Norfolk nature reserve celebrates double win at tourism awards

Pensthorpe Natural Park's Millennium Garden

Pensthorpe Natural Park's Millennium Garden - Credit: Paul Brittain

Pensthorpe Natural Park in Fakenham, Norfolk, recently won both Large Visitor Attraction of the Year, sponsored by KNP, and Marketing Campaign of the Year, sponsored by Pear out of Home, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.

Spanning 700 acres of Norfolk countryside, the park covers a range of habitats from wetlands to woodland.

With bird hides, wildlife experiences, indoor and outdoor play areas, children’s activities and regular events, Pensthorpe is a place for the whole family to get back to nature and create long-lasting memories, said Pensthorpe’s head of marketing, Natalie Douglas.

Originally established by conservationist Bill Makins, Bill and Deb Jordan purchased the estate in 2003 and since then it has grown into a sanctuary for many different species of birds, mammals, invertebrates and plants, with over 1,200 species recorded at the site so far.

The site is also the base for the Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, which takes part in national and international conservation programmes, and it was home to BBC’s Springwatch between 2008 and 2013.

Pensthorpe understands the impact that nature has on our wellbeing as well as the important role we can play in protecting it, and provides opportunities for the public to get closer to nature while learning about it.

“At Pensthorpe, we think of ourselves as an outdoor classroom with opportunities to learn around every corner,” said Natalie. “From our free discovery centre through to our six different habitats, which feature an abundance of wildlife and paths to explore, there really is something for everyone across every season.”

The Pensthorpe team at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022

The Pensthorpe team at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022. Left to right: Dave Gibbons (sponsor), Thomas Hoddy, Natalie Douglas, Bill Jordan, Deb Jordan, Lorraine Findlay, Kelly Lovick, Amy Plows, Sophie Coles and Lydia Bentley - Credit: Matt Brasnett, I Do Photography

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As well as winning Large Visitor Attraction of the Year at the Tourism Awards, Pensthorpe also received the Marketing Campaign of the Year award for its Secret Garden campaign, launched in 2021.

“The original thought behind the campaign followed on from the trend we’d seen following the lock down; we knew people needed nature now more than ever and wanted to get back outside exploring,” said Natalie.

The campaign focussed around a wildlife trail, which encouraged people to explore the park, completing activities and discovering facts about Pensthorpe’s various species as they went.

Visitors were also given wildflower seeds to take home so that they could create their own ‘secret garden’. The trail was one of Pensthorpe’s most successful to date.

Natalie said that the double award win was “a fantastic achievement for the whole team” after a challenging start to the year, with the prevalence of avian flu resulting in Pensthorpe’s collection being put away from public view for many months – impacting income which facilitates the park’s conservation work.

“It can be a challenge getting the balance right between being a tourist attraction as well as a nature reserve/conservation area and it's great that people are able to recognise the work going into the park and continue to support us on the journey we are indefinitely on,” Natalie added.

Pensthorpe is also one of three finalists in the Large Visitor Attraction Award category at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022. The team will hear whether they have won at a ceremony on June 8.

Alongside ongoing conservation projects and events happening throughout the year, Natalie said that education will be central at Pensthorpe moving forward.

“Nature has never been more important than now and we need to protect it, which means educating people about it more, but in doing so, making it fun,” she said. “Nature is amazing and we need to get that message across to each and every generation and inspire them to want to learn more and see how each and every single one of them can make a difference, however small that may be.”

For more information, please visit www.pensthorpe.com

Archant organise and host the annual East of England Tourism Awards to recognise and celebrate those businesses and individuals that contribute to the regional visitor economy. To register for more information on the 2022/23 competition please visit https://www.tourismawards.co.uk/live/en/page/contact-us