When Blackdown started out in 2011, it was humble beginnings, but we have made amazing progress, with some fantastic huts for both commercial and residential use.
One of the huts that really fills us with pride is the Dimpsey hut, which is located just down the road from us in Chard. We often send people to this hut to see how glamping should be done. Run by Emma and Andrew Warren, Dimpsey is luxury glamping at its finest. At the foot of the Blackdown hills, this Turnkey hut is a couple’s retreat on a farm, complete with a hot tub and outdoor kitchen, and all internal additions such as the wood burner, en-suite bathroom, hob, and pull down wall bed.
Emma has created something very special with Dimpsey, and her attention to detail and the guest experience is second to none. Think waking up to bird song, country walks, outdoor cooking, gazing at the stars, cosy chill time, and a completely luxury, mindful experience. No wonder Dimpsey has won so many awards during its three-year existence.
Emma is always happy to share her experience with Blackdown, and we chatted to her to find out more about the three year journey with the Dimpsey hut.
- Why did you set up a glamping retreat?
We moved to our small farm in 2010 and shortly after that went on a glamping holiday to www.theyurtfarm.co.uk with our two small boys – we absolutely loved it and we started to wonder if we could do something similar at ours. Roll forward a few years and we started thinking about it seriously and went and looked at yurts, tents and shepherd huts to see what the best thing to do would be. We also spoke to Canopy & Stars and their MD, Tom, was really helpful in looking at what we had the potential for and what the market would be looking for.
Ultimately, though, we do live in a lovely part of the world and we just wanted to share the peace and tranquillity we are lucky enough to enjoy.
- Did you have a business plan and, if so, what did it look like?
I started in life as an accountant – so I did do a scribbled list of costs that I committed to a spreadsheet and did the market research and associated activities, just to make sure that it all looked viable. However, I was flying blind a bit as I wanted to create a really luxury experience for our guests, more akin to a boutique hotel and there weren’t as many shepherd huts around in 2013/14, so we kind of had to plough our own furrow for a while. As when we asked for advice, people were mainly telling us that we should keep it as basic as possible.
- How did you come up with the name and brand?
Dimpsey is a Somerset word for the half-light at the end of the day and when I first heard it I loved it and purchased the domain name, knowing that we would use it for something eventually. The first potential use for the name was something that I am currently working on as a product for our guests, but when we decided that we were definitely going to offer shepherd hut accommodation, I just knew that the name had to be Dimpsey. Stars and wood fires are such a integral part of what we do.
We looked round at a number of the shepherd hut companies that were around at the time, and in fact, initially I looked at the first shepherd hut that Will & George (who started Blackdown) ever built. It was a simple hut with no bathroom, but gorgeously made. When it came to the time that we were ready to order, we had done our research and were confident that we would be able to work with Blackdown to achieve what we wanted for our guests. They were brilliant and even though they hadn’t done some of the things we were looking for before, they set to and made them happen. We also loved the quality of the build that they do and the natural textures of the oak worked for our vision as well.
- How did you market Dimpsey?
We took advantage of all the free online things that we could, Instagram and Facebook and were lucky in that we were of the only people in our area to be offering a shepherd hut at that point in time, so we stood out and that enabled us to get some good press coverage. Later we worked with Claire, our PR lady, and built on that further but only as and when we had proven our concept.
- What was the first year like and how has it grown since?
We didn’t push hard for the first few months as neither of us had worked in hospitality before and we didn’t want that to affect our guest experience, but we found that we absolutely loved. As soon as we felt confident, we promoted ourselves in a few more places and have carried on with that model ever since, doing more of what works and dropping the ones that don’t provide good leads. We signed up with Canopy & Stars and have been a very popular spot on their listings, we love working with them and are very proud to be part of their portfolio.
We are now a Visit England Gold Award Holder and were voted the best glampsite in Somerset & Bristol last year and the year before – entering the awards helped build our profile and winning them gave us positive news to put out, as well as the kudos of being the winners. The process you go through to enter is also a really good way to review how far you’ve come and I would thoroughly recommend it.
- How do you build a glamping business?
Decide who your guests are, concentrate on what they are likely to want and deliver that to them, gauge their reaction and do more of what they are liking and less of what they don’t. Rinse and repeat.
- Dimpsey has a personality of its own; how did you create that or was it organic?
Difficult question, I genuinely believe that where we are located on the Blackdown Hills has a very special feel to it and the farm has a quiet and peaceful atmosphere that really adds to the experience for our guests. We’ve been really lucky in that our guests have been so supportive of us as a business and over time Dimpsey has created quite a following for itself – so really I just see Andrew and me as the facilitators, the shepherd hut provides a very special space and our guests just relax into it.
- What are your top tips for keeping ahead of the game in the glamping business?
Don’t rest on your laurels, keep moving, watch what’s around you with interest, but play your own game.
- What’s next for Emma, Andrew, and Dimpsey?
Well, that’s a really interesting question!. We absolutely love Dimpsey and the guests that we meet, so Dimpsey is a big part of our plan for the future as a family. We’ve got some really good ideas in the melting pot at the moment and look forward to sharing more news soon about where we’re heading over the next year.