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Dairy farmers diversify into high-end glamping

Published: 28th September 2020

High-end glamping pods, funded by AMC, are bringing a new lease of life to Bradley Hall farm in Cheshire.

Family-run Bradley Hall farm in South Cheshire is finding a new lease of life as an upmarket glamping destination after owners Anthony and Jane Mullock used AMC funding to open four luxurious pods on their land.

The 118-acre farm has been in the Mullock family since the early 1900s and was previously home to a substantial herd of dairy cows as well as the small suckler herd of Hereford cows who still live on the farm. However, changing circumstances in recent years, as well as the passing of Anthony’s parents, who ran the farm day-to-day, meant that something needed to change if the farm was going to remain sustainable in the long term.

Rural escapes

Jane’s background is in hospitality and the couple had already dipped their toes into the water, running a five-pitch caravan site on the farm. However, they wanted to take things a step further and Bradley Hall Rural Escapes opened in summer 2018, complete with four high-end glamping pods.

Glamping pod exteriorGlamping pod interior

“We had a few different ideas, but in the end the glamping pods really appealed,” says Anthony. “We had the perfect spot in the paddock; it’s not amazing grassland, but it’s a great location with stunning views and good access. We did lots of research into what type of accommodation to offer and went with the glamping pods as they were good value compared to, for example, shepherds’ huts, but also offered us the chance to offer something really special.”

“There’s lots of glamping pods in the area but none of them offer a really high-end experience,” adds Jane. “Some are very basic. We wanted our pods to be right at the other end of the scale, which is why each one has its own private bathroom, heating and a fully stocked kitchenette, plus extra touches like a welcome pack.”

Two people stand outside a pod

Adapting to the ‘new normal’

The pods have really come into their own as the coronavirus crisis recedes. Since reopening on 4 July, Rural Escapes has been ‘extremely busy’ Jane reports – with guests attracted to the type of accommodation available.

“It has helped immensely that all the pods are fully contained,” Jane explains. “A number of guests have commented that they wouldn’t consider staying in a hotel, guest house or campsite with shared facilities at present, never mind travel on a plane.”

There are adjustments of course. Government guidelines on cleaning are being followed, hand sanitiser and anti-viral cleaning spray are provided and guests are asked to respect social distancing. But Jane believes being able to display the AA’s ‘Covid-19 Confident’ and Visit England’s ‘We’re Good to Go’ logos on the website helps give people reassurance that Rural Escapes are doing as much as they can to reduce the risk of them catching coronavirus during their stay.

>Looking to the future

The Mullocks are also looking at how they can stay one step ahead of the competition in the years ahead.

“We want to make sure we’re always offering a bit more to people,” says Jane. “We’re planning wildflower walks and crafty glamping weekends. We’ve also got planning permission for another two pods, but we want to build up our client base a bit more before we expand further.”

A helping hand from AMC

“We heard about AMC through a friend and when we decided to buy the pods we approached Dan Bowden of Barbers Rural as we knew he was an agent,” says Anthony. “The whole process was really straightforward, and Dan couldn’t have been more helpful.

“One of the best things about working with AMC has been the flexibility. After borrowing the full amount we needed to set up the pods we actually qualified for a Leader Grant, which covered a percentage of the cost. Due to the flexible nature of our variable rate loan we were able to pay back a lump sum and lower our borrowing with no hassle which was brilliant. Since we took our initial loan we’ve actually used AMC again to borrow funds to buy some more land and expand the farm.”

“What struck us about the Mullocks’ application was that it was incredibly well thought out,” says Alick Jones, Regional Agricultural Manager, AMC. “Their diversification plans were based on an established family business and in an area where they already had some experience. We also liked the phased approach, building four pods to start with and two later on. As a lender we want to support farmers in the long-term and help them develop alternative income streams that help strengthen their overall business. We look forward to seeing how Bradley Hall grows over the coming years.”

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