staycations with campsite venture

A West Sussex farming couple who launched a pop-up campsite last year amid a rise in staycations as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic are making plans for another camping facility later this year.

Friday, 19th February 2021, 11:18 am
Updated Friday, 19th February 2021, 11:27 am
James Bray and Caitlin Shardlow set up a pop-up campsite last year at their farm
James Bray and Caitlin Shardlow set up a pop-up campsite last year at their farm

James Bray and Caitlin Shardlow finish around 650 bull calves at Hundred Acre Farm, near Compton, each year, also managing 1,000 acres of wheat, spring and winter barley, oats and maize.

They decided to launch a pop-up campsite when holding a socially distanced barbecue in a field on their farm.

And such was the success of the temporary facility, they hope to open a campsite – including a wild camping experience in a woodland area – later this year, if Covid restrictions allow.

Caitlin said: “We realised what a lovely view we had from the top field of our farm and I said we ought to offer camping in the summertime.”

The couple listed their farm on Pitchup, an online accommodation provider which last year saw more than 200 temporary campsites open across the country.

Relaxed planning regulations amid the pandemic contributed to the hike in openings.

Previously, rural businesses could only operate a campsite for 28 days without planning permission, but this was extended in June last year to 56 days.

The extension currently only applies in England, but the UK’s devolved administrations are also expected to follow suit shortly, according to Pitchup.

James and Caitlin initially put a cap on bookings to ensure they did not over-pack the field as they were only opening Thursday-Sunday for 28 days.

But once the site became established, bookings began to pour in and they took over 350 in total over the season.

Caitlin said they had a range of visitors from ‘Covid campers’ who were smalls groups of friends spending time together, to committed families who camped every year.

“It was nice having people around the farm,” she said.

“A lot of them took a great interest in the working farm, asking us about what we did and how, and learning more about it, which was great to see.”

James said managing the farm around the campsite had not been a problem, even during harvest.

On one day, they had to combine a field next to the site, but simply cordoned off the edge of the site closest to the field to ensure no one camped there.

“Everyone seemed to respect we are a working farm so didn’t go beyond the cordon, which meant the campsite didn’t have any real impact on our day-to-day farming life,” he said.

Pitchup claimed such ventures had high revenue potential. One permanent farm site in Pembrokeshire earned more than £230,000 in the last year and average annual takings top £13,000.

Dan Yates, founder of Pitchup.com said: “Staycations have seen a surge in popularity over recent years and in the light of Covid-19, this trend will only get stronger.

“At the same time, agriculture is facing a less certain future as the Basic Payment Scheme is phased out from this year, meaning farm incomes could fall.

“Temporary campsites are a fantastic way of generating significant extra revenue with very little investment and next to no disruption to day-to-day business operations.

“And with sites able to operate for 56 days without planning permission throughout 2021, they’re a lifeline for struggling land-based business as well as a shot in the arm for remote rural economies.”

All farms and businesses need to do to set up a campsite is hire portable toilets and showers, Pitchup said.

Visit Pitchup.com for more information.