At the start of 2012, garden camping looked set to take off as a quirky, friendly, low-cost way to visit locations all over the UK. It's a simple idea. Put together people looking for camping and budget accommodations near major attractions or special events with other people who have nice gardens (that's Brit-speak for backyards)they are willing to rent out now and then and voila, marriages made in heaven.
But for Victoria Webbon, founder of Camp in My Garden, the runaway success of her simple idea came as something of a shock. It all began when she was made redundant (that's also Brit-speak. It means being laid off) from her job as a rural surveyor for the National Trust and was looking around for something to do.
A Novel Idea
"I love camping," she says, "and I wanted to create more camping opportunities. I noticed that when there are big events, like Wimbledon, either there are not many hotels around or the hotels raise their prices. There are a lot of events like that, in or near a city location, where it's hard to find affordable places to stay but there are lots of beautiful houses and gardens."
Webbon invested in a website that she intended as "quite a small project". Local London and UK national papers and camping bloggers picked up the story. Hundreds of listings and booking later, garden camping was identified as an up-and-coming trend in the international JWT list of 100 Things to Watch in 2012. Today, Webbon says, the website is "growing every day, even in winter" and with the London 2012 Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee set to be the star events of summer 2012, she says, "those are perfect examples of when garden camping can come into its own."
How it Works
Camp in my Garden.com is a free membership website. Private homeowners and would be campers must sign up (at no charge) to participate. Homeowners offering temporary campsites and accommodations list their properties, along with prices, contact details, descriptions of facilities and a small gallery of pictures. Interested campers apply directly to the homeowners through the website. Prices may range from nothing at all to more than £40 per person per night. A simple to understand list of terms and conditions lays out obligations of all parties.
Campers find accommodation by entering their desired location in the search box or by scanning a map on the website. As of January 2012, almost all accommodations were in the UK, with a scattering of garden campsites in Europe and a handful in Australia, the Far East and the USA. Webbon has said she hopes to expand the site to include more international campsites but at this writing, garden camping is primarily a UK phenomena.
Range of Options
Locations range from the gardens of small surburban terraced houses to farms and grand rural estates. Some provide tents and tepees while others are bring your own arrangements. There are caravan sites, glamping (glamour camping), single tent sites,multiple tent sites and even a few indoor beds on offer. Facilities might include use of barbecues, access to outdoor bathrooms and hot showers, cooked breakfasts or other meals. Quite a high proportion of the sites include WiFi, electricity and other luxury.
The available garden camping sites change often as new ones join and others drop out. But to give you a sense of what to expect, here are excerpts from a few picked at random in January 2012:
- "We have a lovely small garden with views over the Herefordshire Countryside. We can provide a scout tent 8ftx10ft with groundsheet if need be and you can use our shower and toilet."
- "Garden within a 100mtrs of the local Pub and Shop, situated in a quiet cul-de-sac in the village centre."
- "Beautiful Garden, shady long, with pond. Very green and quiet, you can forget you are in inner London; access to running water, good location for olympics."
Length of garden rentals vary according to owners, ranging from a single night to a few weeks. Owners can change their rates for special events (many, for example, will charge more for Wimbledon or the London 2012 Olympics), so it's a good idea to confirm prices with owners before applying for a site.
To find how to offer a temporary garden campsite or to find one to rent for your next UK trip, visit the Camp in My Garden website