A lesson in diversification for visitor destinations...

A VIBRANT SHOPPING VILLAGE is packed with a plethora of bespoke shops.

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.”

HOLIDAY HOME ACCOMMODATION has been sympathetically placed around Stonham’s 100-acre site.

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.

ON-SITE ACCOMMODATION includes lodges, bell tents and even a shepherd-style hut.

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



On-line technology does the hefty lifting for hospitality sales...

THE CONVENIENCE of automated, easy- to-access, digital systems needs no explanation.

Artificial Intelligence is big news, dominating social media tweets and posts around the world. AI comes as no surprise for the holiday destination sector where automated technology has long been embedded in the hospitality experience. From booking a destination through promoting on-site spend to sealing timely confirmation of return accommodation, the convenience of automated, easy-to-access, digital systems needs no explanation.

Zonal is a UK-based, family-owned, connected technology provider offering innovative solutions to more than 16,000 businesses of all shapes and sizes across the hospitality sector. Zonal provided detailed figures to partners, CGA, enabling them to produce an exclusive GO Technology survey of 5,000 nationally representative British consumers earlier this year.

That report reveals consumers’ latest attitudes to using technology within hospitality, and how venues can strike the right balance between digital solutions and personal interaction. Having an online, direct booking system in place, that is easy to use, will help operators drive footfall and increase overall revenues this summer and beyond.


In food and beverage outlets, online booking systems can be set up to prompt guests to opt for up-selling options such as pre-dinner cocktails or a bottle of fizz on arrival. What’s more, enabling guests to reserve a table will reduce queues and improve the guest experience. Key to this, will be simple things such as ensuring WIFI is available.

The research shows that only 53% of people consider WIFI in holiday parks to be good or excellent whilst 64% say that these tech solutions will improve the quality of their stay. With this in mind, making sure WIFI works and connects well can reduce guest frustration and make it easier for them to make impulse bookings and purchases.

Booking technology can also alleviate pressure on staff particularly if it is integrated with other tech in outlets and across the park. For example, an integrated bookings and table management system will save staff time by relieving them of the task of manually re-inputting information and reduces the risk of error.

GUESTS WILL BE PROMPTED to opt for on-site options and less inclined to look for alternative options off-site.

Personalisation is a key consumer trend and enabling guests to tailor their holiday to their preferences improves guests’ overall experience and drives revenues. Tech systems help here by giving control to guests. A fully integrated booking system can enable guests to prebook activities, preselect tables, pre-order food and even order food and drink to be delivered to their accommodation.

Over half of holiday park guests (56%) find the idea of having breakfast delivered to their accommodation appealing. By making it as easy as possible to browse and book holiday park experiences, guests will be prompted to opt for on-site options and less inclined to look for alternative options off-site.

“The role of technology in hospitality is clearly growing – in a post-pandemic market, not only are customers used to seeing technology in-venue, but a lot of customers expect it to be present,” points out Olivia FitzGerald, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Zonal. “However, we cannot afford to underestimate the importance of human connection, Olivia continues.

“Hospitality is a sector that is brilliant because of its people, and it is important that technology enhances that by working in the background, doing the heavy-lifting and alleviating staff pressure so they can focus on delivering exceptional service to their guests.”

THE ZONAL AND CGA DATA shows the enormous value of technology users in hospitality.

Digital booking systems also enable operators to capture important customer data. This can then be used to encourage repeat visits – boosting business by helping marketing teams reach more prospects in more channels with less budget. Whilst holiday parks can expect park members to return time and time again, operators cannot rest on their laurels.

Ensuring members are kept engaged, as well as ensuring there are guest visits increasing year on year will be vital. To help drive this, guests should be contacted post-stay with offers of promotions, discounts and other bounceback schemes. If a booking system is linked to all other tech and integrates with one central hub, such as an EPoS, operators can take this one step further, using customer spend data from across the holiday park to create bespoke and tailored on-site offers and promotions based on those likes and dislikes.

