A North Devon farming family made more than £20,000 by opening a temporary campsite at the end of the first Covid-19 lockdown.

New regulations allow farmers to operate a campsite without planning permission for 56 days and this has been extended to 2021.

Paul and Lesley Nicholas of Girt Down Farm near Combe Martin rear a suckler herd of 60 Angus x Devons, put to a Limousin bull, and 500 Beulah Speckled Face ewes – a hardly native Welsh breed that does well on the hill farms of Exmoor.

They decided to open as a campsite for the first time last year as the UK came out of the first lockdown.

By the end of the season, the campsite had generated around £22,000.

Lesley said: “We went live on Pitchup.com at teatime on August 8 and by bedtime, we had 30 bookings, including eight for the next day.

“It was a shock, but a good one.

“We’ll definitely be doing it again this year, and this time we’ll get Pitchup to take the money as well, so it will be even more streamlined.”

Paul added that operating the campsite had not interfered with the running of the farm.

Despite the Beulahs living outside all year round, they lamb in April, meaning the campsite doesn’t operate during their busiest period.

“The campsite is open in our quieter times, so it complements the farm well,” he said.

“A lot of the visitors walked down into the village and spent money there, so the wider community benefited from the campsite. Many also showed a real interest in what we do, so it helped to educate them about farming and where their food comes from.

“If you’re looking at ways of diversifying your revenue stream, a temporary campsite is probably the quickest, easiest and least disruptive way of doing that.”

Pitchup.com, an outdoor accommodation provider, believes that farmers and landowners could earn up to £7,000 per day by opening a temporary campsite during the holiday season.

Founder Dan Yates said the government’s decision to maintain the 56-day ruling throughout 2021 was a real boom for the rural economy.

Previously, rural businesses could only operate a campsite for 28 days without planning permission, but this was extended in June last year to help the post-Covid recovery.

Currently, the extension only applies in England, but the UK’s devolved administrations are also expected to follow suit shortly.

Mr Yates said: “Staycations have seen a surge in popularity over recent years and in the light of Covid-19, this trend will only get stronger.

“Temporary campsites are a fantastic way of generating significant extra revenue with very little investment and next to no disruption to day-to-day business operations.

“And with sites able to operate for 56 days without planning permission throughout 2021, they’re a lifeline for struggling land-based business as well as a shot in the arm for remote rural economies.”

All farms need to do to set up a campsite is hire portable toilets and showers.