Word Of Mouth Existing residents are Park Home Life’s best sales assets….
Swindon-based residential park operator Park Home Life first established its roots as a mobile home transport company in the 1960s. Some 60 years ago, the family business purchased their first park – Pine View Park in Bedfordshire. The company’s portfolio expanded during the 1980s and 1990s, adding four more parks, before re-branding as Park Home Life five years ago.
Today, the company’s Head Office operates from one of its two flagship parks, Blunsdon Abbey Park in Swindon, Wiltshire, which was acquired by the business in 1997. The original Pine View Park remains part of the portfolio, alongside Orchard Park and Wildwood Park in Gloucestershire, and Hillcrest Park in Wythall, West Midlands. Employing a staff of ten, as well as a number of subcontractors, Park Home Life is led by General Manager, Nick Bond- Powell, who joined the business in 2003.
Nick says the business’ main goal is to aim to provide excellent quality homes with driveways, garages, mains utilities and fibre broadband, in a warm, friendly community. “The residents are at the heart of everything we do,” explains Nick. “If you visit on one of our park open days, you will find our residents serving the teas and coffees, and ‘selling’ the positives of park living to their future neighbours. “Our parks are all about building and supporting that old fashioned community feeling.
We actively encourage activities, and it’s fair to say that the majority of our residents enjoy a fantastic social life!” Social activities for the 50+ community at Blunsdon Abbey Park are centred round the recently refurbished Social Hall, part of a former country mansion that was destroyed by fire in 1904.
The park enjoys a unique setting within the conservation area of the parish of Blunsdon St Andrew to the north of Swindon. Since 2010, Park Home Life has been redeveloping the park’s 85 homes, creating larger plots that are better-equipped for modern needs. New park homes, which border the ruins and parkland of the former Blunsdon Abbey House, now outnumber the original older-style, rental properties.
Seven new plots have recently been completed in the redevelopment of an area known as Main Drive. Each of these plots has been sympathetically constructed to a high specification, and also offers attractive views of the Abbey. A similar re-development programme is underway at Park Home Life’s other flagship park, Orchard Park.
A well-established community in the village of Twigworth, situated on the edge of the Cotswolds, Orchard Park will comprise close to 140 homes when fully developed. The first part of the latest development of 21 new homes called The Ribstons is due to complete mid-April 2020.
As at Blunsdon, every home comes with a private garden, garage and adjacent driveway. Purchasers can choose from different sizes of plots and reserve off-plan for a home of their choice. “We are pleased to work with all manufacturers,” says Nick. “Most of our properties tend to be two bedroom homes from Oak grove, Tingdene and Omar to name just a few, but it’s all about customer preference at the end of the day.”
“Many of our clients do their own extensive research. We had a customer recently purchase a plot on one of our parks who had visited 83 parks before he found the one he wanted to call home!
Our team has a can-do attitude… we will always do everything within our power to keep our customer’s happy.” Having a customer-centric ethos has allowed the business to ride out the difficult trading conditions of recent years. “The last two years have been tough for the housing market in general,” says Nick. “We support and hold the hands of our customers all the way through their property sale and park home purchase. “Now that the country is moving on from Brexit and the general election is out of the way we are optimistic we will see a further rise in consumer and market confidence.”
With the park home industry having mostly turned a corner image-wise, Park Home Life spends a large proportion of its budget on marketing to reinforce the now more accepted positive benefits of park home living.
In Nick’s words, “this, and putting into practice the highest standards on our parks, reaps dividends. In the end, it’s all about customer confidence in our product.” For the future, Nick and his team are focusing on completing their existing redevelopments. “Our redevelopment programme has been a constant now for ten years,” explains Nick. “That’s where our immediate plans lie. Once we get the 21 homes completed at Orchard Park, we will have more of the same on this and our other properties. “We want to bring the latest innovations and quality standards of the industry to our existing portfolio, and make our parks the best they can be. Beyond that, who knows what the future holds…”
Low Carrs is one of seven parks in the Maguire family portfolio…
A family business in wholesale carpets and flooring changed tack in 1981 when Billy Maguire Senior invested in Low Carrs, a residential park with 50 homes just five minutes walk from the city of Durham. In 2001, when Billy’s son, also Billy Maguire Senior, took over the running of Low Carrs, Maguires Country Parks was born. Today, Low Carrs is one of seven parks in the family-run portfolio that includes two residential developments - Low Carrs and the new Hurworth Springs Country Park; the award-winning Ord House Country Park, which offers a mix of residential homes, holiday homes, touring pitches and glamping pods; as well as four other ‘Country Parks’ - The Kaims, Forget Me Not, Newbus Grange and Swainby - that all feature privately owned holiday homes. Each of the Maguire’s parks is located in the northeast of England, close to the family’s roots in Darlington. Billy’s grandsons - Gilbert, Nathan and Billy Junior – are all Company Directors and heavily involved in the daily running of the parks, but with an expanding portfolio, this year saw the appointment of Maguires Country Parks first non-family Directors. Gilbert explains: “Scott Mounsey, Gretchen Wardman and Wayne Jones have all joined us this year, bringing their expertise to the company. Scott is our first-ever Financial Director. With their extensive corporate background, mixed with our family values, we hope this appointment will help us grow the business from strength to strength.” It’s clear from talking to Gilbert that these family values are held in the highest regard. The park’s business is in the Maguire’s blood. “I’ve grown up with these parks,” says Gilbert fondly. “I’ve known a couple of the residents of Low Carrs all my life. I spent most of my summers there, mowing the grass and helping out on the park whilst my Grandad sold the homes. I left school at 16 and we bought Newbus Grange the very next day. We eat and breathe the business as a family.” This commitment has paid dividends at the flagship Ord House Country Park, located close to picturesque Berwick-upon-Tweed, the northernmost town in England. Ord House, bought by the family in 2003, has a growing list of accolades that Gilbert says is “testament to our exceptional team.” From winning ‘Best Park in the North East’, to gaining a ‘Certificate Of Excellence’ from TripAdvisor for consistent 5 Star reviews, to being rated 5 Star in the ‘Loo Of The Year’ awards for their washroom facilities, Ord House is a true success story.