This not only encourages spend and repeat visits but gives guests a more personalised and bespoke experience. Figures in the report indicate that 81% of people are planning to stay in a UK destination - so there has never been a better time for park owners to ensure their booking systems are fit for purpose.

As operational costs continue to soar it is vital that holiday parks are able to drive spend per head across all parts of the business and booking technology can support this by opening up opportunities to encourage up-selling and add-on sales. Approaches to interactions via tech and human contact have become neatly split: between their tasks outside a restaurant or pub; and steps they take while inside (see box).

For example, nearly half (47%) would prefer to make table bookings via technology, while even more want to be able to cancel bookings (51%) or get reminders without having to contact someone (60%).

BOOKING TECHNOLOGY can also alleviate pressure on staff particularly if it is integrated with other tech in other park outlets.


Once they are through the doors, it’s a different story, as nearly three in five consumers want to place food orders, settle bills and leave tips in person. In practice, the division of preferences isn’t quite so straightforward. Many people still want to complete pre-visit tasks offline, like general enquiries (33%) and booking tables (25%). Likewise, a minority prefer to use technology to place orders or pay bills.

“Wherever technology is deployed, choice and flexibility are key. It can be a superb enabler for hospitality for guests and operators alike, giving consumers the speed and convenience they want and freeing up teams to focus on what they do best,” notes Karl Chessell, CGA Director - hospitality operators and food, EMEA. “In such a competitive and challenging market, brands that make the smartest use of tech, without compromising human elements, have a crucial advantage.”

This highlights the importance of choice. Going too far in either direction—whether by withdrawing human interaction completely or failing to offer enough alternative options— risks alienating sizeable proportions of potential guests. Understanding the breakdowns of consumers who prefer technology and human interaction is the first step towards meeting their needs, and this GO Technology research pinpoints their key demographics.

The key takeaway is that technophiles tend to be heavy spenders. They spend an average of £24 a month more on eating and drinking out than those who prefer human interaction, and their household income is £10,100 higher. On top of that, more than half (53%) live in city or town centres, where hospitality venues are more heavily concentrated and people eat out more often.

Of course, consumers who typically choose human contact over digital interaction are just as valuable, and operators need to carefully retain their loyalty. But this data shows the enormous value of technology users in hospitality and makes a strong case for sustained investment in digital solutions that satisfy them. To download the full report, contact



Even the humblest washroom facilities can make or break your brand, advises Becci Knowles...

ADD A TOUCH of character to your washroom facilities to keep the guests happy.

Leading market research firm Mintel says that in a competitive market, with relatively low brand differentiation outside of the leading holiday centre brands, catering for rising visitor expectations in terms of accommodation, facilities and experiences has become vital for success. Clean, modern, accessible, and eco-friendly washrooms have a key role to play in continuing this upward trend.

A quick look at holiday park reviews online at Tripadvisor is testimony to the fact that these facilities feature highly on the list of customer priorities across every demographic. Meeting the rising expectations of existing customers and changing the perception new ones, is vital for a destination’s growth. Park Holidays operates 43 caravan holiday parks across the UK from Cornwall in the West, Suffolk in the East and up to Yorkshire and Scotland in the North.

Commenting on the importance of its washroom facilities across the portfolio, a spokesperson told Holiday Park Scene: “On our parks which provide touring and camping pitches, the washrooms remain one of the single most important factors in shaping guests’ level of satisfaction with their stay.

“On review websites, our facilities will frequently be commended for their cleanliness, standards of maintenance, and overall impression of being a welcoming and hygienic environment for ablutions. “Positive comments on our washrooms also appear on Park Holidays’ Feefo review website and have helped the group achieve the platform’s excellence award for six years in succession.”

