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Spot House Farm: What Happens When a Textile Designer Creates a Campsite


Spot House Farm: What Happens When a Textile Designer Creates a Campsite

Gemma Shepherd May 3, 2023

We think British textile designer Gemma Shepherd has invented the perfect camping accessory: a three-in-one merino wool wrap/throw/blanket. Not only that, she opened what, for us, is probably the perfect campsite in which to wear it: Spot House Farm.

“Normally for me camping is just hell on earth,” she admits. “The thought of just a thin sheet of fabric between you and a complete stranger… I just find that so grim!” With that in mind, last summer, she set up just two bell tents in a secluded meadow on her family farm in the Low Weald of Kent: a wild, low-impact, quietly luxurious site for groups of friends that opens in May and disappears almost without a trace in September.

Let’s take a look around.

the amply spaced spot house farm campsite. 12
Above: The amply spaced Spot House Farm campsite.

The tents are positioned in a meadow that forms part of Gemma’s 50-acre family farm. The meadow is surrounded by Orlestone Forest Nature Reserve, a protected and ancient woodland that is home to nightingales, deer, and rare species of moths and butterflies. “The meadow itself is this magical enclave,” explains Gemma. “There is an old hunt jump in one corner of the field. Climb over that and you’re straight out into the forest. If you walk far enough, you’ll emerge at the pub in the village of Warehorne, which is perfect.” (In our book, all good campsites require a walk to a village pub and an easy meal.)

the spot house farm camping meadow. the grasses—which are threaded with  13
Above: The Spot House Farm camping meadow. The grasses—which are threaded with birdsfoot trefoils and knapweed—are kept long in the summer, with paths mown through them.
a view through the canvas. 14
Above: A view through the canvas.

Growing up, Gemma camped in the same meadow, and it was during lockdown that she rediscovered its magic. “I really felt for anyone living in a city at that time,” she says. “I suddenly appreciated just how lucky we were to have this space,  and I wanted other people to experience it because it is just so gorgeous, so peaceful.”

the beds are dressed with vintage woolen blankets and a throw from shepherd eng 15
Above: The beds are dressed with vintage woolen blankets and a throw from Shepherd England, Gemma’s own studio. The washbasin and jug were sourced from a local brocante.

Gemma has set up two bell tents—one large and one little—and furnished them with “proper beds” (another prerequisite for happy camping). In the larger tent there is a super king, two single beds, and space for a third generous camp bed. There’s even an “old-school washstand” at the foot of the bed so you won’t find yourself brushing your teeth in a bush at the end of the night. There’s also a log burner and armchairs in each (tick: this is the UK).

spot house farm 5m tent
Above: In the smaller tent, there is a double bed and space for up to two singles. The bedside tables have been made by Gemma’s husband, Joel, using reclaimed timber salvaged from the historical buildings he repairs.
the spot house farm field kitchen. &#8\2\20;for me, this really makes the w 17
Above: The Spot House Farm field kitchen. “For me, this really makes the whole site,” says Gemma.

Outside, three off-grid corrugated tin structures are spaced out around the edge of the field: an outdoor field kitchen, a long-drop toilet, and a heated, open-air shower in the shade of an ancient oak. These were designed by Gemma and made by her husband, Joel, a master carpenter.

&#8\2\20;the structures are simple, pared back, agricultural designs that h 18
Above: “The structures are simple, pared-back, agricultural designs that have been gently styled,” Gemma explains. “We wanted a quiet design that would look like a field shelter for animals during the winter months when they’re not in use.”
the spot house farm welcome pack contains cold blow coffee, which is roasted an 19
Above: The Spot House Farm welcome pack contains Cold Blow Coffee, which is roasted and ground in one of the converted outbuildings on the farm.
eggs come from the free range spot house farm flock. 20
Above: Eggs come from the free-range Spot House Farm flock.

Ten minutes from the campsite is Gemma’s studio where, for two decades, she has created luxurious, statement wearable accessories and homewares in graphically bold compositions using only superfine lambswool. Campers can arrange to visit the studio whilst staying at the farm.

gemma shepherd&#8\2\17;s eponymous studio, shepherd england. 21
Above: Gemma Shepherd’s eponymous studio, Shepherd England.
the shepherd england wrap/blanket/throw, preferable to a poncho. 22
Above: The Shepherd England Wrap/Blanket/Throw, preferable to a poncho.
spot house farm cattle. 23
Above: Spot House Farm cattle.

At the end of the season, the tents are packed away and the cattle are reintroduced to the meadow. “The site is really low impact,” explains Gemma. “That’s was really important to us. In September, the campsite has gone and the animals are out there again. It goes back to being fully wild.”

N.B.: Stays are available from £350 per night for both tents. For much more, head to Spot House Farm.

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