We visit Southwaite Green Mill in the Lake District...
The Lake District’s award-winning residential park Southwaite Green Mill Country Park has an interesting backstory. Originally a Corn Mill which ceased production in the 1950s, Southwaite Green Mill was then owned by the Bardgett Family who ran a caravan site in its picturesque grounds on the outskirts of the market town of Penrith. Another local family, the Heaths, who were well-known in the caravan trade having run Lakeland Caravans for several generations, purchased Southwaite Green Mill in 1973. Jill Heath takes up the story: “My husband’s father John used to site and sell caravans in the local area and the Bardgett family was one of his clients,” explains Jill.
“After taking ownership of the park, our family continued to operate the site as a caravan holiday park, alongside developing a fish farming business that continued until the early 1990s.” In 1994, the Heaths purchased a plot of land from Lowther Estates that lies behind the original park and decided to develop Southwaite Green Mill as a residential park. “We had noticed that residential parks were starting to become more popular in the southern parts of the UK,” says Jill. “But there didn’t seem to be many developments in the north, so we set upon making our own.” At first, the Heaths thought that their new residential park would attract potential residents from elsewhere in the country who wished to retire in the beautiful surroundings of the Lake District.
Southwaite Green Mill is superbly located alongside the scenic River Eamont, just a few minutes’ drive from England’s second largest lake, Ullswater. Instead, Jill explains, they were inundated with enquiries from local residents. “We were really surprised by the amount of local interest. Our aim was to create a nice, village-type environment for the over 50s with private homes and gardens that didn’t require too much upkeep. “We expected people who had perhaps visited the area on holiday to enquire but in the end, many of our residents are people who have lived in the Lakes for a number of years. It makes for a lovely atmosphere here, a real home from home.”
Southwaite Green Mill currently has 60 park homes in-situ. Each of the homes has its own private drive and garden. Most of the plots also have space for a garage subject to local planning. All of the homes have underground piped LPG, metered electric, and mains water services. Great emphasis has been placed on ensuring the residents’ security and peace of mind. The park has electronic entry gates, and its careful landscaping has, in part, led to the park being honoured with the David Bellamy Gold Conservation Award. Such is the success of the park that Jill and John Heath and their family are currently working on the second phase of Southwaite Green Mill, which will comprise an additional 40 homes when completed.
The new ‘Watersedge’ development will be phased in gradually over the next few years. The first row of plots, which offers the added attraction of lovely river views, is the first area under development. “The market is pretty buoyant at the moment and there’s been a lot of interest in the new homes,” says Jill. “Recently we had a unit sold on the park within just two weeks!” Timescales for completion are dependent not only on sales but on manufacturers’ ability to fulfil orders for residential homes.
Jill says that their close working relationship with preferred supplier Stately has ensured that Southwaite Green Mill is ahead of the game. “The industry has seen order dates being pushed back due to the pandemic,” explains Jill, “but we thought ahead and booked manufacturing slots in advance with Stately which has enabled us to be more responsive to customer orders. We work with a number of different manufacturers according to each home-owners wishes but we have always found Stately in particular to offer great quality building and furniture, as well as excellent after sales.”
Jill and John Heath have two sons and two daughters who are all involved in the running of Southwaite Green Mill, as well as its sister park, Hillcroft, in nearby Pooley Bridge. The family acquired Hillcroft Park in 2012 and have developed it into a multi award-winning holiday park, covering over 50 acres of land and including 200+ privately owned luxury lodges and holiday homes, as well as traditional camping pitches, pods, glamping, and two fully-equipped, self-catering cottages and a large house in the heart of the lakeside village.
There’s no doubt that Southwaite Green Mill and Hillcroft Park owe much of their success to having such a superb location in the heart of the Lakes, but personal service has a lot to say for their continued popularity. The fact that Southwaite Green Mill is a family owned and family run park is an added attraction to potential home owners and an asset to residents. Jill and John lived in the old Mill House on site for more than 20 years and like nothing more than stopping by to have a chat with their old neighbours. Such is their commitment to residents that Jill can even be found chipping in and driving their weekly private minibus service into Penrith on Mondays!