5 months ago

Open Air Business February 2018

The UK's outdoor hospitality business magazine for function venues, glamping, festivals and outdoor events


EXPLORING LUXURY Portobello Tents is a luxury British glamping company that provides stylish bespoke canvas accommodation at festivals, weddings and events across the UK and beyond. +44 (0) 20 7993 8018 .

FUNCTION VENUES CASE STUDY Church Farm Weddings A charming field venue with owners that couldn’t do more to help their couples on their wedding days Kate and Will (‘Willow’) Bicknell host six to eight weddings a year from their farm. They work with couples to create their vision, with thoughtful touches and a whole lot of effort to ensure the day goes without a hitch, be that escorting elderly guests, timekeeping for the band or ferrying belongings to the campsite. We talk to Will. When did you start your venue business and what is its history? We started the wedding and outside events side of our business in 2012. Church Farm was a much larger working dairy and arable farm originally, though has progressively shrunk in size with each owner. It was a horticultural nursery for a time then was sold to the previous owners, a wonderful couple - Jane and Mick O’Cock (Brigadier O’Cock to give him his official title). They had lived here for over 30 years and had come to the decision to move to somewhere smaller and more manageable. Kate and I moved here in 2004. Tell us about your location and site We are in a charming village called Kington Langley, situated just outside the town of Chippenham, between Bath and Swindon. Although it’s a beautiful village surrounded by countryside we are only a couple of miles from junction 17 of the M4 so it is very good for access - Bristol’s 30 minutes away, with a great airport, London is under two hours (under an hour by train from Chippenham). The farm is 10 acres in total so we are lucky to have a large main field we use for the marquees and main reception area. There are smaller meadows that we use for camping with one of the shepherds huts, and brides are welcome to use our own private garden for welcome drinks or speeches. We have a totally separate driveway for the wedding guests with a beautiful old cow byre building that we have restored to “THE FARM IS 10 ACRES IN TOTAL SO WE ARE LUCKY TO HAVE A LARGE MAIN FIELD WE USE FOR THE MARQUEES AND MAIN RECEPTION AREA” house the garden machinery. It also has covered space with tables and water etc. for the florists to work in. The ‘Kings Meadow’ field (named as a horse harness buckle was discovered there by some metal detectorists emblazoned with the three lions of Richard the Lion Heart) has a central area and ‘activity areas’ that we mow regularly so the grass is lush. We leave the rest of the meadow to grow tall with grasses and wild flowers. There is a magical copse with a number of paths mown to it where many of our couples have a blessing. The Willow Meadow is about an acre divided into three ‘rooms’ - one for the rowdier guest campers, one for the early to bed and guests with children, and one with our charming living van (like a shepherds hut but better!) where the bride and groom may spend their wedding night. We have recently restored a second shepherds hut and are currently making furniture for it (and arguing about what colours it should be painted!) that will be available as more accommodation this season - although it has been used to serve drinks from in our garden on a number of occasions. Four years ago we planted a living willow temple which now is looking amazing and some of our brides have expressed interest in using it for a blessing. A wellness teacher is planning on holding classes there too. WWW.OPENAIRBUSINESS.COM 13