TOP NOTCH With just 20 residential homes, Ord House is predominately a holiday park with privately owned homes benefitting from an abundance of top-notch facilities. Development is afoot with residential change of use secured for 60 plots, which will see Ord House welcome many more permanent residents in the near future. Ord House may have attracted the attention so far but hot on its heels is a new passion project. Gilbert says that “Hurworth Springs is the development we are most excited about as a family.” “Hurworth Springs is the first time that we haven’t inherited someone else’s vision and planning. Essentially, this park is a blank canvas, which affords us the chance to completely develop our own residential park from scratch. I’m so excited about this opportunity. And the fact that it’s situated just a mile outside Darlington, where we all grew up, is so important to us all… it truly feels like it’s meant to be.” The Maguire family have invested in Hurworth Springs financially as well as emotionally. Over five million pounds has been ploughed into the development and the park is now starting to take shape with 20 of the eventual 122 homes already occupied and residents starting to personalise their properties with their own touches. Hurworth Springs offers plenty of choice for prospective homeowners. “We offer everything from single units to huge twins with bi fold doors and every model in between. That’s another advantage of designing this park from scratch,” explains Gilbert. The Maguires work closely with several different manufacturers including Willerby and Pemberton Park Homes, but many of the homes on Hurworth Springs are supplied by ABI Holiday Homes, hand built in Beverley, East Yorkshire.
DIFFERENT AND MODERN
“We had a vision to create something different and modern at Hurworth Springs,” says Gilbert. “We wanted to move away from the traditional park home look and feel, and Abides Can Exel cladded homes fit the bill. The homes at Hurworth Springs look more like wooden lodges and combine good looks with quality and great performance, alongside minimal maintenance.” Hurworth Springs represents a first, not only for the Maguire family but also for the northeast of England. “The concept of residential park living is increasingly popular down south but it’s a new concept in the northeast,” explains Gilbert. “Educating prospective purchasers about the benefits of park home living is a pleasure. We love to challenge perceptions that bricks and mortar aren’t the be all and end all!” “First time visitors are completely blown away by the quality of the homes when they see them. People almost expect to still see oil lamps inside!” laughs Gilbert. But the message is a serious one. The family believe that these luxurious, fully furnished, one-level homes could provide a solution to the shortage of easy access bungalows in the area, and also alleviate loneliness in the over 50s, creating an old-fashioned sense of community. “Living on one of our parks is about peace of mind and security,” says Gilbert. “Residents can relax safe in the knowledge that we, as a family, will look after them.”
Underlining its reputation as one of the leading holiday park shows in Europe, this month’s Holiday Park Innovation aims to attract over 4,000 key decision makers in the industry to the NEC for its unmissable annual gathering. For added appeal, the event from November 6 to 7 inclusive, reinforces its recipe for success by running other rural shows alongside, including the Farm Business Innovation Show, Family Attraction Expo, and our launch show, the Leisure Food and Beverage Expo. The Holiday Park & Resort Innovation Show is dedicated to providing the country’s most ambitious holiday park and resort owners and managers with the best advice, services, and products to make their holiday business stand out from the rest. With 400 exhibitors and 170 seminars dedicated to the industry, it’s the perfect opportunity to create the idyllic getaway for your customers. Learn the latest industry knowledge and gain insight into the newest innovations and technology currently available. If the exhibitors themselves were not enough to pack your visit, over the two days, the organisers offer a tempting seminar programme backed by insightful speakers.
Take some time to visit the Keynote theatre from 11 am to 4 pm. On both days speakers will be covering topics as broad as Post-Brexit Tourism, Maximising the Natural Environment, and Busting Outdoor Accommodation Myths while Hoseasons’ Shelley D’Arcy discusses the benefits of using land for the holiday market. Three other theatres offer stand-out presentations from 11 am to 4 pm daily covering subjects as varied as holiday hot tubs, playground design, to water conservation. Look out for Vicky Parr, from Visit England, discussing ways of boosting your business for holiday makers in the UK while Dave Courteen of Mosaic Spa and Health Clubs will outline How to Create a Profitable On-Site Leisure. So what are you waiting for? Register for your free tickets via the Holiday Park & Resort Innovation show website with your chance to see the show first hand.
