Business owners are happy glampers after tourism award win
- Credit: Secret Meadows
Secret Meadows, a luxury glamping site near Woodbridge in Suffolk, won the Camping, Glamping, Holiday Park and Self Catering Accommodation of the Year award, sponsored by cottages.com, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.
Opened by Charlotte Daniel and Ross Troup in 2012, Secret Meadows occupies the 100-acre White House Farm Nature Reserve, which was purchased by The Sinfield Nature Conservation Trust in 2006. Charlotte and Ross established the glamping site to make the charity financially sustainable and protect the nature reserve.
“Securing the future of the nature reserve is our top priority and glamping seemed an ideal solution, with temporary structures minimising impact on the natural environment,” said Charlotte. “It also seemed a positive way to share the nature reserve with visitors and encourage appreciation and awareness of the natural environment at the same time.”
The setting of Secret Meadows is certainly one of its main attractions. “Guests really appreciate the wild space they have to explore, and the freedom for children to enjoy outdoor adventure,” Charlotte added. “Also, just by staying here, guests are directly supporting the conservation of the nature reserve.”
Accommodation on the site includes six safari-style tents, a two-storey tent, a converted wooden horse truck and a gypsy caravan with accompanying shepherd’s hut. Guests can enjoy lots of extra touches – from comfortable beds and complimentary tea trays to well-equipped kitchens, games, eco-friendly soaps, organic towels and flannels.
There is also a pantry shop stocked by Grange Farm Shop and a small outdoor-inspired gift shop – plus a range of on-site activities including bow and arrow making, whittling, yoga, cycle hire, animal feeding and private hen coop hire.
“It was early days for glamping sites when we started Secret Meadows 10 years ago, so we felt as though we were learning from scratch,” said Charlotte. “It was important to us to offer variety as well as high-quality facilities from the start, and it has worked well for attracting a wide range of customers from couples and families to large groups – and we have many repeat bookings.”
All profits from Secret Meadows go to The Sinfield Nature Conservation Trust, helping to preserve the diverse habitats that surround the site. “Our activities also raise environmental awareness, with some returning guests commenting they have made changes in their personal lives and homes, such as switching to eco household products and cosmetics or leaving wildflower areas in their garden,” said Charlotte.
Like many businesses, the pandemic brought disruption to Secret Meadows – with the site forced to close during lockdown. However, the site has retained some of the safety measures it introduced upon re-opening – despite Covid-19 restrictions now being eased. “We are keeping a mainly self-check-in process for guests, as this has worked so well, and we provide video instructions and all the usual guidance in a welcome pack sent to guests before they arrive,” said Charlotte.
Winning an East of England Tourism Award was a “happy surprise” for the Secret Meadows team, who are planning to celebrate with a summer barbecue on site.
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Customers are also feeling the benefit of the award win. “To raise awareness of the award, we launched a competition on Instagram to win a holiday here, which attracted lots of entries,” said Charlotte. “The family who won will be staying here in June.”
Secret Meadows has now been named a finalist for the Camping, Glamping and Holiday Park of the Year award at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022 – with the winners announced at a ceremony on June 8.
While it doesn't plan to add more glamping units, Secret Meadows is looking to enhance its existing facilities in the coming years. “We are also looking into self-catering options for some of the old farm buildings, which are in need of urgent attention,” said Charlotte. “All these buildings have had self-catering permission in the past, and we will be applying for new permission soon as part of a Heritage Lottery grant application, which will also include community and conservation objectives.
“The glamping site is only open for seven months of the year, so these plans will enable the charity to have year-round income and will make Secret Meadows, and thereby the charity, more robust.”
Archant organise and host the annual East of England Tourism Awards to recognise and celebrate those businesses and individuals that contribute to the regional visitor economy. To register for more information on the 2022/23 competition please visit https://www.tourismawards.co.uk/live/en/page/contact-us