Discover the peaceful glamping site that won Channel 4’s Four in a Bed at the end of last year and find out what it’s like to compete on the popular tv series. By Juliet Horner
Those of you who are fans of Channel 4’s much loved series ‘Four in a Bed’, may recognise this relaxing retreat in County Durham.
Gables Pod Camping is owned and operated by Sue Brierley with the help of her husband Mike.
In November last year, they appeared on one of Channel 4’s most popular tv series to showcase their business and ultimately claimed their spot as top-dogs.
We spoke with Sue to find out what it was like to have your business scrutinised on camera and gaining national media coverage.
Four in a Bed began their search for the next set of competitors early last month, encouraging business owners to get in touch and fill out an application form.
But surprisingly, that’s not how Sue and Mike ended up appearing on the show.
“It wasn’t something we had considered, really,” said Sue.
“I was very dubious at first, because [the Four in a Bed team] contacted us via Facebook Messenger in November 2019, asking if we would like to be on the show.
“At first, I thought it was just a wind up!”
Once Sue realised it wasn’t a hoax and received all the information she needed via email, she and Mike were asked to create an audition tape.
“It was so they could see what we were like and what it would be like if we participated,” explained Sue.
“Then they came out to see us in February 2020 to film all the interviews that you see at the start of the show.”
Sue and Mike spent two weeks filming in March 2020 alongside the Four in a Bed team and their competitors.
“It was brilliant,” said Sue, “An absolutely brilliant experience!”
She added: “We didn’t know if [the other competitors] would embrace the glamping, but they did!”
Where some businesses may scrub every inch in preparation for filming, Sue said didn’t do anything special and prepared the same way they would for any other guests.
She said: “For us, we just treated it as another normal day.
“That is what our site looks like all the time and if you read our reviews, they all say that the pods are sparkling clean.”
If you are thinking about applying for Four in a Bed, Sue’s experience as a competitor may give you an idea of what to expect and some helpful advice to keep in mind when filming.
“We went in with an open mind. You’ve just got to be yourself and showcase what you do on a normal day-to-day basis,” said Sue.
“You have to take the criticism that’s thrown at you, but don’t take it personally.
“It’s their interpretation of your business and for us, we tried to be ourselves and what you see on screen is what you get.”
Sue explained that she continually looks for ways to improve the business.
“You’ve got to be critical of yourself so that you can preempt the negative criticism that will potentially come your way,” she said.
“It’s hospitality. You can’t please everyone all the time.
“You’ve just got to keep analysing yourself all the time to keep your standards up.”
Luckily, Sue said the feedback she received on Four in a Bed didn’t seem too picky in comparison to feedback received by other competitors.
“I was quite surprised actually,” said Sue, “but hats off to them. They all embraced the glamping and they loved it!”
Sue explained that Justin, one of the competitors, said that Sue and Mike had introduced him to the whole new world of glamping; One that he wouldn’t have considered previously.
“Some people haven’t even heard of glamping, let alone experienced it,” said Sue, “and whether you like it or not, we’ve got a beautiful site and it’s tended to with love and care.”
She added: “We just want people to come and enjoy it.”
The Four in a Bed team made everyone feel at ease, making the experience really enjoyable for everyone.
Sue said: “When we first started filming, it was quite nerve wracking, but the one thing I can say is, hand on heart, the crew were absolutely amazing.
“They were fantastic and put everyone at ease. You don’t even notice the camera and it’s a real credit to the crew.”
She added: “We’ve never done anything like this before in our life, but it was great!
“We really enjoyed the whole process!”
If you haven’t done anything like this before, Sue said you should “just listen to the crew”.
“Listen to what they’re telling you, especially if they give you instructions about the mics,” she said.
Her final piece of advice for anyone considering taking part in Four in a Bed was to be yourself and “don’t go in with any preconceptions”.
“Take it at face value, go in there and be yourself,” she said.
“Just enjoy it.”
When they began filming in early 2020, Gables Pod Camping was only just coming up to two years old, so Four in a Bed offered a perfect opportunity to advertise their glamping business.
“We were told that the sites who appear on the show tend to do really well, and we were a bit different to what they usually have on Four in a Bed because we’re a Glamping site,” said Sue.
“We filmed in March last year, but the show was aired in November and we had over 63,000 people want to book a pod!
“We got a call off the people who run our booking software. They take all the bookings and they sent us a report showing us the number of requests being made.
“It was unbelievable! Over 63,000 people were looking at us.”
Laughing, Sue said: “We didn’t expect the response we got, let’s put it that way!
“It was totally mind blowing.”
Sue received “thousands” of messages enquiring about their glamping site. Some just wanted the Gables Pod Camping t-shirt that she wore whilst filming.
“There’s a big fan club for Four in a Bed and they like to collect memorabilia,” said Sue.
“I actually got some key-rings made by a local lady who burns wood and we sent them out to the people who asked for them.”
She added: “I still get messages now because some people watch it on catch-up.
“They message me to say well done and they can’t wait to stay here. And that’s months after the show aired!
“We were just completely overwhelmed!”
Sue was diagnosed with cancer in 2015 and has undergone chemotherapy as well as multiple operations.
“I’m crippled with joint pain, but I do this as a break,” said Sue, “It’s always been something we wanted to do, and running Gables Pod got me out of the ‘rat race’ so to speak. We did this for us.”
Sue regularly provides free cancer retreats for people who have been recently diagnosed or those who are receiving treatment.
Even those who have finished treatment and just need a break, Sue offers a relaxing retreat for them to escape to.
“I work with the local cancer charity and they can send people to me,” she said.
“It’s free accommodation, totally on me, and that’s my way of helping somebody else who is going through cancer and needs to get away from it all for a bit. It’s my way of giving back to the charity.
“If they want to chat with me, they can, because of my history. And speaking from experience, when I had cancer I wanted to talk to somebody, but the last place you want to go is another hospital setting.
“I can provide that perfect setting and maybe give them an afternoon tea in the tipi. People can come here and have a chat and maybe I can give them a bit of hope. I was really poorly and now I’m doing this, even after everything I’ve been through.
“It gives them hope.”
SUE’S TOP TIPS
1. Be yourself and enjoy the experience
2. Listen to the Crew
3. Don’t take the criticism personally
4. Go in with an open mind
5. When it’s your turn to have people stay, treat it like any other day
6. Remember, you can’t please everyone
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