A surreal sight at Stanah near Thornton Cleveleys has been halting walkers in their tracks on the neighbouring tow path.
Pods have appeared on the award-winning Kneps Farm Caravan site, in place of the pitching points for tents.
They are warm, cosy and made of wood, front and rear walls insulated using natural sheep’s wool, protection against cold and noise, treated roof panels, with a core of galvanised steel, and, aesthetically appealing with a granular finish and weatherproofing.
It’s got the look of a crofters’ village, a hide-away for Hobbits, or the set of The Prisoner. Most sleep two adults and two kids. The bigger ones accommodate larger family groups.
All have been turning heads of passers-by to River Road, near Wyre Estuary Country Park, and are site owner Jonathan Porter’s secret weapon against the British climate.
He is convinced this is the shape of things to come for people who like to experience the great outdoors but don’t want to huddle under canvas or fork out for a static or touring caravan.
There’s roughing it – and there’s Pods, invented by a small firm in South Lakes, where they know about rain. Think of a cross between a stylish shed, summer house but with the curves of a boat, and all of it built to last and you’re there.
This is what’s known as glamping, a glamorous version of camping.
They have proved a talking point along with a brand new modular children’s playground and al fresco adult gym so alluring that Jonathan and his wife Diane have heard kids howling in dismay at being tugged away from gawping at it all.
“You can hear the disappointment that they can’t just come in and play,” adds Jonathan.
It’s just one of the reasons why this small but perfectly formed holiday park has managed to elbow aside the big boys on the playground, the giants of the caravan industry, and win not just the regional, but national, award, from the bible of caravanners: Practical Caravan.
The family-run holiday park picked up Practical Caravan Top 100 Sites Award – as both regional and overall winner this year. Jonathan and sister Fiona, who took over the business from their parents, were joined by Diane, at the posh awards ceremony at the Hilton Hotel at the NEC Birmingham.
Their customers’ vote of confidence, online and on-site, has clinched them the regional award (for the North West) for the past three years.
They are also building on last summer’s big success, winning national, and regional, in the Practical Motorhome Top 50 Sites Award for 2010.
“We’re clearly doing something right, in giving people what we would like to see ourselves,” adds Diane. “We are very proud to have pulled off the double in both awards, which are highly recognised in the caravanning fraternity. It will not only be a big boost to our business, but to Blackpool and the surrounding areas.”
Formerly a small farm, Kneps converted into a holiday park in 1967. Jonathan and his sister grew up here, Jonathan later enjoying a holiday romance which turned into lasting love with wife Diane, who first came here, on holiday, at 14, then later to work.
It’s off the beaten track but sufficiently close to major tourist attractions to give visitors the best of both worlds. There are lots of public footpaths handy, along with the walkways fringing the estuary, but nip in the car, or on the bus, and you can be in Blackpool, or Bowland, or even Lakeland, in a matter of minutes (diversions permitting...) or for the latter, little more than an hour.
Jonathan admits many visitors are regulars, “but we’re also seeing lots of first timers, in their first motorhome, or caravan, testing the market, rather than go abroad.” It’s open to tourers and motorhomes as well as the growing “glamping” market. There are also owner-occupied static caravans on site making the most of the long (March-November) season in their homes from home.
As well as a reinvention, via Pods and new play and outdoor gym facilities, the family’s reinvested in a smart amenity block which wins praise from visitors for its unique design. A far cry from the spartan facilities associated with holiday parks of old, it offers central heating, unlimited hot water, family bathrooms, disabled facilities, launderette, scullery, and more.
A convenience store, open to locals as well as visitors, stocks essentials, and treats, such as Cockerham’s Wallings ice cream! “It’s all about keeping the home comforts while on holiday,” adds Fiona. “Quality of life is important here!”