Meet our Champion for Family Friendly Norfolk
Published: Friday 1st Jul 2016
Written by: Norfolk Champion
Who? Deb Jordan - Co-owner of Pensthorpe Natural Park
What? Voted Norfolk’s Best Large Attraction 2014, & 2015, Pensthorpe Natural Park is an exhilarating family day out that naturally inspires every generation. In its 28th year, the former home to BBC Springwatch (2008-2010) continues to captivate its visitors with its unique surroundings and thousands of bird, plant and wildlife species who call it home. For adventurous families, join ‘Hootz’ the owl and journey your way around his magical natural world enjoying a day of adventure play… nature’s way, in WildRootz and Hootz House. Armed with your Passport, discover stamp stations, mirror trails and larger than life bugs as you meet Hootz and his friends on the WildRootz Adventure Trail.
Let's find out more about our advocate of all things Family Friendly...
How long have you lived in Norfolk? If not born here, what brought you here?
I was born and lived on a working farm in Ringstead where my brother Nic and his family still farm, until moving away at the age of 18 to work firstly in Cambridge and later in London. In 2002, Bill and I were so entranced by a mesmerising and life changing visit with the children to Pensthorpe Natural Park that we found ourselves returning to Norfolk to live and work here.
Explain the story behind your business…
The “lost village of Pensthorpe” is how we think of it! Records dating back to the time of the Domesday book show that Pensthorpe was actually larger than its neighbour Fakenham! Exciting treasures such as mediaeval hand axes and Woolly Mammoth teeth and tusks were found on the site when over two million tonnes of aggregate were removed back in the 1980’s to make way for the beautiful Park you see today. Pensthorpe Natural Park is positioned in a particularly beautiful part of the Wensum Valley and is a place of great beauty, learning and spirituality. The 660 acre Estate is a fascinating giant classroom to inspire the next generation of wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts. Over the years, Bill and I have witnessed, first-hand, the rapid decline in young visitor’s awareness of the countryside and want to try and do our bit to reverse the trend of disengagement with the outdoors. Therefore, the aim has been to roll education, excitement, play and fun into one big family day out to ensure the next generation of Packham’s and Attenborough’s have all the tools possible to expand their knowledge in a fun way here in the Park. Families can hand feed the geese, identify “sculpture” bugs and creepy crawlies on the bug walk or join one of our wardens to meet our very own hedgehog, owl and red squirrels – even before you get to play in our magnificent indoor and outdoor adventure play areas, Hootz House and WildRootz! This unusual combination of play in the naturalistic setting of a reserve takes families back to a time when carefree days were spent in the great outdoors fostering a link and love of the countryside.
In the summer, we will be launching a new WildRootz Adventure Trail for families. This will see a revamped stamp trail and bug walk alongside a host of new and exciting activities. We are creating stories around key habitats on the site with wildlife characters who will act as narrators to help tell the stories. This new activity trail will see families not only come to play in WildRootz and Hootz House but head into the Park where they can continue on their adventure and learning about the natural world. Pensthorpe is also a natural haven for an abundance of bird and wildlife species and regular improvements are made to the land as a breeding site. Pensthorpe Conservation Trust (PCT) is a registered charity based at Pensthorpe that works closely with the better known tourist attraction to showcase to visitors the importance of species and habitat conservation. PCT is dedicated to ‘Actively Saving Species’. Working with partner organisations, the Trust is involved in national conservation programmes such as Operation Turtle Dove, the Great Crane Project, a Corncrake Re-introduction programme and a Red Squirrel breed and release programme. It has been a real journey having been involved in something that neither Bill nor I had much experience of when we came 14 years ago and I feel really proud to have been a small part of what is here now. It is all too easy to imagine that individually we can’t make a difference but I believe we can. We want to encourage children to get outside – in a stimulating, safe environment and have a fabulous fun day whilst learning something new about their native British wildlife. It really is that simple!
If you had to pick one spot in Norfolk to enjoy the vista, where would that be and why?
The stunning view from the NWT Visitor Centre at Cley where you can see about 8 glorious miles of reed bed and marshes stretching as far as the eye can see.
List your top five things about Norfolk…
Pretty villages and towns, lovely pubs, great walks, fabulous beaches and an abundance of really beautiful nature reserves.
If you had to advise someone visiting Norfolk three things they must not miss, what would they be and why?
We recently enjoyed one of the best family winter days out incorporating three really great Norfolk experiences. We caught the Coastal Hopper from Old Hunstanton on a bright crisp morning joining loads of bright eyed, cheerful, outdoorsy people (plus a few well behaved excited woofers) on their way to other coastal destinations. We alighted at Burnham Thorpe and five minutes later were striding purposefully along the ridge taking in the stunning views of the coast, fantastic reflections in watery inlets surrounded by copious bird life. A few windswept hours later with rosy cheeks and an oncoming thirst, we dropped in the delightfully “buzzy” Orange Tree pub in Thornham for a well-earned pint of larger and the delicious house speciality the OT Prawn Cocktail. The pub sits right beside the route of the Hopper so, if you have over stayed your welcome and lose the will to take another step as we did, then a quick dash across the road and you can be home within minutes! Absolutely brilliant way to take in the very pretty coastal road with options to stop off and walk, shop, eat and drink and not have to worry about where you left your car!
Find out more about Pensthorpe Natural Park and organise your visit on their website.