JEWEL IN THE CROWN
A lesson in diversification for visitor destinations...
For those looking for a quick-fire lesson in destination diversification, a visit to Suffolk’s Stonham Barns Park will leave you overflowing with a bucket load of ideas and inspiration. Bought by the Starglade group, principally operating as a day visit location, in 2020, the 110 -acre site is being transformed into a bustling leisure destination.
Ticking all the boxes from retail to live entertainment and from short-break holidays to permanent holiday homes, Stonham is still a work in progress. Brimming with pride, passion and ambition, owner, Alan Forward took me on a guided tour of the bustling family complex that sits on a favourable tourist route.
“Everyone needs a break away to reset and it seems as though the pull to the countryside is strong,” he says. “Many are looking for a relaxing fishing holiday or break where they can recharge and refresh in a safe environment.” “For many people, post-pandemic, the temptation to stay local and in the country is still very strong.”
Stonham Barns Park is a bustling family complex filled with an abundance of attractions and activities to suit all. A vibrant shopping village is packed with a plethora of bespoke shops, and provides a huge draw for day and longer-stay visitors. Coach parties are tempted onto site to view not just the shops but also to visit specialist teapot makers, Carters of Suffolk, and its charming Teapot Tearoom.
Supplying big names from Harrods to Walt Disney, visitors can see the production of handmade, collectable teapots and even decorate a few themselves. Just a short walk away, the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary is a also a major draw. Providing a home to over 80 stunning owls and birds of prey from around the world the Sanctuary team put on with outstanding flying displays and are more than keen to chat to the enthusiastic visitors.
The site is home to the Mid Suffolk Showground offering numerous events throughout the year, including classic vehicle events, history re-enactment performances and music festivals. Add in a splash of talent at the on-site Legends Bar and Aspal Theatre and the entertainments’ programme is simply spilling over. Impressive Stonham golf facilities include a pirate-themed adventure foot golf course, crazy golf, nine-hole golf course and a well-stocked shop boasting simulator bays.
Still enjoying the great outdoors, two stunning fishing lakes have attracted a great following, including the attention of, world renowned angler, Bob Nudd while another water area has been established to offer SUP boarding and kayaking. There is a wealth of entertainment to keep the youngsters amused from a giant bouncy pillow with a perimeter sand pit that is free to use. Seasonal fair rides, dodgems, small children’s rides, play areas, inflatables, stalls, and land train ride all add to the appeal.
Stonham Barns Park is now gaining a reputation as a popular wedding venue with designated room space available for hire. Add in a few fireworks displays, cycle racing, darts competitions, hot air balloon festivals and a plethora of themed party events, and you are beginning to understand the full scope of the Stonham Barns Park picture.
On-site refreshments are largely dealt with by Cafe 24 that offers plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and uses locally-sourced produce for their breakfast and lunch, no-fuss menus. Accommodation varies from own tent camping to caravan or motorhome pitches including the chance to hire one of one of six luxury bell tents or a shepherd’s hut as well as fully furnished holiday homes and holiday home purchase.
The Starglade Group of Companies is a well-known and respected, family owned, group of companies established for over 50 years. Originally started by Rodney Forward who was a successful builder, in 1994 Rodney joined forces with Alan, his son, to start Starglade Properties, mainly working with land transactions for residential properties.
Alan and his family over the years have acquired many other companies, to be part of the Starglade Group of companies that include residential and commercial lettings and new house-build developments. Working with long-term, tried and trusted suppliers, Stonham is undoubtedly a jewel in the Starglade crown.
As well as the creation of on-site job and business opportunities, the company invests back into the local community with sponsorship of sports sides and emerging talent as varied as rugby to Formula 3 motor racing. “The exciting thing about Stonham is its potential for future development,” says Alan, who shares plans for more pop-up shop retail opportunities and even a new on-site boutique hotel.
“It is all about constantly re-investing in this type of business and I hope this is what is driving the on-going popularity of the resort for short as well as longer term visitors,” says Alan, who has the backing and support of his son, Keith, and daughter Terri, managing the Starglade portfolio that now includes several new holiday home sites. Alan adds: “This type of business is all about team effort and it is thanks to the passion and enthusiasm of every individual that Stonham looks forward to such a very bright future.”
Stonham Barns Park
Tel. 01449 711 111