Case Study : The Secret Campsite

Tim Bullen is the owner of The Secret Campsite, a tents-only site nestled in a woodland meadow in the heart of Sussex, offering guests nature, peace and space. Tim is the owner of the UK’s second Tree Tent and a few years down the track, we sat down with Tim to hear how this structure has revolutionised his business.

A close up of the top of the Secret Campsite's green woodland Tree Tent

Tell us more about your site. What makes it special?

At The Secret Campsite, we’re all about quality, not quantity. Being a small site there’s a limit to the number of guests we can accommodate, so we need to create high-value spaces that generate a decent revenue. We work hard to create a rich and rewarding experience that guests will pay a premium for. This means privacy and space for pitches and carefully cultivating a thriving environment full of wildlife and natural interest. Nature, peace and space are the three words that drive everything we do.

So why did you choose to add a Tree Tent to your site?

When I met Jason, by chance, we had an amusing conversation about what we were both doing, culminating in him visiting us at The Secret Campsite. He noticed an area of ancient woodland, that aside from adding to the ambience of the site, wasn’t generating any income. We agreed it would be the perfect place for a treehouse escape.

Adding a Tree Tent really appealed as, not only would we maximise our unusable woodland, but they add a high-value proposition and generate great returns from a single pitch. The organic shapes and secretive look are in keeping with our ethos while helping us to stand out from the multitude of Yurts, Bell Tents, Glamping Pods and Shepherd’s Huts that you tend to see everywhere!

But most of all, it fits perfectly with our ethos of creating space and living harmoniously with the wildlife. Suspending the Tree Tent in the canopy creates far less intrusion on the land or our ancient oaks – the Tree Tent even looks like the nest of a dormouse! Jason is passionate about protecting woodlands and so I knew we would be in safe hands.

Inside the Tree Tent

What aspects of the Tree Tent really stand out to you?

The Tree Tent is so novel and unique – no one has created anything like it. I love the way it is designed and built. Jason has a brilliant engineering approach and it’s such a great space to be in. It is exceptionally well made and being able to customise it by choosing your colours, interior layout and different fittings was great. On top of this it’s built using sustainable and recycled materials which is a big deal for us!

How did you tackle planning permission?

We did need planning permission in order to access the previously restricted Ancient Woodland site we chose. However, I used a planning consultant and due to our approach and the low-impact nature of the Tree Tent we found it a very straightforward and simple process!

What was the build and install process like?

It was all really easy! The structure was prefabricated in the workshop then once it was brought to the site it was installed by the Tree Tents team in just a few days with no assistance from me. Being so quick it caused minimal disruption to us or our business and we had guests up and enjoying it in no time.

Two girls poking their heads out of the side window of The Secret Campsite's green Tree Tent nestled in branches of an ancient woodland

What interior have you chosen?

For the exterior canvas we chose ‘Spruce Green’ to blend in with the trees and keep the ‘secretive’ feel. Inside we opted for a simple layout to provide a more camping than glamping experience. We have 3 fold-down beds, underfloor storage lockers, LED lighting and the premium wool liners and insulation which keeps it warm and dry.

What do you charge and how do your occupancy rates look?

We charge £120 per night for two adults and a child. Our site is open from the beginning of April till the middle of October and the Tree Tent is always in high demand! During the holidays it is booked about 80-90% of the time and outside of this time we are booked up in advance for almost every weekend with quite a few mid-week bookings too.

Secret Campsite's spruce green Tree Tent hidden among the trees in their ancient woodland to give you an idea of how they organically sit within the landscape

What does your maintenance regime look like?

We’ve found the Tree Tent very easy to clean and maintain. Being made from high-quality materials means they are long-lasting and resistant to things like mould and mildew. When any damage has occurred, for example from falling branches, the modular design has made it easy to get it repaired through Tree Tents and back in action quickly.

What are the reactions from guests who stay in the Tree Tent?

They absolutely love it! A lot of people enjoy the cosy, snug feel, particularly when it is a bit cooler. They love the view from the canopy and out of the skylight dome. Guests are always amazed how, even when it is blowing a gale outside, it doesn’t really move and feels so stable and safe. But conversely when you step into it and walk around it sways gently with you and gives you this unrivalled sensation of being up in the trees. It is such a unique experience and one they always head home and tell all their friends about.

What is the greatest benefit of having the Tree Tent on your site?

The marketing benefits of having the Tree Tent have been really clear. Many of our guests have found our site off the back of publicity received around the Tree Tent. It consistently captures the imagination of journalists, bloggers and guests because it is so unique and interesting and gives them a compelling reason to visit us and to talk about The Secret Campsite.

Fancy a stay in The Secret Campsite’s Tree Tent? 

You can book via their website here.
If you are interested in purchasing a Tree Tent for your site but would like to ‘try before you buy’ get in touch and we can arrange for you to stay in The Secret Campsite’s Tree Tent for a special rate!