Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Natural beauty, a warm welcome and traditional seaside charm are just some of the “gems” that attract holidaymakers to north Norfolk all year round.
That was the conclusion from David Thompson, head of the not-for-profit company Visit North Norfolk, which looks after everything to do with tourism.
From the historic grandeur of the Blickling Hall estate near Aylsham to the wild and impressive Blakeney Point, north Norfolk’s coastline and land-based attractions make the area a year-round destination.
Mr Thompson said: “People are looking for alternative ways of taking a break. People are fed up about not having holidays. People can have a relatively inexpensive break in north Norfolk.”
He added it was a “slow start” for tourism this year because of the long winter, but after the weather improved visitors started to flock to the area.
“North Norfolk is a large area which can cope with a large number of visitors. It still has isolated beaches and you can go on walks where you cannot see anyone for miles. We have also got the traditional resorts which are coming back in vogue again.
“There is a sense that people are rediscovering places like Sheringham and Cromer which have a sense of nostalgia and innocence. You can go to the seaside here and not spend much money and have a good time,” Mr Thompson said.
The iconic Cromer Pier, Sheringham High Street and East and West Runton feature heavily in the newly-released Alan Partridge Alpha Papa film.
Mr Thompson added: “Film tourism is extremely popular. People do go to places to see sites of films. There is no such thing as bad publicity. I imagine the people who see the Alan Partridge film would think north Norfolk is an attractive place to go.”
He thought the district included a “series of gems” and had something for everybody.
Figures from 2010 showed that the value of tourism in the Visit North Norfolk area was £500m and the approximate number of direct and indirect jobs sustained by tourism in the area was 10,500.
The tourism chief said: “It has got really interesting places to go to, fabulous culture, history and stunning churches. There are lots of things to see if the weather isn’t good.
“There is always something happening here, which is attractive to people who want a different cultural experience.”
He believed weather continued to have an impact on visitor numbers, but not as much as in previous years.
“We have more accommodation providers willing to stay open during the winter. We have got a lot smarter over the past five years because people are looking for a place closer to home,” Mr Thompson said.
More attractions are staying open outside of the summer period, including Davenport’s Magic Kingdom in North Walsham and Bewilderwood in Hoveton, and activities including birdwatching, walking and cycling remain popular in the winter because of “fabulous views”.
Mr Thompson added: “Children don’t really care about the weather. Kids are very happy to go splashing on the beach in their wellies.”
He thought the main draw of north Norfolk was the warm welcome which he thought was the best in the world.
Accommodation providers have indicated bookings this summer are okay, according to Mr Thompson who said: “Things are better than in an awful lot of other places.”
One business which attracts hundreds of holidaymakers to north Norfolk is Great Yarmouth-based Blue Sky Leisure.
The family firm owns Woodhill Park camping and caravan site in East Runton and Kelling Heath Holiday Park near Holt.
Mark Durrant, operations manager for parks and leisure for Blue Sky Leisure, said: “2013 has been a funny year. It started off very wet and cold and not good for camping and touring, but since June and July it has been fantastic.
“We have probably had one of our best starts to the summer for many years. The phones have been ringing off the hook with people inquiring about availability or last minute breaks. The staycation has continued.”
He said there has been a resurgence of visitor numbers to the two holiday parks over the past four years.
They can hold up to 4,200 people between them and attract a range of people from couples, young families and grandparents.
During the summer season the sites employ 130 staff and 60 full-time equivalent staff for the rest of the year.
Currently visitor numbers at both parks are up 5pc on last year, which has benefited the local economy.
Mr Durrant said the majority of people who stayed at the parks were from Norfolk and Suffolk and added: “Drive times are influenced by high fuel costs and people want an easy getaway.”
Blue Sky Leisure has owned Kelling Heath Holiday Park since 1984 and Woodhill Park since 1989 and Mr Durrant said holiday parks were a “world away” from camping and caravan sites 15 or 20 years ago.
It invested £500,000 into both parks last year, £85,000 was invested into the Woodhill Park reception area earlier this year and they hope to improve facilities for next year.
“We need to stay one step ahead for the services we provide.
“That is our aim. We want our customers to come back year on year.
“North Norfolk is a beautiful area with beautiful scenery and really nice people,” Mr Durrant added.
Activities put on at the sites include pond dipping, craft sessions, rock pooling seaside walks and bat walks.
Mr Durrant added: “We are trying to make the most out of the natural environment.”
He said campsites were becoming increasingly popular with visitors because they were safe, relaxed and allowed families to socialise and make lifelong friends.
• 10 THINGS TO DO IN NORTH NORFOLK
North Norfolk is bucket and spade heaven with four lifeguarded Blue Flag beaches at Cromer, Sheringham, Mundesley and Sea Palling. There’s a surf school at Cromer and jet ski hire at Sea Palling.
Cromer Pier is home to the unique Seaside Special end-of-the-pier variety show. Sheringham’s Little Theatre hosts a summer-long professional drama season. North Norfolk’s newest attraction is Davenport’s Magic Kingdom at North Walsham – a museum of illusions with regular magic shows to confound and amaze.
Historic homes, stunning gardens and parkland run by the National Trust, are at Blickling Hall near Aylsham, Felbrigg near Cromer and Sheringham Park, with busy programmes of events.
Enjoy the wildlife and wonders of a wilderness coast by taking a boat trip to see the seals at Blakeney Point, or wander and bird watch at the Cley marshes nature reserve.
Ride on a steam train to be transported back to another era at the North Norfolk Railway’s line between Sheringham and Holt. The Bure Valley Railway from Aylsham to Wroxham also runs little steamers.
Cromer’s Amazona Zoo features creatures from South America. Aylsham’s Redwings centre showcases’s the sanctuary’s horse welfare work, and see Shire Horses at the Hillside centre at West Runton.
North Norfolk abounds with history, which can be seen in the towns’ various museums and heritage centres. They include the RNLI Henry Blogg museum at Cromer, Muckleburgh Military Museum at Weybourne and the motorcycle museum at North Walsham.
Green fingered fans can visit the Old Vicarage Gardens at East Ruston, or get lost in the Priory Maze and Gardens at Beeston Regis. Children will have fun at the seasonal Wizard Maze at Metton.
There is surfing at Cromer, some top golf courses at Cromer, Sheringham and Mundesley, and for indoor action the Splash and Victory Leisure Centres at Sheringham and North Walsham, where Rossi’s centre also has 10-pin bowling.
Adrenalin junkies will enjoy the thrills of the Karttrak at Cromer, Hilltop Adventure Centre at Upper Sheringham and can learn to fly at Northrepps airfield.
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