As the main media partner to the event, Holiday Park Scene is a B2B print and on-line magazine for the holiday park sector, earning itself a reputation as an essential read for anyone involved in holiday park management. Packed with fresh ideas and essential reading for anyone who runs or works in a holiday park the magazine is available on-line at www.holidayparkscene.com Holiday Park Scene offers the inside track on the latest market news and reports covering all aspects of holiday park management. Most importantly, Holiday Park Scene provides you with a targeted platform to promote your products and services across all areas of the UK and Eire holiday park sector. If you would like to get involved with this exciting publication, please don`t hesitate to visit the team at the show or make direct contact now, to help us understand how to make you stand out from the crowd.
British Holiday & Home Parks Association Tel. 01452 526911 Web. bhhpa.org.uk
The Parks business is in Nic Allen’s blood. Now Managing Director of Avon Estates, Nic’s grandfather Bill was the well-known founder of the eponymous Allen’s Caravans in the 1950s. Allen’s Caravans was initially focused on holiday parks but Bill returned from a visit to the USA in the 1960s enthused with the trend for residential park living across the pond. Inspired to take things in a new direction, this move would change the trajectory of his family’s business interests for years to come. When Nic’s father John decided to move away from Allen’s Caravans in 1984 taking three parks with him, Avon Estates was born. The company’s first residential park was bought in 1989 – St Mary’s in Birmingham – and was only sold last year. Today, Avon Estates owns and operates six leading residential parks As well as five luxury holiday parks. Under the leadership of Nic Allen for the past eight years since his father John passed away, the company has doubled in size and significantly increased its residential portfolio. FAMILY BUSINESS “I’ve been involved in the family business for 20 years, but since I’ve been at the helm of Avon Estates, growing the residential side of the company has been my preference”, explains Nic. “Not that we have neglected our holiday parks. We have just completed a £4 million renovation at our flagship Stratford Park. But as my father and grandfather identified, park homes more easily guarantee a steady income and lead to a stronger business model that can literally weather all seasons. ” During the last 18 months, Nic has secured two brand new parks and alongside a couple of other joint ventures, this makes a total of 320 residential bases to be installed. Nic estimates that this represents at least 10 years of future development. “We have many new parks in the pipeline and last autumn we acquired the five-star caravan and camping park, Broadmeadow Park, in Ross-on-Wye, where we plan to add some residential homes,” says Nic. “Having achieved a level playing field in the business means that I now have more time to focus on acquisition.” With this in mind, history has come full circle with the setting up of a new company six months ago, a joint venture between the two family businesses, Avon Estates and Allen’s Caravans. Out of the six residential parks in the Avon Estates portfolio, three are currently the primary focus: Marston Edge and Welford Chase close to Warwickshire’s Stratford-upon-Avon, and Presthope Grange in Shropshire. IDYLLIC VILLAGE Welford Chase is a select riverside development of just 28 brand new plots for the over 50s in the idyllic village of Welford-onAvon, boasting outstanding country and riverside views. The centre of the village, which is situated just four miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon, is designated as a conservation area and contains a number of attractive thatched houses, including what is believed to be the original “chocolate box cottage” in Boat Lane, reputedly the most photographed street in Warwickshire. Marston Edge is another new park in a stunning location on the edge of the beautiful Cotswolds. 49 single storey homes are surrounded by the serenity of the Cotswold Hills whilst having the lively buzz of the market towns of Stratford-upon-Avon and Chipping Campden just a few miles away. To the west in historical Shropshire, the new hillside development of Presthope Grange is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty. 130 park homes are being developed here, on a site that lies 1000 feet above sea level among rolling hills and picturesque woodland, just 10 minutes from the pretty market town of Much Wenlock. It’s obvious that location is of paramount importance across the Avon Estates portfolio and Nic admits to being “very picky” about the geographical areas they invest in. “We are completely location driven when we are looking to purchase holiday or residential parks,” says Nic. “Most of our parks are close to tourist hotspots and even the newest one in Ross-on-Wye is situated just a couple of hundred metres from the picturesque town centre. I can’t think of a better retirement destination!” Avon Estates Head Office is itself located just minutes away from historic Stratford-upon-Avon on its riverside holiday park. A team of just over 100 are employed across the business but the majority are on the holiday park side. Sales are managed in-house but development is handled by Park Evolution and most other roles such as maintenance and landscaping are contracted out. SMOOTH OPERATOR Nic says his excellent relationship with manufacturer Omar helps to keep the stocking plans of the parks running smoothly but he works with a number of different home manufacturers depending on individual customer requirements. Nic recognises that this is a business in which the customer is king. “We are getting to the stage where we are quite a large operator now,” explains Nic, “but still operate an open door and open book policy, and we meet every customer who joins us. All the residents have my mobile number and I spend a lot of time on the parks.” Nic is proud that the family values that have always been significant in Avon Estates, still permeate the business as it grows ever bigger. “The park homes business is a constant learning curve but we are getting closer to getting it right. We pride ourselves on our customer service. From the moment of first enquiry, to looking after our customers during the move, and onto the handover and after sales, Avon Estates is second to none.” “I’ve learnt so much over the last few years and the sector is constantly changing. I think the biggest challenge is still people’s perception of what a park home is. Some customers literally cannot believe their eyes when they visit one of our show homes! Everyone in the industry is trying their hardest to up their game and transform the old prejudices. We’ve come a long way in the last 10 years but there is still some way to go.”
