A family run camping and leisure site has invested in an electric Yamaha UMX to help manage its facilities. Hopleys Family Camping has grown significantly since it was established in 2005. A former fruit farm, the site now includes a farm shop, restaurant and bar, with camping and glamping pitches. “We bought the Yamaha last year, following a trial from local dealer Nomark Equip, and we don’t know how we managed without it. The staff have found it easy to use and it is now an essential tool,” says owner Justin Hopley.
Justin grew up on his family’s soft fruit farm a mile outside the historic town of Bewdley. “My father was a teacher in Birmingham but because we had the land he had always farmed too. There was an opportunity to move and buy more land, so he took it, and for more than thirty years we ran a soft fruit farm focusing on strawberries and raspberries,” explains Justin.
The family opened a farm shop in 1982 and also ran a pick your own (PYO) in the soft fruit season. “Most of the produce was sold at Birmingham market but the farm shop grew in popularity and the PYO was well attended throughout the summer months,” says Justin. However, even though the family secured a contract with Safeway to supply fruit, the margins were tight and when Justin took control of the farm it was clear that further diversification was needed. “It was getting harder to balance the books and, when I took control in 2000, we started thinking about how we could better utilise our land,” he says.
In 2005, working with the Camping and Caravanning Club, Justin started a small certified location (CL). “It was just five pitches and then we applied for planning permission to expand because we were always booked up,” he says. The planning permission was a slow process and it took two years before a further 15 caravan pitches were granted. “We had seen how other local farms had created successful camping sites on their land and we believed we could achieve something similar,” he adds.
Hopleys Family Camping is now a thriving business with pitches for 54 caravans, 130 tents and nine glamping units including two tepees, four yurts, four bell tents and a shepherd’s hut. Justin now rents the farm shop out and has turned his attention to catering. Three years ago he opened The Rustic, a pizza and burger restaurant with a bar. “My son runs the kitchen and my daughter is going to be joining us this year too,” says Justin. To manage the site Justin has employed wardens and cleaners to help service the campers and look after the site’s pitches and three toilet blocks. “It has become a much bigger business than we anticipated but we are lucky to have such good staff to help us,” he adds.
Justin’s staff use the Yamaha UMX for most daily duties around the site. “It’s particularly good at night if we need to attend a pitch to attend to any maintenance jobs because it is so quiet and the lights are brilliant,” he says. Another advantage of the UMX running on electric is the lack of emissions. “We have previously used two small tractors to do most jobs on the site. Parking a tractor next to a pitch when someone is trying to have breakfast is far from ideal and so using the UMX offers us a much more customer friendly alternative,” he explains.
Justin still makes use of his father’s 1960s David Brown 770 and also runs a twelve-year-old Kubota F3060. “The David Brown is an icon and people love it. However, it is not the most practical machine to use for daily work and that is why we bought the Kubota,”. The tractors take care of the weekly mowing work and move customer’s caravans on and off pitches. The Kubota is fitted with a five-foot front mounted mower with mulcher and the site still makes use of an old Major finishing mower. “The tractors are essential, but neither is that user friendly. Our cleaners and wardens needed a vehicle that was easy to just jump in to and the Yamaha is a good fit,” he says.
The UMX has been fitted with grass tyres to manage the slopes and areas surrounding the pitches on the site. “We often have to travel over wet fields and the UMX is capable of pulling a small trailer, so we wanted the grass tyres to help with traction. It is very good off road and whilst it is not capable of doing what the tractors can, it is more suited to the relatively easy terrain we have here,” explains Justin. The cargo area on the back of the UMX is capable of carrying 455 kilos and even when loaded it can tow a further 362 kilos. “We use it for transporting rubbish, carrying suitcases for customers who have arrived by train. What has surprised us is that even when it is being used all day we never run out of charge,” says Justin.
For Justin, the key benefit of choosing an electric machine has been the running costs. “It costs practically nothing to run. We have had it a year and because there are no moving parts in the engine, we haven’t had to spend a penny,” he says. An overnight charge is sufficient to power the UMX for a day of regular use and the cost of charging the 5 k/W battery is a tiny fraction of using petrol or diesel which makes it both environmentally friendly and cost effective to run. “We grease the suspension and wheels, but it’s hard to find anything else it needs. The suspension is a great benefit and certainly makes the UMX a much easier machine to live with than a tractor,” he says.
Using tractors was also having an adverse effect on the grass, especially in wet conditions. “The weight of the tractors was compacting the soil and damaging the grass. Using the UMX means we are much more sympathetic to the ground and we save ourselves time and money repairing land that would be damaged by tractor use,” says Justin. He uses the UMX for routine tasks like fence maintenance and the manoeuvrability enables him reach tight spots. “Sometimes it felt like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut with the tractors and I just wish I had bought one of these UTV’s earlier,” he says.
Justin could have chosen to invest in a petrol or diesel equivalent. However, he says that electric was definitely the right option for Hopleys. “There is plenty of power for what we need. The equivalent Kubota diesel machines were as much as £18,000 and the Yamaha was half the cost. We also looked at second-hand golf buggies but we weren’t keen on the look and feel,” he explains. Having used the UMX for twelve months Justin is even considering a second. “There is often competition amongst the staff for who gets to use it and because it has been so useful and cheap to run, I am starting to think that another would be a worthwhile investment,” he concludes.