Meet the Owners: Hope Farm Retreats, Gloucestershire
Meet Jo, who – along with family members Mark and Izzy – runs Hope Farm Retreats – a warm, welcoming haven on a 13-acre family farm in the heart of the Wye Valley, with cosy glamping accommodation, fun activities, and craft workshops galore.
What first inspired you to create Hope Farm Retreats?
I had a career in teaching sustainability education spanning over 20 years from working museums to university contexts, promoting outdoor education and traditional craft teaching. Opening Hope Farm Retreats is the culmination of nearly 13 years work; having first discovered the area when bringing students on a residential stay and searching for something more backed-to-basics for their own family. Mark’s career has taken him around the world in the Royal Navy and into the corporate world for the last 20 years. Returning from work trips always brings a renewed sense of appreciation for this relatively undiscovered corner of the UK – coming over the Severn Bridge really feels like arriving home and leaving work behind. We wanted to share that experience with visitors to the area.
Have you always been in hospitality? If not, what else did / do you do?
My mum ran a country hotel when I was younger and I have always been interested in people and their stories, which led me around the world as a teacher and travelling to interesting places in the Middle East. As a family we have camped or glamped a lot over the last years and we have taken the best of those experiences to create Hope Farm Retreats.
Alongside the glamping, I also run an artisan flower farm onsite which launched in 2020 offering workshops and floral design services, from gift bouquets to weddings. Our flower studio doubles as a chill out space for our glampers and always smells divine!
What’s the best thing about being the owner of Hope Farm Retreats?
We originally bought the 13 acres adjoining our farmhouse to stop it being developed and to restore the biodiversity which had been lost, with decades of over-grazing – so the best thing about being the owner is now seeing the conservation slowing making a difference and sharing that with our guests. In the last 3 years we’ve planted over 3,000 native species trees, with the help of our wonderful community and we’re looking forward to seeing them flourish over the next 5-10 years.
As an accommodation provider, everyday is different and I love the variety! All our guests are lovely (honestly) – couples in term time and families during the Summer, so both have different needs and interests. I am usually found pottering on the flower farm, looking after the animals, doing changeovers or helping guests plan their day – I like to be busy. But I always make the time to take a cuppa up to the top field after lunch and look across at what we have created, with its views beyond – it always makes my heart soar and I know how lucky we are.
What’s your favourite feature of the retreat?
I think the location surprises visitors. We are just over the bridge from Bristol M4 and M5, located in the centre of a village, near great amenities which mean you don’t have to travel for shopping or cook every night – but the glamping field feels a world away. Set in quiet surroundings, with plenty of space and just two tents. The sunrises are amazing and far reaching views across to the Costwolds. On clear nights the skies are vast, with little light pollution and the stars seem endless.
I love popping up to the tents at night to check everything is ok or welcome late arrivals and showing them the space station or telling them about the stars that inspired the Harry Potter characters!
What do you love about the local area?
There is so much to do and see – our farm is on the edge of the ancient village of St Briavels, within walking distance of a community shop with a fabulous deli, traditional village pub, English Heritage medieval moated castle and easy access to a range of outdoor activities – such as family cycle trails, Offa’s Dyke Path, canoeing along the Wye River, foraging, ‘leaf peeping’ at the changing seasons and the Sculpture Trail in the heart of the forest, and much more. We are also very near several film settings, such as ‘The Force Awakens’, Doctor Who and Poldark. It really is a fascinating area to explore!
What’s next for Hope Farm Retreats?
We are lucky enough to have different spaces on site for guests to explore – including The Flower Barn – our education space. We are very excited this year to extend our programme of events and workshops (see our Facebook page), having been restricted by covid and the lockdowns of the last 2 years. Most of our events have a floral theme, including PYO days with cream teas, seasonal workshops, creating a cutting garden course, farm open days and an immersive floral retreat – but they are open to all and suitable for all experience (pre-bookable).
We also launched our kids ‘Crafty Party’ in July, running every Tuesday 9-10am through the Summer. We have a range of activities planned from making waterwheels to clay selfie gargoyles – a great way for families to spend creative time in Nature. Our sessions and feedback has been that an experience and time spent together, is the best souvenir of your stay!
If you couldn’t stay at your place, where would your ideal holiday be?
We love camping and our family has perfected the 30 minute pack! As my husband works away a lot staying in bland corporate hotels, when he’s home we like to bundle into the car and pitch a tent somewhere within a couple of hour’s drive – all of us together. There is something very soothing and comforting about the smell of canvas, an instant de-stress with no distractions or screens. We don’t want to spend our precious time stuck in traffic, so not too far but a change of scene.
We usually book small, family-run sites and definitely top of our list is a fire pit! I love campfire cooking – only one pot to wash up. Our daughter sleeps well exhausted from chasing around in the outdoors, often disappearing off with other kids to explore and we have time to relax by a fire with a cheeky G&T. Combined with a bit of wild swimming and star gazing, these are the memories we have from our own childhoods and hope our daughter will treasure too.
Our Summers are usually spent on the farm now we have glampers and with our daughter becoming a teen, we are shifting to take our main holidays in April and October somewhere with activities and maybe a road trip – but it is strange times at the moment, so I’m not sure yet where we will go and I think the staycation will remain popular!
Sum up Hope Farm Retreats in three words
Glamping – not – camping!
If you were visiting how would you spend a day at Hope Farm Retreats?
Many of our guests will send time exploring the wonderful surroundings and book up activities in the area, but they also like to take a day or two to enjoy chilling out on site:
8-9am Our guests seem to appear around this time to use their dedicated, luxury shower room.
9am Breakfast and coffee starts – either made in our field kitchen or on the campfire for a really authentic experience. We supply colourful eggs from our own chickens, which we encourage our guests to help collect.
10am washing up together (we have 4 sinks with hot water and a dishwasher to make this less of a chore) and the kids clean their teeth (or as one little one told me last year ‘the best thing about camping is Dad forgets to tell me to clean my teeth!’)
11am usually this is the time everyone tries the Ping Pong table – it brings out the competitive streak in everyone. We also have books and board games, craft materials and giant jenga. Everyone loves the coconut shy in the field, whatever their age!
Lunch the guests might wander across to the local adventure park to the café for lunch or pick something up from the deli to prepare on site.
The afternoon might be a longer walk around the village or down to the border with Wales or take a picnic with them (we provide a basket, linen napkins and everything you need to do it in style)
Early evening, if there are a couple of families on site our daughter usually starts a game of capture the flag or a mini beasts tour, maybe taking some marshmallows up to roast. If it is couples we leave them to enjoy the sunset and romance of sitting around a campfire, snuggled under a blanket!
We have an App link we send to guests on booking, with itineraries around the area, whether for a romantic get-a-way or rain days out with toddlers – we have thought of it all and fun-tested it for our guests.
Find out more about Hope Farm Retreats via their Host Unusual listing, and book your glamping getaway today!