When Derry Green first started building a glamping pod in his backyard in Lancashire, a county in northwest England, he was trying to keep his kids busy during the lockdown in 2020.
Little did he know that this DIY project would eventually grow into a full-fledged vacation rental business with nine units, all fully booked for the next three months.
“Prior to this, I had a transport business shipping items between here, France, and Spain. I used to spend a week in Spain, and a week here, and I’d come back in two,” Derry Green told Insider.
But when Green returned from his work trip in March 2020, the UK went into lockdown due to the pandemic.
“At first, we thought it was going to be a few days or a few weeks, and then it just got longer and longer,” Green said. “With the kids stuck at home, I was trying to find things to do with them every day.”
An overnight camping experience in their backyard gave Green the idea to build an outdoor deck in his garden.
“The first night we went camping, it was great,” Green said. “We had loads of fun, but waking up on the wet grass in the morning wasn’t very exciting for them, so I decided to build a deck for them to camp on for the next evening.”
But as days turned into weeks, Green and his children — who were then six and eight years old — continued chipping away at their little DIY project.
“I kept building a little more each day with them, teaching them things and showing them how to do stuff. And by the end of the first lockdown, I had created what I now know to be a glamping pod,” Green said.
His lockdown DIY project went viral on the internet after it was picked up by an online publication.
“People started messaging me through social media asking if they could book it for a holiday, which at the time seemed crazy to me. I thought, ‘Why would you want to come and book something that I’ve built in the garden?'” Green said.
But with nothing to lose, Green decided to take the plunge — and listed his glamping pod on Airbnb.
“Within days, it was fully booked for months in advance. The response was just unbelievable,” he said. “I then realized, obviously, there was a gap in the market for what I’d made and decided to then pursue it as a career.”
After the first pod was officially opened to guests in June 2020, Green applied for planning permission to build a proper glamping site on the four acres of woodland that he owned beside his house. He was granted permission about nine months later, in March 2021.
Since then, Green’s collection of glamping pods has grown to nine units — and he’s still building more.
“We’re building another four. Two of them open around August, and then we’ve got two more opening later in the year,” he added.
Each glamping pod takes about three months to build.
Although Green can build the pods quicker now since he can hire help, he prefers to take his time with the projects.
“Even now, I don’t have a set of plans when I start,” Green said. “I never know what I’m building when I start off, it evolves as we go along, so having that time to sit back each day and work out what’s missing or what we need to add makes a whole world of difference.”
The design of the glamping pods is inspired by the setting of the popular reality dating show, “Love Island.”
On the show, singles are brought to a private island villa. They are given a series of tasks to complete with a partner and keep swapping until they fall in love.
Like the “Love Island” villa, Green’s glamping pods have spacious outdoor decks, hot tubs, and lots of fairy lights.
“When we started building it, we quickly realized there was no way we were going on a summer holiday in 2020,” Green said. “So, watching ‘Love Island’ and seeing the villa, I was trying to recreate something that felt like we were on holiday abroad.”
Green says that, on average, it costs him around £40,000 to £50,000, or $51,000 to $64,000, to build each of the new glamping pods.
In contrast, he had only spent about £6,000, or $7,700, building the first glamping pod with his children.
“Each one’s getting bigger and more elaborate, with more things in it, than the one before,” Green said. “And then obviously, since COVID-19, the price of everything has skyrocketed compared to what it was back then.”
The most expensive project is a treehouse named “The Tree Tops,” and it cost nearly £100,000, or $128,500, to build, he said: “That was the biggest project we had.
While the first glamping pod consists mostly of items that Green found on Facebook Marketplace or eBay, the furniture in the other units is custom-made.
“What we’ve found is that with small spaces — all the units, in theory, are kind of like tiny homes — it’s very hard to buy off-the-shelf furniture or fittings that work,” Green said. “So now we build most of the stuff on-site to maximize the use of space in each unit.”