Washrooms are pivotal in the success of smaller parks too, particularly where there is a spa element Kevin Jones, resort director at Whalesborough Farm and cottages tells Holiday Park Scene. “Being a health spa and 5* cottages resort, cleanliness and the experience is vital to our business, we pride ourselves on giving the customer the best possible experience they can have while with us,” says Kevin.

He continues: “Businesses are judged by the cleanliness of the facilities and predominantly the washroom facilities, we want our customers to enjoy their time with and a clean, pleasurable place to be starts with the washrooms.” Shaun Matthews is the owner of Blue Hills Touring Park in Truro. He agrees that good quality, clean facilities help to present a professional image of your park.

“Many smaller caravan and camping sites such as our 50 pitches often don’t provide some of the other facilities that are found on larger parks so it essential that those we do provide are as good as they can be. They will be one of the main facilities that a park is judged upon. “The main requirement that guests are looking for, regardless of shape/ size washroom facility that’s provided is cleanliness, this seems to be the number one priority and is never going to change.

“Washroom facilities have been moving more and more “posh”, underfloor heating, heated and backlit mirrors, background music. In some case there has been a move to provide facilities that are more akin to a hotel, although this is still the preserve of the much higher end parks.”

AS DERBYSHIRE’S NEWHAVEN HOLIDAY PARK SHOWS, thoughtful design can make all the difference to washroom appeal Pic. Park Holidays UK

Emma Bateman is the site manager of Lincolnshire based holiday park, Westwood Lakes. Specialising in fishing holidays, it has seven lakes open to guests and the public. As fishing is an outdoor sport, and the lakes are sometimes a distance from the main buildings, the park has built its own toilet facilities around the lakes, which staff clean daily. The company also hires portaloos, via an external provider, for the lakes that cannot be reached by the water and drainage system.

Emma says: “Over the 16 years we have been operating, we have tried to update our facilities as we see fit. For example, the outdoor permanent toilet blocks are a recent addition to the site after fisherman complained the café and bar toilets were too far away from the lakes. “In addition, we have recently updated our hand driers to the Dyson air model, and we find they are much more efficient at drying hands and that means less paper is used too.”

Onsite facilities include both a café and bar with washroom facilities, including disabled toilets and baby changing units. Emma adds: “Having these extra facilities means we can accommodate all visitors; inclusion is important to us at Westwood Lakes, and this is reflected in our facilities having ramp access etc, to improve visitor experience.” Mayfield Park is a family-owned and run camping, caravan and residential park nestled in the hills on the outskirts of the famous market town of Cirencester.

Picking up on Emma’s point about access and inclusion, managing director Carl Upton agrees that the location of your washrooms, is key: “When planning on new toilet blocks it’s always good to keep them near the camp site and not miles away or in a muddy field and to have easy access for disabled users,” he says. Had the team at Westwood Lakes foreseen just how much how much the park would grow in the 16 years since its inception, Emma says they would have planned their washroom facilities differently: “For example, the outdoor permanent toilet blocks would have been built much earlier and we would have used part of the accommodation plumbing and drainage systems to be able to reach the further afield lakes instead of portaloos, which is an extra monthly expense.”

“Washroom location is everything,” says Blue Hills Touring Park’s Shaun Matthews. “So not too far from the furthest pitches but equally close enough to services to reduce installation costs.” He also points to ease of operation. “Are they user friendly, can some facilities remain open whilst others are closed for cleaning,” Sean asks. “Don’t underestimate the number of cubicles/ showers required, make sure that guests are well catered for and won’t have to queue for their morning shower. “Accessible and family bathroom facilities should also be provided. Can you integrate other facilities into the same building, for example, wash up areas.”

WITH THEIR HIGH VOLUME OF USERS, washrooms at Chichester Lakeside Holiday Park are scheduled for regular monitoring visits throughout the day. Pic. Park Holidays UK

Back at Whalesborough Farm and Cottages, resort director Kevin is keen to stress the importance of sustainability: “Parks should always consider sustainability, from thinking how we heat our washrooms to the water we use in them,” he says, adding: “We use water from our own bore hole and air source heating powered by our turbine on site.” Blue Hills Touring Park’s Shaun Matthews suggests using recycled and environmentally friendly cleaning products.