Holiday park owners who improve the quality and choice of their accommodation and facilities are most likely to reap the rewards from increasing demand, particularly for UK short breaks. Staycation specialist Hoseasons, which this year celebrates its 75th anniversary, is predicting a positive outlook for the industry for the rest of 2019 following an 11% Year-on-Year surge in bookings across its lodges and parks portfolio.
Mark Warnes, Vice President of Property Services at Awaze UK, Hoseasons’ parent company, says keeping up with changing customer habits has always been at the heart of the company’s success over the years, and that those who invest in ‘wowing’ their guests now are the ones most likely to benefit in the longer term. “Standards of UK accommodation and facilities have made such a huge leap over the last 10 years that holidaymakers are now actively seeking out luxury, hassle-free short breaks closer to home at a time when they may have concerns about going further afield,” Mark says. “Customer expectations have rocketed at the same time, though, so it’s no surprise that the locations we see performing best are the ones where owners have been prepared to invest and improve their offer.” Locations sold through Hoseasons that have recently invested in their offer include Go Active Holidays location Hemsby Beach Holiday Park, in Norfolk, which has had a £10m overhaul of accommodation and facilities.
SUPER PARKS The new look ‘super park’ features brand new luxury lodges with hot tubs, a Show Bar, Yacht Club Bar and a whole range of Go Active activities, including archery, zorbing, sea scooters, crazy golf and bowls. Set just 350 yards from the golden sands and rolling dunes of Hemsby Breach, and close to the Norfolk Broads, the park also now boasts a Traverse Climbing Wall, an all-weather multi-sports court, soft play for the little ones, a Go Juniors activity programme for three to seven year olds and an amusement arcade. Fellow Go Active location Cheddar Woods Resort and Spa, in Somerset, has also invested – unveiling 23 new properties earlier this year to cope with greater demand for quality short break staycations. The mix of one, two, three and four-bedroom properties all offer spectacular views of the Cheddar countryside and have been purposely placed to maximise privacy and enhance guests’ sense of getting away from it all. Each of the lodges comes with either a private garden, enclosed decking or an outdoor patio area, as well as non-reflective windows that allow the properties to blend into the Cheddar landscape. Nine of the new units are one-bedroom lodges – a response to growing off-peak demand for couples’ romantic breaks. Ninety minutes down the road Finlake Holiday Resort, in North Devon – another Go Active Holidays location - has a multimillionpound new facilities complex with waterpark and flume rides, spa and treatment rooms, and a state-of-the-art gym. Finlake’s refurbished Retreat Bar and Restaurant offers lunch and à la carte evening meals and the nearby Cabin Café & Farm Shop offers a fantastic takeaway menu. Nature trails, outdoor tennis courts, two coarse fishing lakes and horse riding are also available, providing sporting opportunities for everyone. All the parks have seen a rise in bookings since investing in their offer, with Warnes encouraging others to follow their lead. “Capital investment is not something the owners we work with rush into,” he says, adding: “It’s a considered thought-though strategic approach, designed to make the most of a strong market and keep pace with what the public want when it comes to a short break.”
BALANCED APPROACH Lead Designer, Sue Brodie has worked with Willerby for almost seven years having previous worked on executive homes located in the prestigious London boroughs of Knightsbridge, Kensington and Chelsea. Sue says you need to strike a balance between the design aesthetics and the practicality of the home. “There is a balance between the two – clever storage solutions can be aesthetically pleasing and enhance the interior,” Sue emphasises. “It’s no good if the unit looks beautiful but fails to function as a living space, we always ensure there is enough seating, storage and the layout flows. “We try to create furniture with a freestanding appearance so it appears more domestic but still includes that vital storage.” Sue stresses that owners are looking for comfort, a real home from home experience, although they are not looking to replicate their own homes. “Their expectations are high along with their desire for better features and décor,” she says.
UNIQUE DESIGNS Many of Willerby’s unique designs grow from an innovative layout, offsetting the linear roof line and introducing an appliance bank allowed us to create a nearside corridor and internal bathroom. These internal bathrooms were made possible by the introduction of the ‘sun tube’ which in effect is ecofriendly mini skylight. Willerby were also the first to introduce a larder unit into the kitchen with sliding baskets drawers and open shelving the unit is now available in two sizes. Other features include the Sheraton fireplace and bed surround shelving which were influenced by the New England, American interior designs. Says Sue: “We now have access to some wonderful materials and finishes which allow us to create authentic looking interiors and are no longer constrained by our manufacturing capabilities. Because we manufacture our own furniture, elements are completely bespoke and produced to our specification in just the right style, size and colour to complement the unit. Adds Sue: “We can co-ordinate our finishes though out the unit so the finished product looks cohesive and resolve.” Previously static caravans adopted styling used in touring caravans, with lots of wall to wall storage and clunky furniture. We are now looking to popular high street brands for our Styling cues. Fabrics were supplied by manufacturers to the caravan industry, we are now using domestic fabrics you would find on the high street. With the improvements in LED lighting, we have substituted decorative wall and ceiling lighting for integrated spotlights bringing a cleaner modern look to our units. We have introduced improved MP3 players with integrated speakers and USB sockets for phone charging and ipads.
