“We were all stuck at home and I was trying to find things to do with the kids,” explains Derry, 39. “As the days turned into weeks and months, I kept building.”
A seating area followed, as did some decking, a hot tub, a sauna, and a garden pod. Derry kept people updated on Facebook and, before long, he was going viral on social media amongst people dreaming of a lockdown getaway.
“People from all over were contacting me asking if they could come and stay!” says Derry. “I could see a business opportunity so I went for it and founded Secret Garden Glamping. Within three days, I was fully booked for two years.
“The demand was there, it was just about how fast I could build things,” adds Derry of his burgeoning Skelmersdale-based business. “It’s like I’m a big kid again being paid to build dens in the woods!”
Boasting idyllic views from a 2.5-acre plot of woodland as well as luxury amenities across all seven of their holiday pods, Secret Garden Glamping has exploded, recently being named ‘Best New Tourism Business’ at the 2021 Lancashire Tourism Awards.
With an array of pods, lodges, and yurts, the glamping site offers a balance of rural and rustic with modern and glamorous, with all units boasting hot tubs as well as features such as underfloor heating, outdoor TVs, bar areas, saunas, and log burners.
“I never know what I’m building when I start, I just start,” explains Derry, from Standish. “It’s about my vision and keeping it organic; everyday is exciting because I’m learning something new, doing something new, or meeting someone new.
“I love doing that little bit extra - I don’t want to be like Centre Parcs where people are just another number,” he adds. “Winning awards has been a highlight because I never started this as a business; if I had, it wouldn’t be what it is now, which is a passion.
“I couldn’t believe I was up for Best New Tourism Business, let alone the winner! We were up against Hilton! How can you compete against them? I’m just building stuff in the woods!”
Not only has Secret Garden Glamping proved popular with the punters, but it has also attracted interest from TV, being featured on BBC1, E4, and Channel 4 as part of programmes including Hot Tubs Brits, Four in a Bed, and Celebs Go Dating.
And, with a waiting list of 30,000, Derry is far from finished building, with plans in the works to add another unit later this year and another five if they get permission to expand the site. He’s even harbouring ambitions to open a second site.
“The future is all about keeping that sense of fun and momentum,” says Derry. “I want to explore new ideas and outdo myself with each new unit.”