Luxury glamping pods: a sustainable and successful business diversification

The CLA’s Henk Geertsema finds out how a luxury glamping pod business is part of the environmental ethos of a diversified family farm business on the edge of Morecambe Bay
Mill House Farm glamping
The pods are placed to maximise privacy, and each has its own outdoor patio area, hot tub and fire pit or barbecue. Built by Lune Valley Pods

A diversified family farm business in rural Lancashire is maximising its income potential by utilising environmental payment schemes, installing wind turbines and developing glamping pods alongside mixed beef, sheep and arable farming.

Raymond and Diane Kellet, along with their son Andrew and daughters Alison and Rachel, operate the 220-acre Mill House Farm, just outside Cockerham and close to the Forest of Bowland, as a family business. It was first purchased by Raymond’s grandfather in 1962 and then run by his father, a dairy farmer. Since Raymond’s father passed away in 2017, the family has changed its focus by growing spring cereals, in addition to managing 200 sheep, mainly mules, and 200 Angus and Blues beef cattle, in addition to 20 suckler cows.

Diminishing Basic Payment Scheme payments forced this change. Raymond and Andrew are further maximising the farm’s potential by sinking a borehole, installing wind turbines, developing a glamping pod business and entering environmental schemes. It has been in rolling Entry Level and Higher Level Stewardship agreements since 2006, and Raymond and Andrew are considering Sustainable Farming Incentive options.

Glamping diversification

Raymond and Diane got the idea to develop glamping pods when they stayed in a log cabin in Somerset to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. Diane says: “Raymond just stood around, looked through the cabin, and suggested the farm could do with some of these, and that’s how our journey started.”

At a CLA event at Gisburn Market, the couple spoke to former CLA North director Dorothy Fairburn, who referred them to development consultancy Rural Futures. Every subsequent discussion strengthened their resolve to develop a glamping pod offering.

Diane says: “We submitted our planning application a week before Covid, and the upheaval caused by it was a nightmare. Towards the end of 2020, Lancaster City Council was poised to refuse our planning application (for six pods) because it was not a farm diversification project. We then called on the CLA’s advisory service for help.”

The CLA successfully challenged this decision on the couple’s behalf, and the application was eventually granted. The first couple of pods were installed during Easter 2022, with another two later in the year.

Work to install the pods was either carried out by the family or using local trades. The pods were built by CLA members Lune Valley Pods, and the family uses another CLA member, Sykes Cottages, to facilitate visitor bookings.

Thinking back to the early days, Raymond says: “We had a lot of fun preparing the site, which was an evolutionary process. It was quite a learning experience in that we had to acquire and apply new skills as we went along.”

“Our visitors, often from cities, remind us about the things we take for granted, like the wide-open spaces and the sky at night. We’ve had couples visit from London who have never seen the stars until they’ve visited us.”

Mill House Farm alpacas
An encampment near the pods with alpacas and goats give visitors an immersive farm experience

Planning the pods

The placement of the pods purposefully maximises privacy, set in a quiet corner of the farm. Each pod boasts its own private outdoor patio area with a hot tub and a fire pit or barbecue.

Each pod, aimed at couples, has a double bed, sofa, smart TV, microwave/ combi oven, induction hob, fridge with a freezer compartment, dishwasher and underfloor heating. There is also a fully fitted bathroom with a shower, wash basin, toilet and heated towel rail.

Sustainability underpins the success of the pods. Borehole water is cleaned and disinfected before re-filling the hot tubs, which are heated by individual air source pumps. The pods are powered by wind turbines and use LED lighting indoors and photocell technology outside.

All pods are insulated to recommended standards and have underfloor heating to ensure liveability throughout the year. Within a short distance of the pods, there is an encampment with alpacas and goats and an adjoining chicken coup with Sussex hens to give visitors an immersive farm experience. Plans are in the pipeline to construct an aviary and keep bees in the area.

Future plans

Reflecting on the future of the business’s farming operations, Andrew says: “The traditional approach of ‘bigger is better’ will be replaced by simply working more efficiently to ensure increased profit margins. Data and automation will define farming, and we have already used grant schemes to invest in technology, such as GPS for our tractors.”

Concerning the pods, the family is keen to move forward on its sustainability journey, and plans to install solar panels with battery storage to enable them to provide electric vehicle charging points.

Raymond says: “We are committed, through our green policy, to reduce our carbon footprint while also enhancing the biodiversity of fauna and flora. We will plant additional native and fruit trees, as well as wildflowers and hedges, and at some point, look towards introducing some rare breeds.

“We are also considering using 40 to 50 acres of the farm for a small-scale solar park, under-sown with wildflowers to add to our sustainability and green credentials.”

We would welcome any CLA members who have similar ideas to get in touch with us as we would still need to do a bit more fact-finding

Raymond Kellet

The family plans to install an additional two pods in the future. Diane adds: “Last summer, our occupancy was 90%, so we are hoping to maintain that by constantly improving our offering. For instance, at the moment, we are not pet friendly, but we are looking at ways to make it a future possibility. We are constantly coming up with new ideas.”

Visit to find out more.

Mill House Farm
The family at Mill House Farm