Find Out More About The New Luxury Glamping Venture Swallowfields in Malvern
With brand new luxury glamping site Swallowfields opening soon, Shell from Camping with Style caught up with owners Denise and Ben to find out a little more about their new venture.
The Hobbs family home
So Denise, tell us, what was the inspiration behind Swallowfields and when did you first come up with the idea?
Having purchased the farm, we first set about essential maintenance work on our 17th-century cottage and then focussed on renovating the barn. The farm was originally purchased by my Great Grandfather back in the 1920s as a 12-acre farm. For many years he kept livestock and managed the hay meadows in the traditional way. Fast-forward 80 years and the cottage and 5 acres of land left the family ownership and became a long-term rental and then holiday let for a short period of time. The traditional hay meadows had been semi-improved losing many of its rich wildflowers. We were delighted to purchase the farm back into family ownership.
It was important that the land was productive to help sustain the farm, as it had done many years ago for my Great Grandfather. I was also home educating our son and wanted a business that allowed me to be at home more. Livestock was not an option, as we love animals so much, we would never be able to send them off to market. Malvern is largely known for its tourism having the majestic Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, right on our doorstep. We took inspiration from Malvern itself and its bygone era as a Spa Town where many famous visitors came to take the healthy spring water as a cure and to rest in the romantic beauty of its scenery. We wanted to combine wellbeing with conservation as we live in an idyllic village largely unchanged since my Great Grandfather’s time and has not yet succumbed to large arable cultivation.
Glamping seemed a natural choice and having researched the market we felt confident that we had the right location and could offer something different to our visitors. Staying with the local spa idea, we wanted to create a glampsite more akin to a nature spa offering spa treatments and private hot tubs in a relaxed wildflower meadow. We have just completed work restoring the wildflower meadow sowing a new meadow mix of wildflowers and grasses that would have been found in my Great Grandfather’s day. We have sourced traditional local apple varieties such as Pitmaston Pineapple to plant as privacy screening between the spa lodges and will use them to press apple juice in the Autumn.
The chicken orchard at Swallowfields Glamping
We hope to add inspirational workshops, retreats and experience packages in the future that focus on fun, wellbeing and holistic living. It’s a place where you can either just kick back and relax or enjoy one of the many energetic outdoor pursuits.
Swallowfields is named after the swallows that visit each year, enjoying their summer holidays at the farm. They arrive at the beginning of April weary after their long arduous journey and leave fully refreshed at the end of summer ready for their return journey. We aim to become a real destination and just like our swallows, hope our guests enjoy a relaxing holiday returning fully refreshed, wanting to come back year after year.
How long has it taken for your plans for Swallowfields to come to fruition?
We first decided to set up a glamping business not long after we purchased the farm. However, our first focus was to complete essential work on the cottage and to renovate the outbuildings. We then spent a year looking further into the market, staying at various glamping sites, attending training courses and crafting our business idea. This was invaluable as our business offering has completely changed from our initial thoughts and we feel really happy with how this has developed over the past 2 years.
The newest member of the Hobbs family, Dolly the Parson Russell Terrier
Were there any obstacles you faced along the way?
Yes! I think anyone trying to launch a new business will always come across obstacles and it can be quite easy to give up before you have even started. Having many years of project management experience has taught me not only to be organised but to expect challenges and for things to go wrong! It is important to build resilience and to keep driving forwards in order to achieve your goal. Setting up a high-end glampsite is very costly and requires a lot of upfront investment and so gaining funding is always tricky.
We applied for LEADER Grant Funding, which at the time did not really support glampsites. Not deterred I decided to complete the application myself not expecting too much. I received confirmation that I had passed the first round and was accepted to complete the full application. Over 60 pages later, I submitted my full application and was successfully awarded funding.
Writing our business plan and completing this application really helped consolidate my business ideas and service offering and was well worth the effort. I think small achievements like these along the way are really important on your business journey and help build your confidence to tackle the next issue, which for us was planning. Our planning permission came with 9 conditions all of which needed to be discharged before starting any kind of work. Discharging the conditions took the best part of a year and greatly delayed our project start.
Tell us more about the type of accommodation and on-site facilities you have available for guests
After carefully considering all glamping models, we decided upon safari tents (often referred to as lodges) as our chosen accommodation as we felt that it was important that our visitors still felt connected to nature and the camping experience, but with lots of added luxury.