“If you can easily manage the cleaning maintenance through good design then you are part of the way to sustainability. “In addition, sustainability can be achieved through the installation of renewables such solar thermal, air source/ground source heat pumps and so on.” Achieving a more sustainable business model, especially in the current economic climate, remains a challenge for many parks.

Emma again: “We have to think of what is friendly and cost effective; we are becoming more aware of the environmental damage and we can make a difference with better quality hand driers, environmentally friendly toilet rolls and tissues. “Sadly, this doesn’t always equal cost effective, and that is something we are trying to balance here at Westwood Lakes,” she adds.

Looking to the future, Shaun says: “Washrooms will become more upmarket as guests demand a better experience. “Probably more eco-friendly, it’s quite likely that more operators will also move towards unisex facilities. This will help to reduce the number of cubicles required and reduce costs as utility bills continue to grow.” Picking up on this point, Whalesborough’s Kevin Jones says: “Washrooms of the future will be clean, vibrant, multi-generational, filled with cloud-based technologies, a zero emissions bathroom removes the feeling of guilt when using natural resources and energy.

“It will allow us to take a shower several times a day without placing a burden on the environment. “Designed as a small power station, the bathroom functions as a heat recuperator and water treatment facility, for example by converting waste materials into methane which is then used to generate heat.” While the development of washroom technologies continues to gather pace and the exact future of them remains to be seen, what is clear is that parks looking update their existing facilities or install new ones have an ever-widening range of products and services to choose from.



Creating a themed holiday break can hike bookings, writes Judith Wojtowicz...

THIS ENORMOUS BEECH TREE, affectionately known as Lando, is perfect for tree climbing at Camp Wildfire in Kent

Themed breaks are a great way for holidaymakers to explore new things; to experience something different be it stargazing in Norfolk, learning to surf in Scotland or fishing in the Fens. Whether aiming at a family looking for a week of water sports, such as Willowholt Caravan Park, or a solo traveller escaping for a few days to a writing retreat alongside like-minded people at somewhere like Lumb Bank.

Many centre operators are exploring new ideas while also adding value for today’s cost-conscious consumer. Skelwith Fold Caravan Park in Cumbria brings keen walkers all year round where guests are now raising money for the local air ambulance service through their purchase of walking guides. Routes range from easily navigated low-level footpaths to more demanding ascents of the surrounding fells. “All the walks have been submitted by our guests and used by Skelwith as part of our marketing strategy,” said Henry Wild whose family owns the park.

Henry explained: “Many guests come here specifically to enjoy walking in these spectacular surroundings and our guides are much appreciated. The fact they are compiled by like-minded visitors helps create something of a bond between guests who are delighted to see their own walk realised in print when they next return.” Each guide costs just £1.50 and last year raised £2,675 for the charity. Discounted green fees are on offer at the family-owned Riverside Caravan Park which neighbours Bentham Golf Club in the Yorkshire Dales.

Thomas Marshall rescued the failing club in 2009, ‘taking a gamble’ to invest in his personal vision. The risk paid off as today golfers flock to the site which has earned an enviable reputation as one of the best appointed and most spectacularly sited courses in the UK. The park has expanded still further with the creation of a luxury glamping option called Wenningdale Escapes making it a genuine destination of choice for golf enthusiasts.

HENRY WILD came up with the walking guides charity initiative at his family owned Skelwith Fold Caravan Park

Pods and lodges, the latter available both for rent and sale, are dotted around the fairways, a unique location for visiting players while also attracting non-golfers who value the space and beautiful scenery. The project has developed into a unique business model, bringing unexpected and very welcome benefits. The park is seeing a trend among returning visitors to ‘trade up’ initially from renting a spot for their touring caravan to buying a static ‘caravan’ on site, and from there to purchasing a luxury lodge on the fairway.

