Call of the wild… | Local newspapers and magazines

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Caracol Camping in Groombridge is a new luxury glamping retreat run by Claire and Ade Passos. We find out why it’s the perfect place to get away from it all.

What gave you the idea to create your Caracol Camping business?

I have always had a great love for nature and enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and luckily my husband Ade also shares this passion. So, after many years of talking about it, we decided to take the plunge and make our dream come true.

What was the timeline for the project?

Originally we thought it would happen later in life when we both gave up work and bought some decent land. But when the pandemic hit, I took a voluntary quit from my job and put the wheels in motion to see if I could make it there sooner than expected. This is how the idea was born to create a unique and special place where guests could share our love of the outdoors!

How did all this happen?

We’re avid Countryfile watchers and there’s always a lot of conversation about agricultural diversification. With this idea in mind, I contacted the local National Farmers Union newsletter and asked to place an ad, asking if anyone would like to have a conversation about starting a glamping business.

So, which local farmer agreed to help you?

Much to our delight, Michael Bourne of New Park Farm and Groombridge Farmshop contacted us to say he might be interested. We met immediately to discuss our ideas and how we could move things forward. Michael explained that he had a three acre fallow asparagus field in an Area of ​​Outstanding Natural Beauty where we could settle. It was absolutely perfect for the laid-back yet luxurious style of camping we wanted to create.

How long did it take to obtain the corresponding building permit?

It took 18 months to complete the planning, but we did it without any objection from the local community, and we are delighted to be able to bring our idea of ​​glamping to the people of this beautiful part of the world.

You had to meet many environmental criteria, can you tell us about it?

Our decision to create a wildflower meadow ticked a lot of boxes, as did planting local cobnuts. We have also installed birdhouses and bat houses to encourage nature on the grounds. Our eco report also noted that there were sets of badgers located in the woods, so our tents are placed the required distance from these so as not to disturb them.

It’s very much a glamping site as opposed to a campsite with lots of bespoke furniture. Was it part of your vision to have a unique feel?

Yes. The key to our setup and build was to recycle and reuse whenever possible. We were lucky enough to find scaffolding boards which we turned into benches and bedside tables as well as packing wood which we sanded down and used to refit the established barn on site. Much of the furniture comes from local charity shops and online social groups.

When was Caracol officially launched and what is its USP?

We opened the site in mid-June and will be open until the warm weather arrives in the fall. With stunning views of the Sussex countryside, we are set in a wild meadow field on a working farm so guests can enjoy local produce grown just yards from the site. The site is also a safe place for guests to bring children and allow them to play on the grounds and an opportunity to get away from technology. We’ve also created separate spaces for lounging in the form of a cozy barn and our expandable tent, two fabulous spaces to enjoy and be comfortable in all weathers.

How did you choose the name of your business?

We wanted a name that was memorable and meaningful to us. We vacationed in Belize once and explored Caracol, a great ancient Mayan archaeological site. Upon further exploration, we discovered that the name means a “spiral” shape that resembles a bell tent, hence the decision to use it as the name for our site. The team at Big Orange Media has done a fantastic job of bringing this vision to life with our brand design.

Tell us about your affiliation with Groombridge Farmshop?

It’s wonderful to partner with the team there because they’re such an incredible support for us. The collaboration also provides a unique opportunity for our customers as they can pre-order baskets from the team and enjoy all the amazing local produce they offer. The baskets will be delivered directly to the tents and customers can enjoy a short walk to explore the plethora of products they offer.

What other key things can people do and see without having to hop in a car while in Caracol?

As well as enjoying a wide variety of walks direct from site, there is the Spa Valley Railway where guests can catch a train to the High Rocks or Tunbridge Wells. We also have a fabulous range of pubs within walking distance including The Hare in Langton Green, The Junction and The Crown in Groombridge and further afield but still within walking distance are the beautiful villages of Fordcombe and Penshurst.

How has your first season been so far?

We had a very positive reaction from our first customers – everyone loves the comfy, carpeted tents and commented on how comfy the beds are! The estate is a very peaceful place for rest and relaxation, with beautiful sunsets and night skies.

We also have brand new showers so want to spread the word locally and further afield to provide like-minded people with a truly magical stay in Caracol.

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