RECENT TRENDS We are seeing recent trends shift and evolve as oppose to completely new trends emerging. The Country Heritage trend is still strong with the addition of new colours, pebble greys and truffles. Black fittings are popular this year and we have introduced Graphite handles and light fittings in birdcage deconstructed styles. The colour trends are teal, blue terracotta, warm grey and sage with gold accents while authentic woods, sit alongside luxury fabrics, windowpane checks and pinstripe fabrics. Pathfinder Homes have over 25 standard homes customers can choose from, however, the company offers a fully bespoke service giving the opportunity to create homes as unique as they are. The Pathfinder Homes team is fully trained and committed to providing customers with not just a memorable selection process but a home that suits every requirement and desire.
STANDARD PRACTICE “All standard home start their life with me,” explains Creative Manager, Kelly Martyr. “I am constantly listening to feedback from customers and keeping up to date on fashion and trends. “Creating a new standard home initially starts with seeing a gap in the market, inspiration from other industries or even a popular request. Initially, I will sit down with our Architectural Technologist and Technical Manager and discuss the sometime outlandish ideas that occur to me. “I try to take all advice on board and then start to sketch out initial ideas and mood boards,” reveals Kelly. “Once I am confident with the design I will present to our directors, along with rationale, budget and where this sits in the market place. “As soon as approved all the technical drawings are completed, we pass over to our production team and begin the build.” The whole process from inception to completion can be about six months, and offering a fully bespoke service is something Pathfinder Homes is particularly proud of. “We understand everyone is different as is their customisation,” Kelly asserts. “For those who know exactly what they want, our Selection Studio is like heaven. From carpets to curtains, decking to door handles, the Selection Studio is the perfect place to be inspired and the Pathfinder team can help dreams come true. For those who want a little more guidance, then that’s exactly what they get. Kelly explains: “I can meet the customer at the Selection Studio and walk them through the whole process and offer advice and assistance every step of the way. Customers can start from a blank canvas or from a preselected, standard design.” One thing is for certain, there’s no shortage of inspiration, the studio overlooks the famous Haytor in Dartmoor’s National Park, is fully equipped with all the aesthetic examples you might need, from kitchen units to soft furnishings, all to make sure that the new home is exactly how they want it,” says Kelly. “Pathfinders’ Selection Studio really gives presents a tangible design experience,” she continues. “Customers can touch and feel the fabrics, walk through the kitchen and enjoy a coffee on the couch. Kelly says Pathfinders’ suppliers play a significant part in the company’s design success. She says: “Over the years we have built up a base of fabulous, supportive and loyal suppliers. “The relationship we have built together is so important. There are a select few who I work with on almost a daily basis and consider them part of the team here at Pathfinder Homes. “Our suppliers are constantly sending over innovative products, new samples and exciting developments within their industry – this allows us to continue to lead ours!”
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The focal feature of an award-winning entry at the prestigious BBC Gardeners World Live show has moved to two Lincolnshire holiday home parks. The life-size wooden horse sculptures which were hand-carved by an artist in Asia are now on permanent display at Lakeside Park in North Somercotes and Whispering Waters, Mablethorpe. The ambitious show garden created by Horticulture and Construction students at Derby College Group’s Broomfield Hall won a silver merit medal at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre in June. The college teamed up with the Multiple Sclerosis Society and a range of sponsors headed by Don Amott Parks which has five Lincolnshire holiday parks. Key features of the garden, including the spectacular wooden horses, have now been rebuilt at Lakeside Park, close to the village of North Somercotes, just 12 miles from Louth. Chairman, Don Amott said: “Having lost a cousin to Multiple Sclerosis, I was particularly keen to work alongside the MS Society on this project. It is a charity that is close to my heart.”
William Wordsworth described the Lake District as ‘the loveliest spot that man hath found’ and residents of Nepgill Park have certainly found their own little slice of nature’s paradise, just a few minutes away from the famous writer’s childhood home. Nepgill Park enjoys a peaceful rural setting in the quiet village of Bridgefoot, a few miles from the beautiful market towns of Cockermouth (William Wordsworth’s birthplace) and Keswick.
The park was originally established by a local man, Leo Smith, back in the 1960’s. Nepgill’s current owners, Kevin and Marcia Morgan, bought the park in 1987 from Kevin’s brother, which worked out to be perfect timing for both. “My brother wanted to sell up and move into the holiday industry,” explains Kevin. “Meanwhile, I was getting tired of flying all over the world in my job as an electronics engineer and wanted to keep my feet on the ground for a while. Nepgill represented the chance to build something for my family where I could, everyday, appreciate what I had achieved and enjoy a different pace of life.” Since taking over Nepgill, Kevin and Marcia haven’t looked back and under their careful ownership, the park is now double the size, with 56 residential plots, seven rental flats and cottages and 81 residents.
ABOVE: Nepgill's owners, Kevin & Marcia Morgan, bought the pakr in 1987.
