Your stories: Ockeridge Rural Retreats

Elliot Hall shares the story behind his glorious glampsite in Worcestershire, THAT copper bath and how the world would be an easier place without councils!

“We purchased 4 acres of land nearly 4 years ago just a mile away from our cottage, purely for my wife Tiffany’s horses. The parcel of land was in an idyllic location with amazing views. We found ourselves camping in a tent on a number of occasions and then moved up to buying a horse lorry with a small living area and spending weekends in there with a generator running outside for our electricity.

The feeling of waking up to the sound of the birds singing and stepping out into the crisp morning air was so inviting that it started to give us ideas; lots of ideas. The first one involved putting in a pre-planning application to the local council for seven mobile homes which the council had no objections to. We did our research and spoke to Salop leisure and their advice was that this style of accommodation and site would be hard to set up and sell the units and so we backed off the idea. We then started to keep hearing the word “Glamping” and really then started to look into this growing movement.  We started to see converted train carriages, canvas tents and tree houses becoming available to rent out for holidays. We had a local Shepherds Hut makers nearby so we visited them and fell in love with Shepherds Huts and it was then that we knew which direction we wanted to take.

As we are in a rural location we wanted to do something that fitted in with the surrounding area and all around in the neighbouring fields there have dutch barns so the shape of the roof of the Shepherds Hut fitted perfectly. We decided to buy an additional 5 acres of land next to ours to give us room to grow in the future and because we knew if we didn’t buy it now the farmer would never sell it to us once we started a Glamping business.

We put in our planning application in 2016 and it took nearly 6 months to go through – it wasn’t an easy process as the local parish councils objected and we had to go to committee for a decision. We won – but only after spending £5,000 in planning consultant’s fees. Once we had permission granted, the permission came though with 26 conditions attached, so we had to appeal a number of these at Bristol which took an additional 5 months. Again, we won our appeal and eventually got started a year later. The planning process is long, hard, expensive and extremely stressful. I personally nearly had a breakdown over it all, as we had a dream and having that dream decided by local parish councillors who don’t want to see any change is frustrating.

Our site had no water, electricity or access to mains drains so we had to get all these utilities put in place before we could begin. The water and electricity took 4 months to get sorted and cost over £30,000; this didn’t include the cost of the septic tank system. There is one thing that is a fact and that’s you have to become an expert in all manner of things when you want to embark on this kind of project. I know all about porosity soil tests, water flow rates and electricity consumption because if you don’t get up to speed on all these things you will end up getting ripped off. This is where the Glamping Show was good for us because it gives novices the opportunity to talk to a group of suppliers all in one place. The lectures are great too. We had a budget of £200,000 for our project and it ended up costing us £300,000. This is because what ever you think things are going to cost they always end up costing more and you always have hidden costs you just cant anticipate.

Our planning permission allowed us to have two Shepherds huts and one log cabin. We purchased a large log cabin which got delivered on the back of a truck from Grimsby. It got within one mile of our site and got stuck down the lane for three hours as the road was too narrow. It caused major traffic delays and we got on the local radio as a result. The truck, crane, escort vehicles and team of seven men had to park the truck up for the night and stay in local B & Bs as the wide load wasn’t allowed on the roads after 5pm. It eventually got to site 48 hours late and we where told that in the firm’s history our cabin was the most difficult to deliver!

We then went to order our Shepherds hut from our local supplier and they had increased the prices substantially and so we started to look around and whilst at the Hagley Game fair show we stumbled across Ashwood Shepherds Huts. The Shepherds Hut they had there was mind-blowing! Not only did it have a kingsized bed; but above this they had very cleverly incorporated two bunk beds for children. It was so cool, their hut was wider than all the others we had looked at and longer and the quality and attention to details was like nothing else. Emma and Jamie Manderville –  the owners -were so friendly and wanted to design our hut our way. They didn’t try and get us to have our hut like others they had built as they believed every hut should be bespoke and unique to its owners.

Once we had the council sign off on the exterior cladding and lighting, we drove down to the Cornish show where Ashwood were showing and we placed our order in their magnificent show hut. This hut is the one with the Copper Bath! Qe only placed an order for one Shepherds Hut as we wanted to test the market and see which of our two units would rent out best. Jamie and Emma are very nice people and very easy to deal with and so we invited them down to our site and took them out for a pint in our local pub.  They were as impressed with our site  as we were with their Shepherds Hut and from this we got to talking about them putting their show-stopping copper bath tub hut on our site. They agreed as they could see the merits in doing so and now it gives us another unique Shepherds Hut to rent but it also gives potential new Shepherds Hut owners the opportunity to try an Ashwood Shepherds hut for themselves before they buy.

Both Tiffany and I are no strangers to quality as we run a very successful collectables business which has been a family run business since 1904. Ironically all of our works of art are handpainted onto Copper so having this wonderful Shepherds Hut with its copper bath and copper feature wall and  fixtures and fittings seem very fitting to be part of our new venture.

We wanted to set up Ockeridge Rural retreats to give us a new business which fitted in with our lifestyle. Allowing guests to experience the magic of Ockeridge Rural Retreats is brilliant and we are very passionate about this and we are equally as passionate about giving guests the ultimate experience. No expense has been spared and I feel that this is what Glamping is all about – offering the guest that truly unique experience and exceeding all their expectations.

Now the planning traumas are behind us and the site is all established, the next challenge is to get guests aware of our site and get to grips with all the online travel agents out there and the booking system to stop you double bookings. This, I have to say is a massive challenge, but one that we will figure out as we have overcome some huge hurdles to get to were we are at now!”