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Wood fire stoves, hot tubs and bubble domes: The Norfolk company making camping more glamorous

PUBLISHED: 10:57 15 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:18 20 February 2020

SoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPad

SoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPad

SoulPad

When most people think of camping they think of rainy days and struggling to fit inside the tent.

SoulPad creates glamping and camping equipment. Picture: SoulPadSoulPad creates glamping and camping equipment. Picture: SoulPad

But another option increasing in popularity is glamping which brings all the luxuries of home to the campsite.

SoulPad Design has been creating glamping equipment since before the phrase was termed. Reporter MARC BETTS spoke to founder Mark Vanderstay about the industry...

Set up by husband and wife team Mark and Zoe Vanderstay, both 47, in 2006, SoulPad Ltd has been creating luxury camping goods from their base in Dolphin Business Park, in Shadwell, near Thetford, for camping sites and independent campers.

The SoulPad team: (left to right) Isobel Finbow, Mark Vanderstay, Zoe Vanderstay, Lou Killaspy. Picture: SoulPadThe SoulPad team: (left to right) Isobel Finbow, Mark Vanderstay, Zoe Vanderstay, Lou Killaspy. Picture: SoulPad

Mr Vanderstay said the business was born out of a love of camping.

He said: "My wife Zoe and I always camped with friends whether it was for festivals, garden parties or sometimes just because there was no room in the house when we visited each other.

"A bell tent seemed like such a practical idea but the one we inherited was pretty ropey.

"It all sprang from there, now we not only sell to individuals but also help new businesses begin their own 'glampsites'. I'm immensely proud of all Zoe's accomplished in the time the company has been trading."

SoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPadSoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPad

The holiday option has become more popular in recent years with the luxury campsites on offer at a number of festivals and campsites offering it as an alternative.

Norfolk has more thank 20 glamping spots ranging from the forests around the south of the county to the coastline where visitors can take in the fresh sea air and stroll along the beaches. This has come, Mr Vanderstay said, after featuring in more popular culture.

"Over the more than 13 years that SoulPad has been trading there has definitely been an increase in glamping interest," the business owner said.

"A few years ago we supplied the props for the sitcom 'Starlings' and SoulPad tents were the Best Family Tent on the BBC's 'Shop Well for Less'. Programmes such as these definitely helped to cement the idea into the public consciousness.

The SoulPad team: (left to right) Isobel Finbow, Mark Vanderstay, Zoe Vanderstay, Lou Killaspy. Picture: SoulPadThe SoulPad team: (left to right) Isobel Finbow, Mark Vanderstay, Zoe Vanderstay, Lou Killaspy. Picture: SoulPad

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"One strong indicator of the interest in glamping is the number of new 'glampsites' appearing in our beautiful region.

Also, glamping sites with disabled access are becoming more common.

Bell tents, yurts and pods and so on have wide entrances that can accommodate wheelchairs."

SoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPadSoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPad

While many may be put off by the price tag Mr Vanderstay says that the most important part is to enjoy the time outdoors.

The former programmer added: "It doesn't matter if you're sleeping in a treehouse, bell tent, a shepherd's hut or something much more extravagant - if you're outdoors, comfortable and feeding your soul you could call that glamping.

"Personally, if I can get dressed standing up instead of trying to wriggle on the floor like a caterpillar then that's already a good start. "Imagine camping with a wood-fired stove and a hot tub at your disposal, falling asleep in a comfortable bed while listening to the sounds of nature under the muted flapping of a canvas tent.

"There's something for everyone. A geodesic dome on a retreat in the Himalayas will obviously set you back a lot more than a bell tent in the garden that you and the kids can enjoy all summer. Glamping can be as luxurious or as frivolous as you make it.

SoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPadSoulPad has been involved in the glamping business for more than 13 years. Picture: SoulPad

"Luxurious throws, faux sheepskin rugs, and double beds add to the opulence. SoulPad even sells a tweed bed for dogs so there's no need for the pooch to feel left out."

SoulPad has now created a new flame retardant fabric that remains fireproof in all weathers.

The company has developed a 100pc cotton flame retardant canvas that it says is also better for the environment.

Flame retardant tests are normally completed on fabrics found in the home. Mr Vanderstay said that rain can wash out flame retardant treatments applied to these.

He said: "This means that customers could be expecting the material to be flame-retardant when it may not be.

"Clearly, there's a gap between what is expected and what's delivered. Where safety is concerned there's no room for assumptions and error."

For more information go to soulpad.co.uk.


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