Daughter, Mel Wykes, joined the family business in 2016 to help out in the busy park office. Unusually for a residential park, Nepgill enjoys a diverse population due to the fact that the only age stipulation is that residents need to be over 18. “The park has a great community of working, semi-retired and retired residents,” says Mel. “There is quite a mix of ages with younger people, especially, renting out our flats and cottages. Nepgill is very much focused around its people and building that community spirit that can be so hard to find these days. Almost everyone here gets involved in life on the park and supports our green projects.” Nestled within a quiet corner of the spectacular Lake District National Park, it’s no surprise that the area’s natural beauty is an integral part of the park’s development. In fact, the Morgans have excelled in creating a park with a focus on providing a peaceful, natural environment for both residents and wildlife to enjoy. Nepgill Park enjoys an abundance of wildlife including deer and red squirrels, with views across fields to the beautiful Lakeland fells. Over the years, many hundreds of metres of hedgerows and trees have been planted and nurtured, and a pond and wildlife area created for residents to enjoy. The pond is currently home to many ducks and ducklings, as well as being a magnet for other birds, aquatic species and amphibians. The local red squirrels are well loved (and fed) by residents, who generously provide many well-stocked nut boxes in their gardens for these regular and much admired little visitors.
Nepgill’s exceptional commitment to the environment was recognised last autumn, when it was named as a 2018-19 winner of the prestigious Gold level David Bellamy Conservation Award. The park received three extra commendations from Professor Bellamy for its work on protecting honey bees, managing hedgerow habitats, and its extensive wild flower plantings. “We were absolutely thrilled to be presented with the David Bellamy Award last year,” says Mel. “It’s recognition of all the hard work that my parents and the residents have put in over the years to make Nepgill such a naturally beautiful and environmentally-friendly place to live. Everyone who visits the park comments on how peaceful it is, tucked away in our own little corner between the mountains and the sea.”
Kevin says that the family’s vision for Nepgill has always been about “quality over quantity.” The residential homes are spread over a nine-acre site but careful landscaping and generous green areas mean that the park feels very spacious and far removed from the grid layout of traditional parks. A mixture of single and twin homes, many from Lissett Homes and Prestige Homeseeker, encircle traditional stone cottages and barn conversions, which are available to let. Nepgill Park also includes Millbanks Court, a newer development of twin homes with sett-stone driveways and adjacent garages. The park is unique in that its 12-month license for residential living has been granted in perpetuity. For the future, the family intends to develop Nepgill ’s environmental projects and is establishing a working ‘beekeeper’ team to manage the park’s own hives. They are also thinking ahead and are keen for residents to embrace the benefits of electric vehicles. Mel is currently exploring the best options for electric charging points. “It’s important to anticipate tomorrow’s needs,” says Mel. “We’re keen to stay ahead and also have plans to expand in some way.” Dad, Kevin concurs: “We don’t want to over-burden Mel for the future but there’s still lots to do here, even after 30 years. Marcia and I haven’t got any plans to retire for a while yet!”
Ascot, Sunninghill, Wentworth… this leafy corner of Berkshire boasts some of the most picturesque countryside and expensive real estate in Britain but it is also home to one of the longest established park home estates in the country, Warfield Park. Few people today, wandering through Warfield Park’s scenic rural parkland dotted with modern park homes, could imagine the colourful history of the park on the outskirts of Bracknell. First established in Tudor times, the land was formerly part of Windsor Great Park, welcoming Kings, Queens and illustrious figures from history over the centuries. The estate was sold to Archie MacLaren in 1939, and his son, Captain Ian MacLaren, subsequently set up Warfield as a residential caravan site in 1947. Today, Warfield Park is overseen by the MacLaren Trust and has evolved into one of the most desirable residential parks in the UK. The 92 acres of wooded parkland now feature 509 park homes on spacious plots that harmonise with the spectacular surroundings, with the majestic Wellingtonia trees planted by former owner Lord Ormathwaite’s wife, Lady Jane Walsh, still in situ from the late 19th century. “Warfield Park’s philosophy has always been to site high quality homes sympathetically within the natural surroundings, and to preserve the environment for years to come,” explains Nikki Collas, Development and Projects Coordinator for Warfield Park. “We don’t believe in cramming in row after row of homes, and instead site them in a sylvan and non-linear fashion around winding roads and our magnificent trees.” 434 of the homes at Warfield Park are privately owned but according to Nikki, no two homes look the same because of the unique way the plots are sited on the park and the fact that new residents are encouraged to design bespoke homes. The team at Warfield work with a number of different manufacturers including Lissett Homes, Aspire Leisure & Park Homes, Prestige and Homeseeker, and Tingdene. Nikki says: “We are known for our plot sizes being significantly larger and more private than most other park home estates.
Most homes have gardens and garages. We also landscape the new gardens so they look nice before residents move in, and to keep with our theme of preserving the natural environment.” Apart from its history and setting, one of the most interesting features of Warfield Park is that its remaining 75 homes are rental properties, offered on 6 month Assured Shorthold Tenancies. Not surprisingly, in a location that can offer residents a short commute to London, demand for these rental homes is high. Many homes also attract families as this is one of the few parks to offer no lower age limit on ownership / rental and where children (and up to three well-behaved pets!) are also welcome. “Warfield Park invest heavily in our rental properties and the vast majority of our homes are new or fully refurbished,” explains Nikki. “This prolongs the life of our homes, improves comfort, and reduces energy prices for the tenants. We are proud that we do not have a boiler older than 5 years old in any of our rental properties, many ofwhich also have improved thermal insulation and a multi-layer render coating or low maintenance wall covering (Canexel cladding), which complies with British Standard 3632.” Warfield Park has won many accolades including the Social Responsibility Award in the National Energy Efficiency and Healthy Homes Awards in 2017. Homes are covered under GoldShield warranties and the park is a member of the BH&HPA.
