Family farmers near Market Harborough are getting ready to welcome campers for this first time this summer as demand for brilliant British holidays shoots through the roof.
Oli Lee and his wife Rebecca raise around 50 Shorthorn beef cattle and 900 Lleyn pedigree sheep on their farm in the Welland Valley.
And they are now launching a ‘pop-up’ campsite to help people relax in the great British countryside after 16 months of Covid pandemic lockdowns.
Oli said: “As a small family farm we’re always looking for different revenue streams and ways to diversify - and camping is something we’re keen to try.
“So we have decided to use eight acres of meadowland that doesn’t give a fantastic return from traditional agriculture and turn that into a campsite.
“It has a stream running through it, grassy pitches and big hedges that is home to lots of wildlife,” said Oli, who’s based at Slawston.
“So it is the perfect place to relax and take a well-earned break.”
As well as raising sheep and cattle, the couple run a number of environmental initiatives on their farm to make it is as sustainable as possible.
All the animals are pasture-fed, including legumes and herbal lays in the meadows to provide a mixed and healthy diet, as well as increasing pollinator numbers.
Oli and Rebecca run a hedge management scheme and have ponds on the farm to provide homes for a range of animal and bird life.
They’re also about to launch The Grassy Shire – a butchery service selling their sustainably-produced, slowly-reared beef and lamb online and for local collection.
“We’ll be offering BBQ packs to campers containing meat reared on the farm, so it will be a real local experience.
“It’s a basic site but set in unspoilt countryside and we feel that will be the attraction,” stressed Oli.
“Pitchup.com were really helpful in advising us on getting the site set up and they’ll be managing the bookings.
“We’re looking forward to receiving our first guests.”
The Government introduced the 56-day extension to Permitted Development rights – the rules that enable campsites to be operated without planning permission – last year to help power a post-Covid rural recovery.
And these were extended to the end of this year to enable farmers and rural businesses to benefit from the boom in staycations.
Dan Yates, the founder of Pitchup.com, said the move to maintain the 56-day ruling throughout 2021 is really firing up the rural economy.
And he said the business’s ‘Carry On Camping’ campaign – backed by the NFU and Countryside Alliance – is imploring the Government to extend this even further.
“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,” said Dan.
“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.
“So, whereas being able to operate for 56 days without planning permission throughout 2021 is good news, we want the Government to go further to support struggling land-based business, and British holidaymakers, by extending this to October half term.”
Interested farmers and landowners can find out more at https://www.pitchup.com/how-start-campsite-caravan-park/ and https://www.pitchup.com/join/ or phone 0203 743 9975.