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The last few days have been pretty busy. (An excuse you’ll find elsewhere on this blog.)

What led to this busyness was that I had guests booked in Mustardseed (one of the 18-foot yurts in écovallée) on June 11th. Which was great. Except that, on June 10th, it was still full of the other 18-foot yurt (which is called Peaseblossom), plus all the deconstructed beds of both yurts and the new outdoor kitchen roof, recently made by The Former Her Outdoors.

Regular readers will not be surprised that there was also rain on the forecast.

Here’s why I felt the kitchen roof needed replacing (my mate Philippe’s the real star in this shot – thank <Deity Name> he was here to help – I couldn’t have done all this without him):

old kitchen roof

Here’s me sorting out the bracing on Peaseblossom’s roof wheel, which fell to pieces while it was being put away at the end of last season:

yurt roof wheel

The forecasted rain came early, so we put the frame up fast:

yurt frame

Then the cover:

yurt roof

Before we turned our attention back to the kitchen:

new kitchen roof

It doesn’t take long to put the cover on, but look how it transforms the space:

new roof

After that, I remembered to take a shot of the finished yurt, just for you:

completed yurt

Next, the floor needed scrubbing, mopping and leaving to dry, so the deconstructed beds could be moved in. Then the beds in Mustardseed had to be reconstructed and made. The pots, plates and everything else were washed up and put in place in the kitchen, the solar shower and compost toilet cleaned, plus countless other jobs.

The guests had only booked one night. (They did this through booking.com, which prompted me to look harder at the settings and change the minimum number of nights to three – there’s more to this business than construction, cleaning and looking nonchalant when people arrive.)

Today was relatively easy: Said goodbye to one set of guests, then did a quick changeover for Puck (the 12-foot yurt), after buying all the stuff for the Welcome Picnic – ‘cos they’re staying for the week.

So that’s almost it. Apart from a few more hours of setting up Peaseblossom, écovallée is ready for its last ever season as a campsite.

More on this soon.

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I know I said I’d live blog the opening of écovallée this year. I live-took these photos of the 12-foot yurt, Puck, before it welcomed the first guests the other week. Which kind of counts. Hopefully. (Don’t worry – the hammock was put up before they arrived.)

12-foot-yurt

yurt-camp-kitchen

I was complimented on my post work by one of the guests – a property developer, no less. So I was pretty pleased.

When it comes to marketing, the only way to know what really works is… testing. So, I’m listing the three yurts on three well-known websites and will pay close attention to the results. Mustardseed is with booking.com, Peaseblossom is with Airbnb, and Puck is with Canopy & Stars. Of course, I also try and attract direct bookings – so I’m in the competition, too. (It doesn’t matter who you book through, really – you win every time.)

Happy Holiday Games. And may the odds be ever in everyone’s favour.

As promised, here’s the first almost-live blog on getting the yurt camp ready for opening on Thursday.

This year, Philippe came along and helped me put up Mustardseed – one of the two 18-foot yurts in the camp. It all went smoothly. Which was a good thing, as there was some kind of fierce storm due at 5 pm.

If you’re going to try this at home, you will need:

Yurt 1

A platform set into the corner of a few acres of mixed woodland. In this case, there’s quite a bit of false acacia (perfect for yurt platform uprights, fence posts, firewood – and lasts in water for 100 years), hornbeam (a personal favourite), hawthorn (which provides the welcome first bit of green in spring), oak (mainly spindly – I need to do some thinning out – but half a dozen beauties), sweet chestnut (which produces a very labour-intensive breakfast toast topping, and isn’t great for firewood; but it got us through a few winters), wild service trees and a whole bunch of other green stuff.

You will also need to carry the frame of your 18-foot, coppiced-chestnut, Kyrgyz-style yurt, by hand, from way over there.

yurt 2

Clean off the edging strips that go round the platform. These ones are 1 cm plywood – it doesn’t need to be marine ply, although that would probably last longer.

yurt 3

That unfeasibly heavy oak door spent the winter leaning against the sink in the outdoor kitchen a few metres away. It must have been carried for miles in the last 10 years. That’s the shower in the background.

yurt 4

Screw in the platform edges, with an unnecessarily intense look of effort. It’s not actually that hard with a machine. (A few years ago, I put some up with a socket set – don’t ask.)

yurt 5

Stand the walls up and try to remember how they fit together. Wonder why you didn’t take a moment to mark them in some helpful way at the end of last year. Or the year before that – even more sensible.

yurt 6

Pause, while Philippe takes a caught-on-CCTreeV shot.

yurt 7

Unwind the tension band.

yurt 8

Raise the roof.

yurt 9

Here’s further proof that marking poles when it matters is worth considering. Although, it does mean the yurts are different every year.

yurt 10

Here’s what Mustardseed looks like for 2016.

yurt 11

If there’s a storm coming, you need to carry the cover over, heave it on and rope up the wall.

yurt 12

Like this.

(The storm didn’t come.)

You will probably know that it’s been 400 years since Shakespeare finally put down his pen. (After writing his Will, perhaps.) To mark this event – and because the yurts in écovallée are named after the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream – I’ve put this final ad together.

 

shakespeare yurt ad

True Shakespeare fans will be pleased to know that the font used is Arial.

Well, more of another idea for a headline.

another ecovallee concept

(I think I prefer this, but it depends on the context. The earlier ad has more of a generic headline, but was designed for the wall of a break room – ie, A holiday that’s out of the world of this functional room. But today I met a friend of a friend who came to see écovallée for the first time. He stood at the top corner between the yurt and the kitchen and said: “This is my dream.” And I remembered that, yes, it was my dream – and now, it’s there. Shakespeare lovers will also know why we called the three yurts Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Puck.)

 

During the last nine years, I’ve (occasionally) paid to advertise écovallée in relevant newspapers and magazines. But I’ve never been able to attribute a single booking to that activity. When écovallée was listed in The Guardian as one of the top 10 luxury campsites in Europe, it sold out in three days (full disclosure: there was only one yurt available that year). Our 15 minutes of fame on prime-time ITV led to… precisely one booking. Twitter doesn’t lead to much – even when tweets are re-tweeted to thousands. The Facebook page has yet prove itself. And, let’s be honest, who uses Google+? In fact, this blog is responsible for more bookings than everything else put together.

So my question to you – should you choose to answer it – is: What prompts you to book your holiday – advertising, editorial, social media, or something else? When the world changes at ever-increasing broadband speed, it’s hard to keep up.

In the meantime, here’s an ad I put together yesterday, for a friend to put up at work. Even if we’re not sure what’s effective, we have to keep trying…

ecovalle ad 2016

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