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"I have made real friendships with many owners. How better to get to know someone than walking through a woodland chatting or sharing a brew around a fire?"

Tom Dixon founded Canopy & Stars in 2010, after months of travelling up and down the country visiting the first batch of spaces before glamping really existed. He explains why inspecting is so important and discusses the highs and lows of life on the road. He hates all these photos. 

TomEdited

More than a formality

An inspection sounds like a very formal and boring thing you reluctantly have to do. You inspect a hire car when collecting it, or worse still, with a mix of hope and fear, when you return it covered in mud and sand. But Canopy & Stars inspections are a joy, one of the best things about the job; the time when It doesn’t even feel like a job, but instead a hobby. A good inspection is a moment of pause to truly appreciate ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘who’ makes a place into somewhere we want to add to the collection. So, it’s way more than either a perk or a ‘check list’ formality. They have huge value and are rewarding and important on so many levels. We get a feel for whether or not a space really offers a connection to nature, meet the people who created it and provide our Guest Experience Team with the information they need to answer any questions.   

In the beginning 

Back when I first started Canopy & Stars in 2009, I was our whole inspection team. My role depended on who you asked. Some owners thought I was some kind of ‘Inspector in Chief’, but to myself I was ‘guy in an unreliable, ageing gas car that was coming to chat’. It was a great time, touring around the UK, walking around woodlands and meadows, and thinking about the launch of the business and what we were going to do. It was also made more leisurely as we hadn’t launched yet and so didn’t have any guests or owners to manage. Once we’d launched, things got very busy, but we’ve never changed the emphasis we place on an inspection.  

Tom Dixon and daughtercrop

Getting everyone out there

As much as I love visiting places and meeting owners, I’ve always recognised that for anyone in the team, whether they’re in finance, IT or marketing, you can’t properly do your job if you don’t understand the people running the places we market or haven’t had the opportunity to meet the guests who stay there too. So, as we’ve grown, we’ve shared inspections around the whole team. It makes everyone’s job make more sense. Even though we now have fancy-sounding teams like Business Development, who spend all day searching out new places to join us, the actual job of inspecting is no single person’s role (as awesome as that role would be).  

Personal connection

As well as keeping us grounded in what we do, inspecting also gives us a personal relationship with an owner from the beginning, something that can never be achieved via email, phone or zoom. I have made real friendships with many owners, because how better to get to know someone than walking through a woodland chatting or sharing a brew around a fire? I have a very fond memory of getting snowed in with Walter at Inshriach near Aviemore. A one-day inspection turned into three nights. Another time, when arriving at a place in France, I was given a huge platter of freshly made sushi and a warm fire to sit by. Our owners are always so generous and welcoming and that’s what makes our places so special too. If we don’t visit them, we simply wouldn’t understand this.  

Tom1

Hello to The Big Trip  

We launched with 10 spaces and today we have over 850, so our approach to inspections has had to change a bit too. We’ve become a lot more organised about how we manage them from a cost, time and environmental perspective, which led to the creation of “The Big Trip”. Some of my best memories of Canopy & Stars have been the epic trips I’ve taken with my partner Vashti and our kids. Huge adventures through France, covering 1000s of miles, firstly with a pregnant side passenger, then a baby in arms, then a toddler and finally with a toddler and another baby on the way, which was when they started to be a bit tougher. I remember every second of two hours of screaming before we wearily pulled up at our fourth stop of the day, and the time we had to deal with explosive toddler car sickness shortly before launching into meeting a new owner. But there were always way more highs than lows and the number of brie and grape baguettes we got through is probably baffling.  

Work/life confusion

I have to confess that one of my best ever big trips was a solo one to Scandinavia that took me mountain biking in Norway, staying in a UFO in Sweden and ended up in a dome in the arctic circle in Finland. That was one hell of a few days 'at the office'. I’m pretty sure it was a work trip, although as ever the boundary between business and pleasure was almost impossible to discern. The fact that so many of my real holidays are with Canopy & Stars too only adds to ongoing confusion as to what’s work and what’s not. But that’s why I love what we do so much, because even the functional bit is fun. It's why every inspection feels like a lucky and wonderful thing to get to do and why we’ll never stop visiting our places. 

Planning your own Big Trip?

We don't recommend packing three or four places into a day like Tom had to, but a couple into a week works beautifully. Browse our whole glamping collection, see our regional guides for trip ideas or get in touch with our friendly Guest Experience Team for help planning the perfect adventure.