Sustainability: building the site

Sustainability: building the site

When we started Coast and Camplight one of our biggest considerations was how would we make it sustainable. Sustainable for us, the humans who live here, to make a living away from farming, enough to support us so we could be here and look after Ed’s Mum and Dad in their retirement. But equally important to be sustainable for this beautiful place. There are lots of debates about what sustainability really means, but for us it meant that starting a new business here should avoid causing harm to the land, to tread as lightly as we could on this place, and to work with instead of against the nature that surrounds it.

Our starting point was we wanted to share this beautiful place with others but that meant we had to add accommodation that was comfortable, beautiful and practical without disrupting nature too much.

We always wanted it to be off-grid – one of the things we always loved about this place is that from much of it you can see very little of the ‘real world’ and it could be almost any point in time sat there under the old oak. So, there is no electricity and no wi-fi, all our lights are solar or battery powered, and all our batteries are rechargeable. Each camp has a small solar battery bank that charges up in the day and provides the main lights for the camp, there are also battery powered fairy lights (it wouldn’t be a glamping site without them!), and we provide each camp with a decent rechargeable torch.

We were clear from the outset there was to be no concrete, no roadways and no cars to our camps. Instead we have merely mown grassy tracks that lead you from car park to camps and guests must leave their cars along with the real world at the top of the hill and walk down to their tent. Instead of solid bases the tents sit on wooden decking bases which are above the ground supported by wooden stakes. The idea was that the whole site could be removed in a weekend and you would almost not know we’d ever been there.

Water, drainage and toilets were our next challenge – how do we make a stay super comfortable with hot showers and pleasant toilets without compromising nature? Our water is all from our own spring and we improved the existing filtering system before piping it down to the tents (many years ago Ed and his family drank the water just as it came out of the ground!). To get the water down to the tents we tried to do this without heavy machinery so we used a pedestrian trencher as the least intrusive and disruptive way we could find to create a narrow channel to bury the pipe. There seemed to be a long winter of trench digging and pipe burying! Gas boilers then heat the water at each camp give properly lovely hot showers.

We did a lot of research before we put in the toilets and I can now honestly say we are now super proud of our composters! They are a ‘tree bog’ design, where the waste isn’t separated like most composting solutions, but that the planting round the toilets naturally takes all the liquid away and stops it smelling. We’ve planted native willow all-round the toilets, because they are very thirsty and grow quickly to take away all the liquid. They also look beautiful! We’ve used a similar solution for our grey water drainage – all our shower and washing up water goes into willow banks, where willow have been planted all round a soakaway. All the willow we’ve used is grown from whips we’ve taken from existing trees around the farm.

We tried where possible to resist buying anything new (other than the tents!) all the shower and toilet buildings are made by us from scratch from materials that are as far as we can are second-hand, recycled or upcycled rather than buying new. Which we also like to think makes them a bit more interesting!

It’s worth saying we are absolutely not experts, but we did lots of research from people who are! I’ve included some links below if you want to learn more:

Tree bog toilets:

Willow banks:

Verity Bellamy
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