Glamping has had a powerful effect at Humble Bee Farm in East Yorkshire. Since welcoming their first staying guests to a former grain store converted into a cottage, Julia and John Warters have added eight wooden wigwams to their site for families to holiday in their peaceful corner of the Wolds countryside.
The novel retreat saves campers from the traditional chores that come with ducking in and out of a tent and makes a get-away into the great outdoors a realistic proposition in the winter months.
Wigwams have gone down a storm at the 320-acre farm in the village of Flixton, and have brought the same families back time and again. Tent and caravan pitches, as well as three cottages provide alternative ways to stay if the idea of a wigwam is not up your street.
These are no ordinary wigwams. They come complete with electricity supply, heater, microwave, fridge and can sleep up to five guests each.
A shower and toilet block is located nearby and the sounds and sights of a working farm are all around.
Guests James Chadwick, 33, and his fiancée Bronwyn Rees, 34, are so taken by the setting that they have travelled from Manchester to stay at Humble Bee, in the village of Flixton, for a seventh time and James seized the opportunity to propose to Bronwyn while they were staying at a wigwam this week.
As luck would have it, James was around when I paid the Warters a visit to find out about their diversification success.
“I’d been planning it for the last couple of months and I wanted to do it here because we love it and have some nice memories from staying here before,” James said.
“It’s such a friendly and idealistic settings and it’s become a special place for us.”
The couple aren’t alone in holding Humble Bee in high regard. Another family returned this week to spread their dog’s ashes.
Julia, 51, acts as the front of house to guests, leaving husband John, 53, to get on with agricultural duties.
Julia prides herself on creating a sense of community.
“Since we started with the cottage in 2007, some families have come back for the same week every year since.
“What’s important is a warm Yorkshire welcome.
“I had direct contact with customers when I worked in catering for Scarborough Council for 18 years so I’m very much used to communicating with people, although welcoming people onto the farm was still a big thing.”
Humble Bee Farm has been in the Warters family since the 1950s when John’s father Don Warters ran an arable operation.
John grew up here and taking over the reins from his father after studying at Askham Bryan College was the most natural thing in the world to him.
The farm remains mostly arable but John has introduced a 40-strong suckler herd of Limousin cross cattle and he is a regular at the local auction mart. He also keeps a flock of 40 Texel ewes.
Hens, ducks and newly introduced pygmy goats are proving popular with guests – especially younger generations – who are free to feed the ducks at a pond and collect freshly hatched eggs from the hens.
John says the holiday site works in harmony with his farming operations and he is delighted to have taken the plunge in the holiday sector. It has given the couple a better quality of life, he says.
“We wanted something that was all year round and it’s not like camping where people are outside. The wigwams are cosy inside. People can light a camp fire and cook outside and can open the door in the morning and have the sunshine shining in,” says John.
“I saw a TV programme about igloos or something like that on a business show and thought I wanted something like that so I found these wigwams on the internet.
“I looked at a site where they were in use in Northumberland and liked what I saw so we ordered two to begin with. Since the day we put them down there has been people in them.”
Two factors have been key to establishing a successful holiday accommodation business, she says – using social media to promote the site and creating a community, both online and by hosting regular events.
Over three weekends in March, both guests and non-guests are welcome at lambing time. A time of the year when John is also busy calving his cows.
“Two or three times a week we have nature events and we do a spring watch where groups go round the edges of the fields looking for wildlife,” says Julia.
“We put down wild bird seed mixtures and sunflower seeds to encourage the birds. We have a resident barn owl and we also hold stargazing and bird and bat watching events.
“In October we have a Cowboys and Indians event for young people. We open a barn and the children can sit on the hay bales and get involved in crafts activities. We serve hotdogs and have a camp fire.”
Guests aren’t short of ways to stay busy. Filey is a ten-minute drive away and a trip to Scarborough takes 20 minutes.
Humble Bee’s online presence has led to countless bookings.
“You have to get the website right to get in the kind of people who you want to be staying – in our case families,” Julia explains.
“We were very sceptical at first but we have had results. Whenever we take a booking we ask where they found out about us and Facebook comes up time and time again. It’s like a community for us. Everyday we put a new photo on.”
Guests travel to Humble Bee from across Yorkshire, as well as, typically, from Manchester, Cheshire and from Scotland during the summer holidays.
John enjoys the curiosity guests show for his farm work.
“People stop and watch me working on the farm and ask what the processes are. A lot of children don’t realise where their food comes from and how important it is.”
The couple have embraced diversification and doing things differently. For instance, the farm offers a WiFi connection via a satellite dish and they have their own water supply to cater for guests, having drilled 90m down into the ground through chalk to reach the water table.
They host up to 25 educational trips a year as part of their involvement in the Higher Level Stewardship scheme and on Open Farm Sunday they welcomed 450 people to take a look behind the scenes and raised £800 for the local St Catherine’s Hospice.
For more information about a stay at Humble Bee Farm, visit www.humblebeefarm.co.uk