‘Hootz House’ at Pensthorpe Natural Park was one of our most ambitious ventures in 2015. A spectacular indoor barn with a magnificent array of slides and climbs, the playspace was an extraordinary design achievement, featuring an array of wooden equipment that can be played on all year round.
The eibe team recently caught up with Pensthorpe’s Mark Noble to get the low-down on the last four year’s successes.
“Hootz House is a product that we are absolutely thrilled with,” exudes Mark, “It’s been a very good investment for us.”
With nature conservation a design imperative, it was crucial that the indoor play facilities echoed the ethos and sustainability of Pensthorpe.
“The five towers inside represent different parts of the nature reserve,” Mark explains, “Wooden equipment was essential, as we wanted to be unique and not just another one of the 1300 indoor play areas with a plastic ball pit. The reaction of families when they first walk in is great to see, so I am delighted that we stayed true to what we believe in as a business and insisted on the natural theme.”
The Pensthorpe team were strategically aware of the need to increase footfall for families with younger children, as well as maintaining its popularity with more senior members.
As Mark explains:
“Having the unique combination of an indoor and outdoor play area means we can continually appeal to a wider audience and attract new families. Through this educative process, we are encouraging the next generation. It’s crucial that children learn to climb trees, consider risk and work out how to get down!”
In terms of raw numbers, there is no doubting Pensthorpe’s success.
“Before 2015, we attracted 85,000 visitors; after Hootz House we had 95,000 and last year 109,000. Moreover, memberships and renewals are growing incrementally, as our appeal to larger families increases. So we are safeguarded financially, as well as being able to continue our ethos as a nature preservation pioneer.”
Pensthorpe sits proudly as Norfolk’s biggest revenue generator amidst extremely high competition; a statistic Mark is immensely proud of,
“As a county, Norfolk outshines Cornwall, quite literally in terms of weather, but also in financial returns – Norfolk is worth £3.9 billion in tourism revenue, so for us to compete, we have to be inventive and innovative all the time, given we are not on the ‘honey pot’ coast road to the glorious Norfolk beaches. If we are not careful, people drive past us!”
Indeed, weather is a key factor for the Pensthorpe team, whether good or bad, but Mark says Pensthorpe has the perfect solution,
“Last year we had to contend with the Beast from the East and had to close; when the weather is beautiful, folk head for the seaside. Location is a constant challenge for us, but having facilities that are open all year, and in all weather, protects us from such adversity.”