He now heads a team of 14 people to help him run the business, which is called The Secret Garden Glamping.
“Up until the last two, it was all just me on my own,” he said. “But things have scaled up with the business now, not just on the building side of things, but also in running the site, managing social media, and managing customer relations.”
Green’s two children still give inputs on the newer builds.
“My son is just like me, he wants to be building stuff with me. So I teach him different things he can do on a daily basis,” Green said.
“And then my daughter, she just loves spending time in them. Throughout the construction process, we kind of stay in it, and I see what she thinks is missing or anything that she’d like in there.
The glamping pods can be booked on Green’s website, and they range between £195 to £285 per night.
When Insider checked the site on Tuesday, all the glamping pods were fully booked up until November — but even then, there’s only one glamping pod left for a three-night stay for the month. There are also barely any availabilities in December.
The cheapest glamping pod is the first pod that Green ever built, and it’s a yurt called “The Retreat,” per The Secret Garden Glamping site. It sleeps four guests and comes with a hot tub and a sauna.
The priciest glamping pod to stay in is the aforementioned treehouse “The Tree Tops.” It’s the first glamping pod on the property to sleep six guests. Apart from a hot tub, it also comes with a slide and a pool table.
“We have kind of a standard list now. So they’ve all got hot tubs, they’ve all got bar areas, they’ve all got outdoor seating areas,” Green said.
Although all the glamping pods are based around the same “Love Island” theme, each one has something that the other one doesn’t, he said.
“For example, one that we just opened that’s called ‘The Oasis’ has a huge outdoor cinema while ‘The Tree Tops’ has got an outdoor pool table,” Green added.
Despite the “Love Island” theme, Green says that most of his guests are women.
While couples and families with young children do come to stay at his glamping pods, about half of Green’s guests are groups of women.
“They’re anywhere between the ages of 20 and 60, they want to get away from the husbands or the kids or things like that. And they just come in with their friends to reconnect and relax,” he said.
Each glamping pod unit is completely enclosed and separate from the rest to ensure his guests’ privacy.
Each of the units is set in a different part of the woodland, Green said.
“That’s kind of what really made the first go so viral. At the time, especially during COVID-19, people were looking for unique accommodations with dedicated facilities, and they wanted to be away from everybody else,” he added.
Setting up the necessary electrical and water infrastructure was one of the most complex parts of building the glamping pods.
“So when I did the first one, it was pretty simple because it was near the house, so it was connected to the power supply and the water from the house,” Green said.
But the subsequent glamping pods are located in the woodlands, which are about 0.3 miles away from the house.
“Getting infrastructure down here was the first task,” he said. “So we’ve got full mains, water, waste, and power down here. We actually generate our own power now, which then provides for the entire glamping site.”
Even though the first glamping pod was right beside Green’s home, a new wall has been built to separate the spaces.
“My house is now entirely separate from the glamping site. It’s got its own entrance, its own main car park, and then from there, it all comes down into the woods,” Green said. “So even that first unit that we did is totally enclosed on its own in that part of the site now.”
Green says that building the glamping pods was the easiest part of running the business.
“Building the units is what I love to do. It’s a hundred percent not a job. It’s just fun for me — that’s my hobby and I love doing it, but actually trying to turn that into a business was tough,” Green said.
Coming from a job that was less customer-facing, he added that managing the glamping business came with a whole new set of challenges, such as figuring out what guests need and how to manage his staff.
For those who want to take on a DIY project, Green has one piece of advice: Stop worrying, and just give it a go.
Before Green started this project, the most he had done in terms of DIY was painting and putting new wallpaper up in the living room.
“I don’t have a building background either, but what I found is that if you give it a go, you kind of figure your way out these days with stuff like the internet or YouTube,” Green said.
More importantly, practice makes perfect, he said
“The more you do stuff, the better your skills are,” he added. “And it could be just some odd jobs, like fixing a door handle or installing a toilet, but they’re all skills. Once you figure out the basics, you can expand from there.”