Categories
Features January 2021

The Hudnalls Hideout

We spoke to Sarah Orchard, owner of The Hudnalls Hideout, to find out about the process of opening during a pandemic.

 Discover this romantic treehouse retreat hidden away in the stunning Wye Valley

Credit: @morel&co

 Hidden within two acres of private woodland, the UK’s first A-frame treehouse lies surrounded by wildlife. 

Nestled in the heart of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, The Hudnalls Hideout cannot be seen from the neighbouring hillsides, valley or flower meadows. 

This romantic, adults only retreat was designed to fit it’s woodland location and was built to fit a natural opening between two lovely oak trees. 

“There’s really romantic little paths running through the woods,” said Sarah. 

Sarah Orchard, owner of The Hudnalls Hideout, has spent five years creating the perfect hidden retreat with her husband. 

“We wanted to build something that was very different to what was already out there in the marketplace,” Sarah explained. 

Credit: @ImagingEssence

The hidden hideout has a mezzanine bedroom in the A-frame at the front of the treehouse, at which point you’re about seven metres away from the ground. 

“You really are up in the tree canopy,” said Sarah. 

“The bed is on the floor, looking out through the floor to ceiling window in the A-frame, so you literally lie in bed with the trees swaying around you.” 

Laughing, she added: “One of the cheapest things we did was put a bird feeder up in the apex of the A-frame, which was my husband’s idea so I can’t take credit for it!

“It all lights up at night and it looks beautiful”

“We’ve had guests saying they didn’t want to get up. They just wanted to lie in bed all day watching the birds. We get all sorts of birds here; woodpeckers, owls, hawks. There are so many. 

“It’s a very nurturing experience, in terms of being that close to the trees and wildlife that surrounds you. You can hear the birdsong when you’re in bed and we have a velux window on the other side of the A-frame that you can open for fresh air and listen to the trees rustling.”

Credit: The Hudnalls Hideout

Downstairs, there’s a fully equipped kitchen for guests to use, as well as a dishwasher to make their stay that little bit easier.

“We’ve got lots of little mod-cons, raw copper pipework, a lovely hexagonal wall and lots of little quirky stylish bits. 

“The door of the wetroom opens out onto the deck and there’s a copper bathtub on the deck for ‘alfresco bathing’,” said Sarah.

“It all lights up at night and it looks beautiful in the evening. All twinkly.”

The cosy glow from the lights is reflected within the treehouse itself when guests use the floating fire.

“There’s a lounge with a bio-ethanol fire that’s suspended from the ceiling to make it a really cosy and romantic space in the evenings,” said Sarah.

Not only do guests also have access to an outdoor firepit, but they can even purchase additional experiences for the duration of their stay such as massages and private chefs.

Credit: @itsjonnykeeley

To help fund their treehouse project, Sarah and her husband successfully applied for the European Rural Development Programme that was aimed at businesses offering year-round accommodation as well as helping the rural economy. 

“It’s a bit like a planning application. We had to submit business plans showing that we met their objectives to create employment and help the rural economy. It added time to the project but the money enabled us to build something even more special because we had a bit of extra funding to support us.”

But despite the extra funding, creating this cosy retreat wasn’t an easy task for Sarah and her husband. 

“It actually took us two and a half years to find the location,” she said.

“We left all our friends behind and moved nearly 130 miles away to an area where we didn’t know anyone.”

Laughing, Sarah said: “We actually found the house on BBC’s Escape to the Country TV show. We took part in the show and they helped us find this place which was amazing. It was house number three and as soon as we saw it, we knew it was the right place for us. 

Credit: @itsjonnykeeley

“The location was perfect for the treehouse so we made an offer while we were filming the show and it got accepted. So we bought the house and ended up moving here.”

Sarah and her husband spent nine months getting to know their neighbours and the local community before they started planning anything.

“It’s really important to get to know your neighbours and for them to understand what you’re trying to do,” said Sarah.

“There can often be a lot of resistance when you move to a new area and start building things. It wasn’t about moving here and taking advantage of the locality and building something to try and make lots of money.

“We got to know them and they all got to know us and then we started planning. It was May 2019 when we started building the treehouse and we opened on the 14th February 2020.

“And then five weeks later we had to close because of a global pandemic!”

Sighing, Sarah added: “It was devastating, but you know, it’s just one of those things.”

Sarah only opened bookings 19 days before The Hudnalls Hideout was due to open because they didn’t have the photos.

“We took 50 bookings in 19 days when I opened the marketing and online booking and started pushing,” said Sarah.

Credit: @itsjonnykeeley

“We literally didn’t have the photographs. We had to wait for it to be furnished and finished enough to take photos and it looked beautiful. 

“Even though there was quite a bit of mud we still got beautiful photos. We had been building through the winter months and I think it was one of the wettest winters in years. We were trying to make it as beautiful as possible after building a 100 tonne structure in the middle of the woods where there was no road access.

“But the land healed and now you wouldn’t even know that we had to dig trenches for services and get heavy vehicles and all these materials down there. It’s completely healed and it looks beautiful.”

