We virtually sat down with Pippa from Coppet Hill to talk about their coastal, luxury camping site in Dorset, which is set on a 600 acre farm in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The family that own the glampsite have been custodians of the land for seven decades, managing the land sustainably and responsibly, to encourage biodiversity, and improve the soil's health.They offer a unique experience for visitors to connect with farming, the landscape and nature.
How did the idea for your glampsite come about?
At the beginning of 2021 we sold our 1000 dairy cows and decided to really focus on regenerating the land and the wildlife that lives here.
We discussed as a family how best to do this and in a way that we could also make a living for our three families. The best way, we thought, was to establish our regenerative farming system, part of which would be a nature and family friendly camping and glamping experience.
How long have you been running for?
We opened our glamping and camping site in July 2021 – it’s been an educational year, let me tell you!
But we started prepping (such as marking out pitches, building our own picnic benches and designing and making the compost loos) months in advance of this.
What was your guest capacity starting out and what is it now?
We started and still have three glampsites. It was so important to us that these three remote locations remain remote and therefore special to each visitor that comes.
For the campsite we started with 12 pitches in 2021 and added on another two for this year. Again, it was key that we didn’t overcrowd the area – the space between each pitch is part of what makes it so special.
What was your first season running like? What was your most important lesson you learned that season?
We were of course run off our feet and I don’t think we left the farm for six weeks, but it was absolutely worth it when we started to receive the amazing feedback we had from our guests.
The lesson we learnt quickest was how important space and nature really was for our guests, even if they didn’t know it before they arrived. This has become the cornerstone of our ethos and what we come back to each time when we look to develop and improve the experience for each visitor.
What is your advice for anyone starting out running a glampsite?
Buy British and local where possible. All our glampsite homes are from British companies and are of excellent quality. All the food in our shop is local and it’s just so great to be able to support the UK and small businesses.
How many Lotus Belles do you have?
We have just the one so far, and it’s the stunning stargazer. It’s our luxury glampsite at Coppet Hill and the look on the guests face when we take them to it is just priceless. They love being able to see the night sky and the sun rise from their beds!
What did you do while you were closed over the first part of the pandemic?
We opened just as people were starting to leave their homes and looking for staycation spots and we made use of the government's 56 day camping/planning exemption rule. We were lucky that so many people looked to the South West for holiday venues.
What does your average day running the site look like?
Well, we start by opening up the shop in the Purcombe Barn for campers to stock up on fresh eggs from our chickens and some locally made bread. We pick wheelbarrows of fresh sunflowers for guests to buy bunches of if they don’t want to pick their own.
Gary is down with the pigs feeding them and checking on the piglets, then out watering the pumpkin patch ready for October.
Mid morning Ellen, who manages the campsite, will empty the compost loos and Pippa, who looks after the glampers, does their loos as well as replacing fresh icepacks in their cool boxes.
Amanda in the barn handles tickets for sunflower walkers and makes the tea and coffee, and sells ice cream and cake to refresh them after their picking.
By now George is out in his tractor topping the fields, or meeting with local farmers to discuss the Marshwood Vale Cluster.
In the afternoons we welcome new incoming guests and deliver firewood and charcoal to the various pitches.
On Monday evenings in the summer, we have a food truck come to the barn for all the guests to join in and have a jolly evening together. On Wednesday mornings, we run our Moth Club, and take a look at what was caught in the moth box overnight – the large pink elephant hawk moth is always a favourite! And on Thursday evenings, Ellen’s husband Matt takes guests on an evening owl prowl to watch the barn owls out hunting.
Who’s on your core team?
The core team are George and Amanda and their daughters Ellen and Pippa.
And of course our sole employee, Gary, who is handyman, electrician, plumber and pigman. He’s actually made of gold dust!
George’s father started the farm in 1952 and George has been farming it for the past 70 years. His knowledge and experience is invaluable.
Amanda is the engine that keeps us going - and sane, given it’s a family business!
Ellen is pretty much the CEO, head of finance, and manages all the farm’s admin as well as the camping field and guests.
And Pippa, fresh from 15 years in London, is now an apprentice farmer, head of social media and looks after the three glamping sites.
What’s the unique selling point of your site?
As we are all about bringing wildlife back to the farm, we ask guests not to play any music and to not bring dogs so they don’t scare any birds away. This means that guests can relax in peace listening to the owls, or the bird song, or just enjoy the stars. We’re lucky enough to be in one of the UK’s dark skies spots so as long as it’s a clear sky, shooting stars is a nightly form of entertainment!
What's the most photographed spot on the site?
In August it is without a shadow of a doubt the sunflower field! This is our second year of doing a saunter (this year we’ve mown the shape of a crown) for guests to come and walk around the field and take in all the happy yellow faces!
But otherwise, it’s our two saddleback pigs, Gin and Tonic, who live near the Lotus Belle Tent, or the view of the Marshwood Vale from the top of our Little Coppet glamping site.
When you go glamping, what are your packing essentials?
Ellen always takes her own pair of cosy slippers, and Pippa always packs a few English Tea bags.
Are there any big dates/events coming up you want to draw attention to?
We currently have our wonderful sunflower saunter open until 23rd August. It’s our second year and this year’s theme is the Jubilee. We’ve mown into the field a 1km saunter in the shape of the jubilee crown which guests can enjoy, followed by a cup of tea and cake – as well as local ice cream – in the Purcombe Barn.
Where’s your favourite part of the site?
This has to be the wood fired outdoor bath in the Churchay glamping site where our Lotus Belle Tent is. It’s a stunning spot to watch the stars at night – and in August we have the most incredible view of the meteor showers as there’s very little light pollution around here.
And finally: Something you're excited for in this 2022 season.
We’re so excited about welcoming both familiar and new faces. Our guests have so far loved the walk from the belle tent, past the piglets and up to the sunflower field and our new pick your own sunflower spot.
Give them a follow and show them some love here