Covering an area of 70 sq metres our spa lodges are really spacious and open out to the spectacular views of the wildflower meadow and the Malvern Hills. The luxury spa lodges sleep 6 people plus one baby/toddler in a travel cot. They have 3 bedrooms with luxury bed linen, en-suite bathrooms with hot running water, rainforest showers, flushing toilets, luxury towels, robes, slippers and complimentary toiletries, a fully equipped kitchen, dining area and lounge with a wood-burning stove for the cooler evenings.
Work taking place at Swallowfields
We wanted the interiors to be luxurious but still retain the charm associated with camping and nature. We describe our interiors as laidback luxe with a touch of 1920s glitz and glamour. We want our customers to feel spoilt. Our inspiration for the interiors dates back to the origins of the safari tent when in the 1900s wealthy Europeans and Americans wanted a taste of luxury on their plant hunting expeditions and camping adventures to Africa.
They would stay in safari tents, often lavishly furnished, as they were not keen to leave the luxury of their homes behind. They wanted to experience the spectacular views in nature but in luxury and so took their luxuries with them. Camping adventures became more and more popular with wealthy people and now nearly 100 years later the popularity in luxury camping is here again but known as glamping … but we provide the luxuries!
It was also important that our glampsite had a very relaxed inclusive atmosphere as some people feel very intimidated going to the usual high-end spa facility. We want our guests to be themselves, wear what they want and enjoy spa treatments in the privacy of their own spa lodges. That’s why we felt it important that each spa lodge had its own private bathroom facilities, garden and hot tub as not everyone feels confident with communal facilities.
In addition to the spa lodges and spa facilities, we have an adventure castle and nature hideout on site and our guests can hire bicycles and order added extras such as spa treatments, hampers, treat yourself gifts and organic ready meals from or honesty shop ready to warm up in the oven. Our honesty shop mainly focuses on stocking essentials and luxury treats made by artisan food and drink producers. We have a local shop stocking a wider range of items just 1 mile away and a farm shop just 10 minutes away.
What is it that makes Swallowfields different to other glamping sites?
We have put guest experience before profit and have consciously kept the glampsite small to allow our guests the privacy and space they deserve. We have also put lots of thought into the landscaping of the site and the individual spa facilities. We would say that our glampsite is more akin to a nature spa retreat and have invested heavily in offering private spa facilities for each spa lodge rather than communal ones. We have already started our conservation plan by enhancing the wildflower meadow planting a 30 species seed mix, providing new homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators and securing our wildflower heritage for the future and we have more plans in the pipeline.
The glamping industry is truly inspirational and has very committed glampsite owners who are constantly looking at new ways to offer something different. It is more about providing an experience rather than just accommodation and I am sure we will see more exciting things in the future.
The chickens at Swallowfields
What do you think guests will most like about Swallowfields?
The location is an area of scenic beauty and picture-postcard villages and towns. The majestic Malvern Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has something to offer everyone and Castlemorton Common with its 600 acres of open land is right on our doorstep and is perfect for family picnics, flying kites and walking the dog.
I also think our guests will love the beauty of the site itself, the quality of the accommodation, the privacy and their private spa facilities.
What are you most proud of in relation to Swallowfields?
Achieving our goal of setting up a glampsite. Many people have dreams about starting a new business and that’s where it stops. I am really proud that we had the courage to go for it. I’m proud of my family for the many hours of hard work we have all put in to get this business off the ground. We have all had to make sacrifices including our young son who has helped with lots of manual jobs and has missed out on holidays and family days out.
I am extremely proud of what Swallowfields represents; a welcome retreat from the punishing pace of the 21st century. Giving our guests an opportunity to stop and pause life for a little while, giving them space to breathe and time to dream in a truly beautiful, laid-back, rural setting. It’s all about “me time”, taking care of you, treating yourself and indulging in little luxuries!
What are your plans for the immediate future?
To have a successful first season, develop our service offering further, continue with our conservation plan by creating a nature pond and a new cider orchard to produce our own craft cider and to restore the vegetable garden growing heirloom varieties and cut flowers.
Do you have any long-term plans you can tell us about?
We would like to offer some exciting new workshops and experiences. Plus a few extra fun facilities that are very much hush, hush but are definitely in the pipeline!