Said Thomas: “Since buying the golf club our business has gone from strength to strength, with cross-over between the two sites. It has been a hugely exciting ride over the past 15 years and the hard work has paid off, thanks in no small way to the combined efforts of our amazing team.” Taking advantage of what is already available on site is also proving a successful strategy at Acorn Holiday Park in the Cambridgeshire Fens where fishing is the main attraction.

Co-owner Paul Stanton purchased Acorn and the adjoining Pisces Country Park just before the COVID lockdown, recognising the potential to create one big park. “With four well-stocked fishing lakes and situated close to the famous Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Reserve, we definitely saw an opportunity as people are choosing to get back to Nature for short breaks,” said Paul. “We could see the market was changing as guests told us they want a UK holiday, somewhere to relax and with a variety of activities.

While fishing is a central part of our business plan, we are also exploring the potential of working closely with the Wetlands Trust to offer added value.” With Pisces already established as an award-winning fishing venue, Paul has seen a quick return on his investment having trebled the number of rental units at Acorn and upgraded site facilities. Specialist conservation work is ongoing to enhance the grounds and lakes and several families are now on their second or third visit.

SEE WHOOPER SWANS at Welney Wildfowl and Wetlands Reserve while staying at Acorn Holiday Park. Photo: Keith Suffling

The dark skies over Norfolk also bring returning visitors to Kelling Heath Holiday Park, where a programme of themed breaks includes Star Parties attracting hundreds of amateur and professional astronomers to get an uninterrupted glimpse of the Milky Way and the constellation of Orion, visible to the naked eye. To meet demand, ten premium pitches in a sheltered spot, were added last year exclusively designated for astronomers.

These events have become even more popular since the park was recognised as a 2-star accredited Dark Sky Discovery Site in 2017, unaffected by light pollution. To protect this natural phenomenon, lighting is restricted across the site through sensitive pitch planning and asset design. Guests are advised to bring toothbrush and torch when they come to stay! Kelling Heath gives many people their first true dark skies experience.

The ‘excitement and wonder on the faces of those marvelling at the majesty of the night sky’ at our Star Parties is something to behold, said Michael Timewell, director of park owner Blue Sky Leisure. As well as star parties, the park’s dedicated countryside team runs a series of activity breaks during school holidays with the emphasis on conservation and education, reflecting its relationship with the Kelling Heath Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which borders the park.

MAIN ARENA AT LAST YEAR’S INAUGURAL TORCHLIGHT Festival hosted by the Camping and Caravanning Club at Walesby Forest. Photo: Matthew Smith

Marketing manager Lucy Cook told us the importance of these events cannot be over-estimated. “Elevating the importance of Dark Skies, educating people on what to look for and supporting specialist groups in the pursuit of their interests is incredibly important to us as a business. All our activities align with our ethos of enjoying the outdoors, discovering Nature and spending time together.”

When it comes to choosing a themed holiday, trying something new outside your comfort zone or learning a new skill, Camp Wildfire probably comes close to having it all. Festival camping with a difference, this forest retreat in Kent is packed full of adventure, a unique experience offering an extraordinary 100 activities with music at night for those who want to party. Activities range from making cocktails and learning to fly the trapeze to hot air ballooning and tree climbing.

New ones are added every year including Camp Kindling for those who wish to bring children. The brainchild of two university friends, it has grown from a one-off summer camp which attracted 350 adults in 2015, to a significant player in the leisure sector attracting 3,000 people to each weekend event held during August and September. More than 40 per cent of guests are returning visitors with social media and word of mouth recommendation ensuring full capacity.

ENJOY THE MAJESTY of the night sky at Kelling Heath’s Star Parties in Norfolk. Photo: Andy Green

Marketing manager Chris Rice reckons themed breaks are popular because it gives people a reason to take time out and do something totally different. “They are not just buying a holiday, they are buying joy and making memories. They can come back year after year and try something different. Camp Wildfire offers a low-stake investment in trying something they would never normally have either the opportunity, or the nerve, to try.