Home to approximately 900 residents, Warfield Park is a thriving, multi-generational community with its own Community Hall, Hairdressers, Beauty Salon and coin-operated Launderette. An active Community Association host a number of social, music and fitness classes in the hall daily, as well as regular weekend socials. A team of 18 staff is employed on site: 10 are office based and eight take responsibility for the extensive grounds outside. Warfield Park management and staff, led by Managing Director Barry Sumner, are committed to ensuring the park runs in tip-top condition and that the residents are happy in their homes. “We feel very strongly that it is important to have an open dialogue with our residents so they can voice ideas for improvements or amendments to the way we work,” says Nikki. “We hold bi-monthly Park Assembly meetings in the Community Hall to find out what the residents think we do well and what we can improve upon.” In 2018, Warfield Park saw a huge number of developments including electrical improvement works, several new homes, extended visitor parking, a redecoration of the Community Hall, and the laying of 7.6km of pipework for the supply of mains natural gas, which was completed just in time for Christmas 2018.
In collaboration with Affordable Warmth Solutions (AWS) and T & K Gallagher the new infrastructure was undertaken at zero cost to residents and should mean significantly less costs for them once the roll-out of boiler conversion carried out by Happy Energy is finished this Spring. Warfield Park has also recently undergone a complete re-brand with an attractive new logo and company website to appeal to potential new clients on the horizon. The team were delighted to finally receive planning permission in September 2017 for an extension that will mean 82 new homes. “Everyone at Warfield Park is very excited about the expansion,” says Nikki, “and we will be spending time working through more detailed plans during this year. We really want to replicate the character of the existing park in the new extension and preserving our heritage and outdoor space will continue to be top priority as we take Warfield Park into the future.”
ABOVE: Red Deer Village at Stepps is only one of a handful of residential parks for the over 50s throughout Scotland.
Returning north of the border after many years living in southern England and abroad, brothers John and Ivan Hendry were surprised to find that Scotland’s park owners had not embraced the trend for luxury residential park living they had seen elsewhere. Red Deer Village at Stepps, on the doorstep of Glasgow, is still only one of a handful of retirement villages for the over 50’s throughout Scotland – and is the only one in North Lanarkshire. The Hendry family have owned the land since 2004 when they first purchased Red Deer Village Holiday Park as a going concern. Spotting a gap in the market fi ve years ago, the family vowed to introduce high quality residential homes to the region. Today, Red Deer Village is home to over 80 residents across 57 park homes on a beautifully landscaped site adjacent to the fi ve star rated holiday park. New homes are currently selling from a third phase of 30 park homes, and the park will eventually featurea total of 187 homes spread across five development phases. After five years of operation, John Hendry says he is surprised not to have seen more of this type of development in Scotland by now. “Whilst it’s very special to be only one of a handful of residential villages offering this concept, we would like to see an expansion of this sector in Scotland. We’re not scared of competition! It would be a good thing, as we are confi dent that our product is the very best it can be.” The Hendry brothers manage the park with the help of 14 staff, their children and sister Ashleigh, who is responsible for designing the interiors of all the luxury park homes at Red Deer Village.
ABOVE: In September 2018, the Scottish park celebrated the first anniversary of its bespoke community hub, built by Pathfinder Homes.
The homes in the park are sourced from leading supplier Stately Albion, and finished with unique touches by interior designer Ashleigh that reflect the park’s Scottish heritage. According to the team, a particular challenge is raising awareness that purchasing a home in a residential park like Red Deer is an attractive financial solution for downsizing in your 50s, rather than just a housing option for very elderly people. A strong sense of community shared amongst like-minded people is one of the key benefi ts of park home living and Red Deer Village is a prime example of a park that really does put its residential community at its heart. In September 2018, the Scottish park celebrated the fi rst anniversary of its custom-built community hub, a £450k building created by Pathfi nder Homes, and the fi rst of its kind in the UK.
ABOVE: The homes int he park are sourced from leading supplier Stately Albion. Pictured Stately Albion Kensington.
“The hub has become the focus of the park,” says John Hendry. “We have left what goes on here in terms of entertainment and socialising entirely up to the residents – it’s their space, and I think they have done a great job!” The hub is a completely bespoke building with a comfortable interior and outside decked area. Inside, there is a cosy fire, sofas, coffee area, luxury soft furnishings, toilets, and several individual rooms and offi ces. The hub is the meeting point for a wide range of resident groups and activities each week, and local MSP Fulton MacGregor even holds a regular surgery here. “We had an office type building here before but it was nothing like the hub,” says John. “This really is a luxurious, state of the art facility, and we feel it’s a real asset to the park overall.” According to John, as well as being justifiably popular with residents, the hub is also proving to make sound financial sense. “Close to half a million pounds was a signifi cant investment for our business and the hub took almost two years to come to fruition. However, since it’s launch, there is a marked increase in business, with more residents downsizing to a new lifestyle on our park.”
