Case Studies

Start-ups: Glamping with a wild twist

If you like the idea of wild camping, but are rather too fond of home comforts, Secret Camping is for you.

Guests stay in a tent in a remote wildflower meadow, not on a campsite, away from traffic and civilisation with only birdsong and roe deer for company.

But the tent is equipped with a log-burning stove, a comfortable bed with fine cotton sheets, and sheepskin rugs – all in keeping with the trend towards luxury camping or ‘glamping’. There is also access to a shower and toilet.

Marta and NiallThe business is the brainchild of Marta Pawlik and Niall Mellonie.

Marta said: “We always wanted to do something ourselves. We love the outdoors, and go camping all the time, so that’s where the idea came from.”

Niall added: “Our original idea was to set up a tent on the top of a hill. Then we realised that people wouldn’t pay for that. Anyone prepared to climb a hill to stay in a tent would probably bring their own.

“We’re aiming at those who like the idea of getting closer to nature but who might not have the equipment or be prepared to rough it. We wanted to bridge the gap between wild camping and glamping.

“We’re different from conventional glamping because, when people go glamping, they stay on a site with other tents, perhaps on a farm. Our tent is on its own. It’s like a pop-up hotel.”

They began taking bookings last summer, and feedback from the first guests has been extremely positive.

Their bell tent, which sleeps two people, is located at Rusland, one of the quieter corners of the Lake District National Park, tucked into the gentle hills between Windermere and Coniston Water.

The tent moves every 28 days to comply with planning regulations.

Guests book through the online portal AirBnB.

Niall said: “One of the advantages of using AirBnB is that we have a conversation with guests before they book, so we can make sure people know what they’re signing up for.”

Niall grew up in Hawkshead and went to school in Kendal, while Marta is from Poland but moved to Cumbria with her family 10 years ago when she was 16.

Both have day jobs. Niall, 26, works as a service chemist while Marta is employed by Treetop Trek at Brockhole.

When setting up Secret Camping, they turned to the Chamber’s Cumbria Business Growth Hub, on the recommendation of Niall’s sister who runs a dog grooming business.

Once enrolled on the Business Start-Up Support programme (BSUS), Marta did a three-day course for start-ups and Niall went to a ‘meet the experts’ session.

Secret CampingTheir Growth Hub adviser, Gail Gravett, was a big help.

Niall said: “We didn’t have a clue about anything to do with business. Gail helped us with the planning and marketing, and gave us feedback and reassurance that we were heading in the right direction.”

At Gail’s suggestion, they entered – and won – the Business Boost competition   run by the office space provider Windermere Works.

The prize comprised two months’ hot-desking space, legal advice from Progression Solicitors, a website designed by Kitty in Pink, business coaching from The Quirky Coach and social media and PR advice from Flock.

The couple are now planning their second season, and will soon be accepting booking from April onwards.

Niall said: “The plan is to add a second tent on a different site, and we’re trying to attract landowners to work with us. If anyone reading this has land that may be suitable, we’d love to hear from them.”

If you are thinking of starting your own business or social enterprise, then Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and our partners are here to help with a free business start-up programme to point you in the right direction.

Our comprehensive package of support includes:

  • Free meetings with a business adviser to review and develop your business idea;
  • Free training covering business planning and self-employment, an introduction to marketing/market research and sales forecasts, promotion and sales, an introduction to planning and managing finance, taxation and bookkeeping, using the internet and social media;
  • Free help to develop your business plan and get your business up and running;
  • Free membership of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce.

The £1.1m Business Start-up Support (BSUS) project is supporting 300 new businesses and 750 individuals to start businesses, creating 300 jobs.

For more information, call us today on 0844 257 84 50 or click here to visit the Cumbria Business Growth Hub web site.

ERDF logoThe funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Allerdale Borough Council (Sellafield Ltd’s Allerdale SIIF, distributed by Allerdale Borough Council), Barrow Borough Council (FEDF Coastal Communities Fund Supply Chain Initiative, the Coastal Communities Fund is funded by the Government with income from the Crown Estates marine assets; it is delivered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of UK Government), Carlisle City Council, Eden District Council, South Lakeland District Council and Cumbria LEP.

The BSUS project is receiving up to £1,112,686 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. 

The Department for Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.

  • Borough of Barrow-in-Furness
  • Carlisle City Council
  • Allerdale Borough Council
  • South Lakeland District Council
  • Eden District Council
  • University of Cumbria