They can explore all their curiosities in a safe environment, which works for them and for us as a business.” For those who have the nerve to ride the waves, a stay at Surf Tiree in Scotland might be a good place to start. Self-catering accommodation is available alongside lessons from a team of professional instructors led by husband-and-wife team Marti and Iona Larg. Long stretches of beach with safe sea conditions provide the perfect setting for beginners of all ages, while kitesurfing and kayaking are also available.

After a two-year planning battle to set up their surf school, Surf Tiree has developed an enviable reputation. So much so that it is being considered as next year’s host for the Scottish National Surfing Championships. “It was tough in the early days, but we didn’t have the luxury of giving up as we had invested too much emotion and energy into the project,” said Iona. Board, wetsuit and all necessary kit is provided, and each instructor has no more than six-eight people in a group.

While this type of holiday is seasonal (April to October) and weather dependant, the beautiful Isle of Tiree has much to offer and year-round visitors can enjoy the wildlife, whale watching, basking sharks and lots more besides. When it comes to themed holidays there really does seem to be something for everyone. Geocaching in the Lake District, yoga in Wales, ‘witchy weekends’ in the Highlands, indoor bowls at Potters Resort, chess tournaments at Butlins, netball weekends in Shropshire, medieval weekends at Warwick Castle, orienteering in Norfolk… the choice is endless, and the potential is being increasingly recognised by independent owner/operators.

PROFESSIONAL SURFER and instructor Ben Larg rides the waves at Balevullin Beach on the Isle of Tiree.

The PR value of such events has also been recognised by the Camping and Caravanning Club. While individual member sites tend not to provide themed breaks, relying instead on visitors choosing a site depending on leisure activities available in the vicinity, the club has created its own themed event. Following a successful launch last year, the club is once again hosting a Torchlight Festival of Camping in Walesby Forest, Nottinghamshire (August 18th -21st).

Exclusive to club members the programme includes an impressive line-up of musical entertainment headlined by Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Will Young. At nightfall, an illuminated light trail will entice visitors into the forest to learn about the club’s 122-year history. A £20 day pass will enable guests to try their hand at outdoor activities such as archery and zip-lining while campers can keep up the club’s century-old tradition of ‘lighting up’ by decorating and illuminating their tents, caravans and motor homes.

It seems activity breaks such as this are especially appealing for those seeking two or three shorter holidays a year, perhaps combining a hobby with a few days away, or simply wishing to get away from stressful everyday life rather than the traditional dash to the sun for two weeks. From a business perspective they encourage repeat visitors for popular annual events and help maintain on and off-peak occupancy rates.



We visit Southwaite Green Mill in the Lake District...

EACH OF THE 60 PARK HOMES in-situ has its own private drive and garden


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.


THE HEATH FAMILY work closely with their preferred supplier Stately. Pictured in the foreground, a Stately Carolina Lodge.


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.


FLOWERS IN BLOOM at Southwaite Green Mill.


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.”


GREAT EMPHASIS has been placed on ensuring the residents’ security and peace of mind.


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.


THE NEW WATERSEDGE development will comprise an additional 40 homes and is situated next to the picturesque River Eamont.


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!





TV PERSONALITY Josie Gibson declares the play area at Ladram Bay offcially open.

Family-owned Landram Bay has sunk a quarter of a million pounds into a new play zone to create one of Devon’s most exciting play opportunities: “Mums and dads know that kids get their biggest thrills from being active, so we went all out for the best possible experience,” said park director Zoe House. “The play area includes tunnels and an obstacle course, a multi-level adventure frame, wobbly bridges, slides and a pirate ship on which youngsters can clamber. “It’s enormous fun, but also encourages the development of physical fexibility and decision- making skills, as well as helping our younger guests to socialise with each other.”