One consequence of the Covid crisis is that the demand for country homes with a campsite in the grounds – be it for camping, glamping or caravans – has gone through the roof.
‘People want to escape to the peace and quiet of the countryside, but money is often an issue,’ says Carol Peett, of West Wales Property Finders. ‘A small campsite can be merged with childcare or working from home to provide an income stream.’
James Warner Smith, who edits the website Cool Camping (coolcamping.com), which has seen its bookings increase by 500 per cent since 2019, believes that camping is perfect for these troubled times.
Revival: Demand is growing for homes with campsites partly due to a relaxation of planning laws allowing campsites for tents to operate without planning permission for up to 56 days
‘Covid transmission is low outdoors,’ he says. ‘And people yearn for the camaraderie of the campsite after being locked up all year.’
Demand for properties with campsites is strong, partly due to a relaxation of planning laws in England and Wales, allowing campsites for tents to operate without planning permission for up to 56 days, doubling the previous limit.
However, calculating exactly how much income you can expect to make from a campsite is tricky, as much depends on the location and outlook.
For a six-person pitch close to, say, a beautiful stretch of a river you may be able to charge £40 a night, while offering no more than a compost toilet by way of amenities.
But it pays to be resourceful. One site in Leicestershire gets over its lack of bathroom facilities by making arrangements with the local pub for the campers to take their morning shower there.
Glamping throws a glitzy spin on a camping theme and holiday-makers cannot get enough of it. Sites come in all shapes and sizes, from converted double-decker buses to fire engines, and from converted jets (all available on eBay) to the ubiquitous shepherds’ huts.
T ree houses, which have to be booked well in advance, are particularly popular, with Cool Camping receiving 1,600 searches for every one they advertise.
The average for a night of glamping in high season is £160. Again the rates are not solely down to the amenities; it is the ‘experience’ that matters.
One glamping site in Berkshire offers little more than a tiny cabin in a wood, yet London-based businessmen and women are happy to fork out more than £100 a night to de-stress there.
Camping sites with homes can be bought on the main property portals and on specialist websites. It is worth noting that some agents report 40 per cent of sales falling through, probably due to buyers’ last-minute jitters.
Should you get pipped at the post with an offer, it is worth following the sale through to get in quickly in case it comes back on the market.
Caravans – both touring and static – are also enjoying a revival in popularity. New research from investment holding company MBH Corporation shows 9 per cent of people plan to take a caravan holiday in the UK for the first time this year as tourists worry about contracting Covid when on holiday.
That is three times the number who took a caravan holiday for the first time last year and indicates that caravans will soon be more popular for holidays than UK hotels.
Some site owners offer back-to-basics caravanning, but the more imaginative have swimming pools, hot tubs and some kind of takeaway.
Like glamping, caravans offer the opportunity to grow a site into a substantial business, as has happened to Lesley Shorefield and her family.
‘My father, Dr Robert Pollock, was a volatile man with a very busy professional life,’ says Lesley, 68. ‘His way of dealing with stress was to take his caravan down to Mudeford in Dorset for the weekend.
‘But one weekend Dad didn’t book ahead and the site was full. He absolutely blew his top and the site owners said if he felt that strongly why didn’t he buy the site at Milford on Sea that had just come on the market? So he did.’
Dr Pollock went on to create Shorefield Holiday Homes, which now runs eight sites across Hampshire and Dorset.
Most new site owners, however, are looking for a sideline more than an investment opportunity.
‘They want a little cottage where they can grow their own food, keep a few animals and look after the environment,’ says Warner Smith. ‘It’s a lifestyle thing.’