The Secret Campsite - A breath of fresh air

The multi-functional co-working space for businesses and camping site for all known as The Secret Campsite explains how the funding and support provided by Locate East Sussex has helped them to evolve their business and grow, following their new business venture.

“Jim and Chris were both really helpful in terms of when we were looking at some of the fundraising we were trying to generate and the financial planning side of things, and Emily was also very useful with connecting us to some businesses who would benefit from using the space for their businesses.”

Tim BullenOwner of The Secret Campsite

The Secret Campsite

Case Study
The Secret Campsite
October 2022

What was once an old garden centre has since been restored into ‘The Secret Campsite‘. Located at Brickyard Farm in Lewes, the camping ground was set up by husband-and-wife Tim and Lisa Bullen back in 2012.

“Nature is a passion of mine and it’s something that we’re trying to get more people connected to the natural world, so people start thinking about wildlife and the impact we have on it. At the moment there are a lot of species dying out and it’s all down to the way that we manage the spaces and how we as a society function.”

Tim Bullen, Owner of The Secret Campsite

Tim knew that with this project, it was something he and his wife could do that was not only going to be exciting, but also positive to the local area. A unique feature about this campsite compared to others is that it gives visitors the opportunity to encounter and see lots of the nature, whilst keeping the site peaceful so not to disturb the wildlife. If you’re ever able to uncover the treasure that is The Secret Campsite, you can find the beauty of nature with wildlife such as glow-worms in the ground, nightingales perched in the trees and dormice tapping along the old railway tracks, which in the last few years have seen the numbers decline.

Staying true to their handbook, their focus was creating a space with “nothing much to do” to allow campers to switch off with no distractions. The camping site has both a range of lots and nothing much to do, with the grounds being home to three sections: Meadow, Bank and Orchard on which sit the pitches, spread 20-30 metres away from each other to allow space for the wildlife to grow. There is also a little shop onsite which exclusively stocks products from local sources. This is something that Tim is both conscious of and proud of to keep the local community thriving.

“We try and encourage people to spend their money on local businesses which is why we’ve done our best to stock the shop with products sourced locally. We have a license too, meaning we can sell alcohol such as Hurstwood Cider, Harley House gin, Blackbird brewing.”

Tim Bullen, Owner of The Secret Campsite

The Secret Campsite

Not only are the products sourced locally but so are the employees. A large majority of the people they hire are from the local sixth form who help on reception, cleaning, and even landscaping. With the growing popularity of the campsite all year round – being sold out almost every weekend of the month and especially from the beginning of May through to the end of September – Tim feels that it is important to generate employment locally. People come to the campsite from all around the UK (even as far as Scotland!), and so by showcasing what the surrounding areas have to offer with their products they stock onsite, he hopes this will influence them to go to the local pubs, shops and tourist attractions in Lewes.

So, whilst the campsite is usually peaceful due to no large groups, cars, or dogs permitted on the grounds, what about the time in between when people’s thoughts are loud with upcoming assignments and tasks from work? That’s when the new nature of business space comes to play. Since the start of the pandemic, Tim began to develop a proposition where businesses could come to the site to spend some time in nature to reflect, all the while working in one of the buildings they have that is rented out as office space.

“We have two different ways that we target businesses. The first is getting a small number of people to come out and experience the wildlife, away from the office space and the second is letting out spaces for people to work on the campsite.”

Tim Bullen, Owner of The Secret Campsite

There are currently a few local businesses that use the space varying from ecologists to classic-to-electric car conversions. A long-term goal of this new venture for Tim is to have more space set up so that hopefully larger sized businesses can use the space and for any sized business to have a rolling two-three month contract in one of the spaces upstairs, including keys to their own exclusive office space for that time.

One of the only problems for Tim is getting the awareness out to people, especially businesses and how they can connect with nature or even the impact we have on it. And it’s no surprise that this is something Tim and Lisa are both so devoted to, having won the BBC award for Animal Welfare back in 2016 and their continual efforts to fundraise for Sussex Wildlife Trust by previously running a festival called the ‘Secret Wildlife Festival which has generated almost £20,000 for the trust over the years! Because of restrictions due to covid, they have been unable to host the festival for the last few years but hope to get it up and running again in the near future – watch this space!

Locate East Sussex have worked closely with The Secret Campsite, advising, and supporting their plans to grow the business and generate more trade for other local businesses. Locate have also helped create connections to other local businesses that would be interested in using the facilities at the campsite for office space and have helped Tim to understand the financial planning needed to support their growth plans.

“Our engagement with Tim has been forward thinking with an eye to the future. He’s not afraid to think outside the box. We look forward to working with him and the secret campsite as they continue to grow!”

Chris Thomas, Business Manager

We are excited to the growth and development of the Secret Campsite as well as the future opportunities it will bring to a range of businesses in the area. If you would like to discuss the future growth plans for your business then please, get in touch.

For support and advice on how to progress with your business goals get in touch and one of our team will contact you to discuss you needs.