Courses When You Want Them
In a 'eureka' kind of way, we've come up with a wholly new approach to offering courses.
We were planning the year's calendar and the thought occurred to us: why don't we offer courses when our guests want them, rather than on dates to suit us.
Yes, that's right: courses when you want them.
Once we'd thought it all through, discussed it, chewed it over and pondered it, we realised we could make it work - and also keep course numbers to just four per course, meaning the teacher-pupil ratio is always excellent.
And so that's what we're doing! Courses when guests want them with just four guests per course.
Naturally, there are a couple of limitations: there has to be at least two people to make a course viable, and the five-day chair making course is a different proposition. With just those limits though, here's how it works in practice:
You can now book a course whenever you want so long as the date is available and you are coming with a friend or partner. (About half of our bookings are for two+ people already.) Or you can join an existing course that is in the diary for a specific date, if there are spaces available. You can bring your own lunch along or buy a Bridport Gourmet Pie or Leakers Pizza on site - which you can heat up in our field kitchen.
It's that simple.
At the time of writing there are individual spaces on the following courses:
- April 17th, morning - two places on the two hour family (1 x min age 8 + 1 one adult) whittling course.
- April 18th and 19th - two places on the green woodworking course.
- April 25th and 26th - two places on the bowl carving course.
- Sept 30th-Oct 4th - six places on the chair making course.
- October 17th and 18th - one place on the green woodworking course.
This is an ever changing calendar as more couples book new dates, so if you have a particular course in mind and want/have to come alone then do keep a regular eye out for new dates being booked.
Up To The Minute Availability
If we're running courses on that very flexible basis, that's quite a scheduling issue! What's made it all feasible is our adoption of a new online booking system that shows current availability.
Online 24/7, you can see the dates available and the courses that are part-booked at a glance, and book your dates there and then.
It's been a lot of work to get that all operating, but we hope you'll agree it's worth it!
And, as you'd expect, our new online booking system extends to all our camping facilities too. Find the dates that suit you and book online whenever it suits you - perfect.
(Don't delay though. The Easter weekend is already completely booked, and later dates are starting to fill up.)
Back on the subject of courses, in these financially testing times and along with all the other changes, we've also managed to reduce the cost of all of our existing courses and have introduced new, cheaper, 'Have a Go' two hour ones. These are ideal for trying your hand at either Spatula Making, Shrink Pot Making or Whittling and Knife Care, whilst still leaving time in the day for exploring the area or enjoying relaxing on site.
On the same theme of lower costs, for everyone coming on our five day Chair Making course we have introduced a 10% discount for camping. Just get in contact and we will let you know how to make your booking with this discount.
A really pleasing consequence of our new way of running courses is that we have been able to reintroduce my old favourite, coracle making.
From mid-May onwards we are running this course for any three days that you and a friend/partner choose (or, once two people have started a date, up to two others can join them).
We have changed the course somewhat and will in future be using calico instead of hide for the skins - mainly because it is much lighter and a much less stomach-churning to fit.
As ever, guests on these courses will come away with their very own coracle and paddle, having first had a chance to practice their paddling skills in one of our coracles on the woodland pond.
Over the winter we've relocated our on-site shop to the communal yurt and expanded the range of items we carry. We are still selling favourites such as Bridge Farm Cider, local charcoal and Opinel knifes, and we've now added a freezer with frozen pizza dough from Leakers Bakers and delicious frozen pies from Bridport Gourmet Pies. We have also started selling some of the products that we make during our courses, such as Adam's fantastic spoons and shrink pots.
We plan to extend the range of locally produced food and craft and with this in mind have just started stocking traditional besom brooms - once you have tried one of these there is no going back!
Camping In The Snow
This was our first winter for the yurts, tipi and shepherd's hut that we made a year ago and it was with some concern that we monitored how the canvas would perform in the damp and cold winter conditions. We soon came to the conclusion that if we were to make sure everything stayed dry and in good condition we would have to keep them all warm and dehumidified over the winter months.