ABOVE: Red Deer Village takes its eco-credentials seriously and the park has won numerous Silver BH&HPA David Bellamy Conservation Awards, and has achieved Gold for the last three years.
Giving back to the wider community is also central to life at Red Deer Village. Supported by the Hendry family, the park residents have raised many hundreds of pounds for charities including Macmillan Cancer Support, with coffee mornings, sponsored activities and their Christmas Light Switch On Extravaganza. The park also takes its responsibility for their smallest residents seriously too. Over time, Red Deer Village has picked up numerous Silver BH&HPA David Bellamy Conservation Awards and has achieved Gold for the last three years. The park has a full time team of in-house gardeners who plant honey bee friendly plants and native British trees, as well as incorporating many wild hedgerow areas into its landscaping. There are two rainwater ponds on the park, which are chemical free and home to numerous toads, frogs, newts, dragonfl ies, birds, and fish. The park has even created a fox den in the waste stone yard. Ivan Hendry says: “David Bellamy believes you can live or holiday at a park which is both attractive to look at and which contributes towards bio diversity. Our conservation projects help to maintain that all-important habitat, and minimise any threat to the natural world through sustainable and eco-friendly development.”
The number of homes at Birch’s Parks ranges from 20 plots to over a hundred.
Jane Herbert meets the team behind Birch’s Park Homes…
When Charles Birch Sr saw the opportunity to expand his caravan sales business into the park homes market in the early 1970s, he would not have foreseen that this was the start of the Birch’s brand we know today.
Now, synonymous with the highest quality homes in some the most desirable locations in England, Birch’s Park Homes are one of the UK’s leading operators in luxury residential developments.
As Chairman of Birch’s Park Homes, Charles Birch Sr has long since handed over the day-to-day operation of the Cambridgeshire-based business to his sons Charles and James Birch. With a growing portfolio of ten parks across Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Hampshire, Somerset, and soon Essex, Birch’s Park Homes are renowned as a luxury operator but as a family-run business, like to keep their feet on the ground. “Our business has grown so much over the years and we are constantly expanding and looking for new opportunities,” explains Managing Director Charles Birch. “It’s not just about growth though. We like to be the best we can be. Attention to detail at every level is an important part of the Birch’s brand. We are continuously working with new products, new landscaping and new ideas to push forward our business and make our next park better than the last.”
The number of homes in Birch’s parks varies considerably from under 20 select plots to over a hundred in their largest parks, but the emphasis is very much on quality over quantity, regardless of size. Class-leading homes (often designed in partnership with Birch’s themselves) placed amidst careful landscaping to maximise residents’ privacy and security are key to each overall park design.
Bluebell Woods on the outskirts of the beautiful city of Cambridge is typical of a Birch’s development. Opened in 2007, this small, gated estate offers just 16 high-specification homes in a pretty, woodland setting. All Birch’s parks are aimed at retired and semi-retired people with residents generally required to be aged 45+.
Key to the success of many of Birch’s ‘boutique-style’ developments is their stunning locations. Sandbanks, in Clevedon, Bristol, is an exclusive development of just 23 contemporary homes on a private, gated estate. Opened in 2009, the park has been expertly designed to make the most of the spectacular seaside setting, ensuring that every home benefits from magnificent views over the Bristol Channel to the mountains of Wales. Additionally, each home boasts a stylish glass balcony from which to enjoy the incredible views. Indian stone paths wind around the landscaped terraces and lead to private access to the bay below and a lovely coastal walk to the Victorian seaside town of Clevedon, just 13 miles from Bristol.
New to the Birch’s portfolio is another brand new waterside development. The Estuary will be launched in March 2017 and will offer the highest standard of park homes, each offering unrivalled marina views over Hamble, one of England’s finest spots for sailing and watersports. According to Charles, interest in the limited number of homes available is already “at fever pitch.” With prices starting from around £300,000, The Estuary will offer truly luxurious park home living.
View of the patio of one of the homes at The Tides development in Somerset.
Pushing the boundaries of the park homes business and its reputation is central to Birch’s vision. “In the past, park home living has sometimes suffered from a poor reputation due to a handful of unscrupulous operators,” says Charles Birch. “Thankfully, the tides are changing. We like to think that our unique brand of parks, our partnerships with quality manufacturers and our emphasis on exclusivity is all helping to change the perception of park living. At Birch’s, we genuinely believe the potential for the park homes sector is limitless and we want to keep Birch’s at the forefront.” Charles says Birch’s aim is to grow their park portfolio so they have a “park in every county in England.” Acquisition is a key part of their future expansion plans. “We’re actively looking to acquire new parks at the moment. Residential parks, caravan or camping sites… We’re keen to get any parks with additional development opportunities on the Birch’s radar,” says Charles. Having outgrown their existing HQ in Waterbeach, Cambridge, Birch’s are also in the process of constructing new offices and looking to expand their team of staff from 20 to considerably more. A new website is currently in development and Charles, James and the team are working on a number of exclusive projects that will ensure Birch’s profile in the park homes business and property world only continues to rise.