British Holiday and Home Parks Association, David Bellamy Conservations Awards

British Holiday and Home Parks Association, David Bellamy Conservations Awards

Thorney Lakes

Thorney Lakes

The rural economy needs all the help it can get these days and parks can play a vital role in providing much needed employment and custom for local businesses and people. One park that has gone the extra mile to be a ‘good neighbour' is Thorney Lakes, a camping and caravanning park situated near Muchelney on the Somerset Levels.

The owners, Richard and Ann England, have worked for years to involve local people and to invite them onto their land to enjoy it with them. They support local charities and environmental groups and host a ‘green festival' which attracts about 1,000 people on to their park.

This ‘bridge-building' approach is backed up in a really practical way by the England's determination to support the local economy. They use local trades people around their park – for example, local thatchers were used to re-furbish a small information point, even though this was a far more expensive option than using modern roofing material. They were promoting local food and drink long before ‘eat local' became a mainstream concern and they keep building new links with suppliers each year. For example, in 2008 they invited a mobile butcher who supplies local sausages and the like to visit their site once a week.

Perhaps, most impressively, Thorney Lakes is also part of a local tourism network. Thanks to this network, the village of Muchelney produces an annual leaflet that promotes 18 local businesses and visitor attractions such as food suppliers, a pottery, the visitors centre and the nearby abbey.

"This helps us all with our businesses," says Ann English, who explains that it also gives her visitors a richer holiday experience. " Unless people know what is in the area, they aren't going to have the best holiday they can," she explains.