When we started this journey of looking at guest accommodation to offer on the farm about 5 years ago; we were intrigued by this new emerging sector called 'glamping'. We spent lots of time researching options, visiting friends who had taken the plunge with safari tents and looking at other styles of canvas accommodation - such as yurts and tipee's at various fairs and events around the UK.
Whilst we could totally see the appeal for some areas of the UK, we knew that canvas was not right for us. Knowing our glorious landscape as we do we couldn't imagine a field full of yurts or safari tents. We love it here, but lets face it, the South Peak District is hardly an arid landscape! One season we felt and those canvas arrangements would soon start to take on a rather different hue and scent thanks to the higher level of rainfall that makes this area so lush.
Plus, sorry, to say it; but there is that age old challenge of creature comforts. Getting back to basics is one thing, but neither of us sees ourselves as the next Bear Grylls and the thought of dark dashes to some distant toilet filled us both with horror.
Then as a final nail, that old devil called planning permission reared its head...at the time of our initial discussions the Peak District National Park Authority were not entirely au-fait with this trend called glamping - and certainly not as to how it could have a role as a new departure in farming diversity and tourism in the protected Park.
So the little shepherd hut almost unwittingly became our focus. As I have written about before, we literally stumbled upon a little hut with a big heart in the middle of a Game Fair; it became a sanctuary in probably one of the most incredible deluges of rain I have been exposed to and was a haven in more ways than one. Talking with the owner and creator of the hut, two things were clear: this wasn't the right hut for us, but the artisan craftsman was absolutely the man for the job; our job, should we be able to get that old devil called planning permission in the UK's first national park.
Cut to today and where are we up to? Our 2 ladies are resplendent in our field, 1 is open and taking guests, the other is in the process of being commissioned and will be ready for guests at the beginning of October. We are absolutely thrilled that we have launched to rave reviews. Despite the weather doing its best to dampen our spirits and the field turning into something of a quagmire, we have achieved top ratings from our guests so far with comments like "the hut is beautiful and wonderfully crafted", "would highly recommend", 'we couldn't have asked for a more perfect experience" "you really do feel you are away from the rest of the world". As we turn to Autumn and thoughts of Winter, these beautiful shepherd huts are going to come into their own again - naturally insulated with a delightful log burner it is clear to see how they will become an oasis in the cold - somewhere to 'Retreat and Savour' indeed.