Two months ago our newest location, Thorpe Forest, opened to guests. We catch up with General Manager Laura Grant to find out how things have been going.
Who’s in the team?
Laura heads up a full-time team of 15, swelling to 35 on changeover days. Laura herself is almost always accompanied onsite by her faithful golden Labrador, Sam, who has never looked back since moving in two months ago.
Charlie, the Forest Ranger, has boundless enthusiasm and the forest is her natural work place. She is assisted in her duties by Ryan, and Karen, who has a particular passion for birds and moths.
And then there’s Ian. According to Laura “He knows everything about everything. Even the names and histories of the vintage aircraft that sometimes fly overhead. If you have any questions for Ian, put aside some time because the answers will never be short!”
The team at Thorpe Forest is like a family. And that family includes some local wildlife too; “James is our baby squirrel who fell out of the drey a couple of months ago; he will eat out of your hand. And look out for Bob, the limping pheasant, although thankfully his leg is on the mend now.”
Of the team, Laura says, “I am proud of them. They have quickly established Thorpe Forest as a friendly, happy place to holiday.”
What’s special about the forest there?
“Thorpe Forest is on the border of Norfolk and Suffolk. Our setting has 3 quite distinct areas. Some cabins are in full forest, others look out from the forest over a meadow and the remaining cabins are in a more open setting, overlooking a glade. It means everybody can find something they like.”
The location is also bordered by the Thet River. “It isn’t easy to access at the moment as it is surrounded by marshland but we’re planning to extend the existing boardwalk and create a circular walk between the cabins and the river.”
Any teething troubles?
Opening a brand new cabin location is a big task, there’ll always be something to catch you out, won’t there? “Well, no major disasters so far. The biggest issue has been intermittent Wi-Fi but we are working hard with the relevant local third parties to have this resolved very soon. Interestingly, even some of our more tech dependent guests have put away their gadgets and commented on the peace it has given them.”
For some, the most important thing is “Can I still order my pizza through the TV?” and the answer from Laura is a reassuring “Yes, every day if you want to.”
Which activities are proving popular?
“Aside from the forest walks – which Charlie mapped out when we opened (I lost her for 3 days at one point), there is bike hire onsite and we work with our neighbour, Tim, who runs archery, canoeing and tree trekking activities. It is worth booking ahead for these through the Forest Holidays website as they are instructor-led and we are still in the early days of gauging demand.”
The walks mapped by Charlie include an easy 2km forest walk, and a 15km and 18km walk which also take in local villages and landmarks.
What about further afield? “The most popular local towns are Bury St. Edmunds and Norwich. Another big favourite, which surprised me, given it is a good hour away, is Sandringham. It’s a day trip, but on a sunny day, it’s a real treat; the gardens in particular are beautiful.”
What’s your favourite part of the job?
“I love the “WOW!” moments that our guests have. Either their cabin delights them or they might see one of our little Muntjac deer for the first time or perhaps discover something about the forest with Charlie, the Forest Ranger. I feel then, that we will be leaving an imprint of happy memories, and that is a great feeling.”
What’s coming up over the next few months?
“Well, we have a Trim Trail already but I want to build something similar for dogs; a fun agility course that will get them fired up for the forest walks. I’m also looking forward to late October when I am told we are on the migration path of red deer. I did worry that we might be in the way but they’ve been doing it for thousands of years so I don’t think our presence will change things.”
How are bookings going?
“Very well, I’m really pleased at how popular Thorpe Forest is. We have one or two cabins still free for the summer but you would need to book soon to secure one.”
Finally Laura, give us 3 reasons to book a cabin at Thorpe Forest
“Only 3? OK, these are my top 3: firstly, you are close to lovely towns like Bury St. Edmunds and yet feel completely off the beaten track. Secondly, the weather; we seem to have our own warm microclimate here in the forest and we’ve hardly had a drop of rain since the day we opened. And thirdly, and I would say this, but my team here at Thorpe Forest are wonderful and will pull out all the stops to make sure your holiday is perfect.”
Book your cabin at Thorpe Forest today, and then relax as Laura and the team and the tranquil setting of the forest work their magic.