Credit: @itsjonnykeeley

After closing for the duration of the first lockdown that began in March 2020, The Hudnalls Hideout reopened on 4th July until they had to close again in November for the second national lockdown.

“We literally had back to back bookings from 4th July until we had to close again,” said Sarah.

“But we reopened in early December and since then we’ve been fully booked, up until June 2021. We’ve had a lot of people cancel because they’re uncertain and want to wait to know what’s going on.”

“People are waiting for maybe, six months, to come and stay in the treehouse”

Laughing, Sarah added: “But other circumstances change too. We had one couple coming to stay who are now expecting a baby and by the time they come to stay they’ll have a baby so they won’t be able to come and stay because it’s a couples only space.”

But despite the ever-changing circumstances due to the pandemic or otherwise, The Hudnalls Hideout is very popular.

“We’ve had quite a lot of media coverage,” explained Sarah. 

“We’re so busy at the moment and people are waiting for maybe six months to come and stay in the treehouse. 

“We get quite a lot of people coming for special occasions like proposals, honeymoons, big birthdays, anniversaries and special celebrations. People tend to book a long way in advance because they know it’s their birthday or something like that, so we can’t really accommodate people who want a last minute getaway.”

Credit: @itsjonnykeeley

Sarah’s Advice

After spending five years working to get The Hudnalls Hideout up and running, followed by a global pandemic, Sarah has a lot of advice to pass on to others in the hospitality industry.

“Invest in your website,” said Sarah.

“I really think that people don’t spend enough time, money and energy creating websites to help sell the experience. I think that’s really important. And you own the website.

“A lot of the time, people are on social media, but the thing is, you don’t own Facebook or Instagram and it’s becoming harder to reach the people you want to reach and you have to pay for that. So i think it’s really important to invest in your own ‘shop window’, which is your website.”

She added: “Don’t get too sidetracked and spend all your time on social media. Spend some time and energy and money on creating great content, videos, tours, and great photography for your website so that people can find you.”

Credit: @morel&co

Sarah also said she’s found that a lot of people working in this industry work with their partners.

“It’s quite a learning curve working with your other half in your business,” she said.

“My husband and I have started doing regular ops meetings on a Tuesday. It sounds so grown up but, if you were working in an office you’d have regular, weekly team meetings. 

“I think if you’re working in a micro business or the hospitality and tourism business, you tend to forget these things because you’re too busy just doing the doing.”

She added: “Maybe you don’t have many employees so you skip the meetings, but having a structured team meeting where you go through an agenda is really helpful.”

Credit: MADE.com

Sarah continues, saying it’s so important to “listen to your guests”.

“Guest feedback is so important. It’s the highlight of my day when a guest leaves and we can read the guestbook and find out if they enjoyed their stay and what their feedback is. Finding out what we can learn about what was most valued, which helps when I do our marketing because I look at the things guests get a buzz out of and make sure I feature it in social content, like the bird feeder. 

“It also helps when we talk about what we’re going to enhance the business with next year and just encouraging guests to leave reviews because that’s the best form of marketing, and the cheapest form!”

She added: “It’s all about constantly learning and trying to be more efficient at what we do.”

“Don’t think that you can do it all yourself”

Sarah also spoke about the importance of having partnerships with other businesses.

“We’d struggle to do this without business partners. It helps when people come in and do the cleaning because it takes a lot of time. Don’t think that you can do it all yourself.

“People look at the cost and think it’s too expensive, but having a professional laundry company and a professional cleaning company do a much better job than we would do and it’s one less thing to worry about.

Credit: @ImagingEssence

“They are very much a part of our team and I treat them as such. I treat them really well because they’re vital to our business and we couldn’t do it without them,” said Sarah.

“Finding great partners to work with really makes business easier.”

5 TOP TIPS

1. Invest in your website

2. Have a marketing plan

3. Hold regular team meetings

4. Listen to your guests and their feedback

5. Create business partnerships

URLs

hudnallshideout.co.uk

MADE.com

Credit: @morel&co

 This article was first published in Issue 44 of the Digital Luxury BnB Magazine in January 2021:

PLEASE SHARE THIS:

Latest Issue of Luxury BnB Magazine

For owners & managers of B&bs, Inns, Guest Houses, Boutique Hotels & Holiday Lets.

Featuring in the April issue of the magazine...

  • News: Industry News and Analysis
  • Karen’s Column: Viewings and Dogs
  • Q&A with Tina the Tiny Troubleshooter
  • Port Lympne Safari
  • Four in a Bed winners: Gables Pod Camping
  • Interview with Executive Producer of Channel 4’s popular TV series, Four in a Bed
  • Creating the Perfect Sleeping Environment
  • Yvonne Halling: Emotional Connections
  • Intro to Hospitality Photography
  • Monkstadt 1745
  • LBNB 2021 Awards: WINNERS announced
  • Chapter 2B of LBNB EBook: Getting Started in Holiday Rentals
Buy Now DIGITAL ISSUE See Features

Features

Monkstadt 1745

 Explore the Isle of Skye’s luxurious Monkstadt 1745. We spoke with the owner, James MacQueen, to find out how they […]