Its 3 years ago now that we got the keys of Hadrian’s Wall Campsite. We arrived on a Thursday evening in the dark with 2 big Luton vans full of our furniture, having driven 300 miles from West Wales. A quick hand over from the previous owner, we lit a fire in the cottage, drank some wine and ate some fish and chips. We were very excited and our heads were full of ideas for developing the campsite. Who could have imagined that three months later we would be closing the gates for 6 months due to Covid 19!
Those first few weeks were a bit scary, there were very few customers coming through the campsite gates and we soon discovered the facilities building roof was leaking, there was a landslide behind the building causing dampness, the showers leaked and the shower panels were rotten. The cold water storage tanks were in very poor condition – oh, and the septic tank was actually illegal! We also recognised immediately that our small and friendly little campsite didn’t have enough hardstanding pitches to accommodate camper vans, motorhomes and caravans touring in the Spring, Autumn and winter – and so the adventure began!
When we were forced to close in January 2020, we bit the bullet and decided to do some of the essential work that could only really be done when closed. The first job was to dig out the landslide, replace the facilities building roof and refurbish the showers and wash up sinks. At least for the 2020 season, if it ever came, we would have a watertight building with really good showers!
During February and March 2020, we put in our first five all season hardstanding pitches for motorhomes and campervans. Looking back now it was a huge gamble because we had very little money left, we had no income and it was only an instinct that we needed more hardstanding. We found that working outdoors in Northumberland in the winter is no joke but from March onward the weather was amazing – it was terribly sad having a beautiful campsite in a stunning location but with the gates still locked. By the time we opened in July 2020 it felt like every fence had been renewed or repaired and we always smelt of creosote!
Our 2020 season ended up being from July until October before we were closed again with Covid lockdowns but thankfully the government came to our rescue with covid grants and a low interest bounce back loan. At least now we would pay the mortgage and have some money spare to invest further. Check out our prices
The winter lockdown of 2020/21 saw us taking another leap of faith. When we purchased Hadrian’s Wall campsite, we inherited 16 seasonal caravan pitches which were very unkept and sad. Between January and April 2021, we completely redeveloped the area with improved drainage, power and we introduced water to each of the 12 new, level, hardstanding pitches. As we all know the Covid related market for campervans and motorhomes was huge and so our gamble paid off with the hardstanding pitches being really busy across the summer of 2021 – Phew!
Alongside the physical work on the campsite, I have been putting my previous career as an estate manager/ project manager to good use and I did extensive research on rural tourism grant funding. There was some European money still around and we built a business case to develop some self-contained shepherd huts at the campsite that would be available all year round. I have to say that it was quite an onerous process but we stuck with it and finally had the good news of a 40% contribution in the autumn of 2021 and in December we placed an order for 3 shepherd huts to be built for the campsite.
The ordering and delivery of the shepherd huts is actually the easy bit, the biggest cost and the bit that took 3 winter months was the water, power, drainage, bases and decking. A few more months of working outside in snow and ice! The shepherd huts have a lovely double bed, a sofabed and a small bathroom with shower. I actually think the best thing about them is the wood burning stoves!
In February and March of 2022 and while the campsite was full of groundworkers and machinery we decided to replace the main sewage treatment system and to install a new cesspit to hold campervan and caravan cassette waste. Oh, and while we were at it, we decided to do some levelling and created 2 new beautiful tent pitches with amazing views of Hadrian’s Wall. Our huts are made by Cowley Shepherd’s huts
That last winter of 2021/22 while I was playing with big boys’ toys on the campsite Tracy was working hard indoors in developing our online booking system. The system went live in March 2022 and has pretty much transformed our little campsite. Our customers can now book a pitch, a bell tent or a shepherd hut 24 hours a day and it even allocates a pitch! It released us from a summer of phone calls and emails from early till late to a summer of being with customers on the campsite to make sure everyone has a great holiday (not to mention the odd outing to the pub!)
Our camping season really begins at Easter and this year Easter was early! So, in March, in the snow, Tracy and I were laying turf to new grass pitches that would have tents on them in 2 weeks for the Easter Bank Holiday!