Campsites could pop-up across Norfolk as staycations set to boom
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With travel abroad still uncertain, summer-time staycations are set to boom and new campsites are popping-up across Norfolk.
As the country heads out of lockdown, families are eager to plan their summer getaways.
But with the continued ban on foreign holidays, it seems swimming pools and flights abroad will be swapped for road trips and tents in fields.
And some Norfolk landowners are cashing in on the action, offering their unique locations as temporary pop-up campsites.
Christopher Johnson is the owner of Thorpe Hall Manor, a small farm located at Thorpe-Next-Haddiscoe.
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This year Mr Johnson is set to offer his 100 acres of land to campers who want to escape to the countryside.
The 69-year-old said: “Holidays aboard are going to be extremely difficult this year.
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“There is a lot in Norfolk worth seeing. Beautiful scenery and wildlife away from cities and towns.
“Prior to lockdown last year I read in the British Farmer and Grower (NFU) magazine that for about four weeks a year, farmers are allowed to offer their land as a temporary camping site, without needing planning permission.
“It seemed like a good idea to do a couple of weeks here and there when Covid allowed. So, this year we thought we would give it a try.”
Permanent campsites must have planning permission before they can apply for a licence.
But this summer, government ministers have temporarily relaxed planning laws, meaning landowners can now open pop-up camping sites for 56 days - double the usual 28-day limit - without planning permission.
With more restrictions set to lift on Monday, April 12, only self-contained accommodation can reopen, so many pop-ups will not become available until after May 17.
Mr Johnson is looking to book in families in mid to late summer, and will be offering between 10 and 20 camping pitches, with temporary toilets and wash facilities in place.
The farm is located by the Broads, with a range of nearby country walks, local pubs and only a few miles from seaside towns of Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft.
“This will be our first year, so it’s very much trial and error,” said Mr Johnson.
"We made the decision to offer camping to diversify and as another source of income.
“Most people who come here always comment how scenic the area is. It’s the ideal spot.”
Pete Waters the executive director of Visit East Anglia said he believes staycations will see a “huge surge” this year and welcomes the pop-up sites - which will help ease demand on popular destinations.
He said: “This is a great opportunity to show visitors a great time and have them enjoy our fantastic offering, from stunning coast and countryside to the Broads National Park and superb family attractions.
“Tourism is our largest and most important sector in terms of employment, so after being shut for so long, it’s vitally important to our economy that businesses can reopen safely as quickly as possible and start welcoming guests again.
“Campsites, particularly on the coast, are already experiencing high demand so the pop-up initiative is a great idea.
"We’d very much welcome them, especially if they are in lesser-visited parts of the region, away from the honeypots where lots of people will congregate.
"The more we can spread visitors across the area the more reassuring and safer it will be for holidaymakers and residents alike.
“If the pop-ups are successful, it would be good to see planning applications going in to make them permanent and for us to be able to diversify our accommodation offering.”
Dan Yates, managing director of bookings website Pitchup said the extension of permitted development rights had led to around 225 pop-up sites launching in July and August last year, while around 50 new locations have joined so far this year.
He expects around 500 new pop-up sites to be using Pitchup by July.
Many of the pop-ups are away from tourist hotspots and some distance away from the coast, with a large number located in secluded farm areas.
Mr Yates said: "The scale of demand this year is going to be enormous but I would say to holidaymakers that summer is not fully booked. Have a look online. There's something for everyone.
Martin Smith, founder of Campsites.co.uk, said he has also seen a lot of new pop-ups wanting to list this year, ranging from back-to-basics campsites to bell tent glamping venues.
He said: "Farm holidays are hugely popular with young families and a great way for landowners to diversify their revenues.
"High demand for UK holidays is making summer availability very tight in lots of areas, so new sites in good locations will certainly do well."
But as well as pop-up sites, some newer and more permanent camping sites are set to return after huge success last year.
Kathryn Cross is the owner Walnut Tree Meadow Camping, in Wymondham, which opened in 2020.
The campsite is located on land where her business, Centre Paws, is also based.
It offers a range of activities and facilities for owners and their dogs to enjoy some much-needed time away.
The 50-year-old said: “It’s our second year and we have our first campers coming next week.
"But because we are not allowed to do shared facilitates until May, we have opened it so we will only have one camper on the whole field at a time.
“We came up with the idea after some of our customers mentioned it, saying it would be lovely place to camp. We have a little paddock out the front and we thought it could be quite handy.
“We got in touch with the Freedom Camping Club, who do all of the checks for you, make sure you have the correct facilities and approve it. So, they gave us an exemption certificate.
“Last summer for the whole of July and August we were fully booked and that was four pitches. It was amazing.
“This year we will have five pitches and we have bookings coming in every day.”
This year Walnut Tree Meadow Camping is also set to introduce new toilets and electric hookups and Centre Paws will open a new dog swimming pool - which campers can book.
Ms Cross added: “Last summer people couldn’t go abroad, so families brought all of their camping kit for staycations at home.
“Hopefully they think ‘we really enjoyed it, so let's go camping this year’ and use the equipment they invested in.
“I’m feeling quite positive. I think camping is going to be really popular this year and I’m very excited about our new facilities.”