Having decided that this was the way forward (using dehumidifiers and radiators) it was an easy decision to open up Crafty Camping to guests throughout the winter as the accommodation was all warm and cosy anyway.
This turned out to be an inspired decision! It has been fantastic to see the woods being used through the snowy conditions that we all experienced: it's a magical place in the snow, with Narnia being mentioned by more than a couple of guests. You really can't beat hibernating with a good book (or a laptop and wi-if) in a cosy tent with the log burner fired up, hot water bottles, and the occasional visit to the sauna yurt in-between: pure bliss.
As a result we shall now be open all year round from here on.
Romance In The Air
I know, winter's dragging on but we can take heart because the woods have taken on a distinct spring-like feel in the last few days. Catkins have been on the hazel for some time, the bluebells are popping up all over the woods and camping guests Sarah and Mark got engaged during a game of scrabble in the communal yurt! (Mark had hidden the ring in the scrabble bag - perfect.)
In fact romance in the woods started earlier in the year - we've welcomed two honeymooning couples to the camp site in the snow. It really is a great destination for a special holiday - as both couples said:
"For a honeymoon surprise this is my (and my husband's) ideal heaven on earth! Hats off to all those who have put this beautiful place together, this is what being alive is all about - big thank you Guys & Girls who have put their hearts and souls into this place - much love Hayley & Steve"
"Dear Guy & Team. Thank you for a wonderful honeymoon! Were really glad we chose to spend some of it here. Coracle was lovely to stay in & we were toasty with the fire. We weren't expecting electricity & lights so that was a bonus. All your little touches were lovely. Thank you, see you in the summer! The newly Mrs & Mrs Sellwood."
We have been both touched and encouraged by the fantastic feedback we have had in our visitors' book - it is very, very gratifying that everyone appreciates the work that has gone into building Crafty Camping and also hugely useful to hear first hand suggestions for improvements as things evolve.
We have included a good selection of quotes from the visitors' book on the new web site, but we need to ask a favour ...
We have recently signed up to Trip Advisor, for both Crafty Camping and the courses, and it looks a bit sparse at present with just three reviews on camping and precisely none yet on the courses. Therefore, we would be really very grateful if any past guests could take a few minutes to leave a review:
Many thanks in advance.
The Web Site
Yes, I did mention our new web site in the previous item! It's here! After a lot of work and a lot of evolution - not least as our Crafty Camping and courses offerings evolved - we've now launched a wholly new web site as well as our new online booking and availability facility.
We've included a lot more photos which, we hope, will give a far better impression of things here in the Woodland Workshop, and the whole design is much more up to date, working on smart phones as well as laptops and desktops. There's a fair bit of work to do on it yet - not least bringing across content from the old site - but we hope you agree it's doing a far better job of showing off just what a good time can be had here!
River Cottage Discounts
Coinciding with all these developments, we're delighted to be able to announce that, for all Crafty Camping whole site bookings, our friends at River Cottage are offering a 15% discount on group bookings in the famous River Cottage Farmhouse.
A private lunch or dinner at Park Farm makes an ideal and memorable addition to a stay here in the woods - we've had a great time when we've been there. Further details and booking are on their web site here:
If you're thinking of any kind of group outing, this really is an offer to take up. (There is a minimum of 10 guests.) Simply mention Crafty Camping on booking.
Phew, I think that's it! For guests staying over Easter there is a lot going on here in West Dorset. Personally, I would definitely recommend going along to the River Cottage Spring Fair at Park Farm. I've demonstrated green woodworking there on a number of occasions (although sadly I can't be there this year as I am otherwise committed here in the woods), and I can personally vouch for what is a fantastic event, with foody offerings galore and crafty entertainment for the whole family.
Looking forward to seeing you soon - camping, on a course or both!
Guy and the team