Wild With Nature, a Norfolk-based glamping business, won the Ethical, Responsible & Sustainable Tourism Award, sponsored by Biffa, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.

Located in the 750-acre grounds of Manor Farm in Shropham, the business offers a luxury glamping experience across two separate sites, both of which are totally off-grid for power, water and drainage. This aligns with the environmental measures introduced at Manor Farm since 2018.

“We've gone from an intensive arable farm growing lots of vegetables – doing lots of normal stuff –to focusing more on conservation,” said Andrew Thornton, who co-owns the business with wife Rebecca Thornton. “We've gone organic, we've bought cattle – so it was quite a big change on the farming side of things, as well as the glamping.”

The couple opened Wild With Nature in July 2019. “We'd been thinking about what we could do on the farm to diversify – like a lot of farms have had to,” said Rebecca.

“Over the last five years, we've gone up to the Norfolk Show most years and looked at the shepherd’s huts that the English Shepherds Hut Company produce – then we've gone to various camping shows and farm innovation shows.

“We looked at the options and then plumped for something that we thought was good quality, and the sort of thing that we would like to go and stay in ourselves.”

The accommodation at Wild With Nature comprises a number of well-equipped shepherd’s huts – in addition to yurts, bell tents and a communal safari tent.

“We say it's a cross between camping and hotel accommodation. We aim to provide everything that you could possibly need apart from food, drink and clothes,” said Rebecca.

“We used to go camping as a family, and we’d arrive with basically half the house on the back of a trailer – so I wanted to make sure that people didn't have to do that,” she added. “We basically provide everything that you could think of, and it's nice quality. We have vintage china, feather bedding and Egyptian cotton sheets – things like that.”

Wild With Nature also offers a range of activities including wild swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing. Alternatively, guests can simply savour the peace and quiet.

“We like guests to come and just completely relax and get back in touch with nature,” said Rebecca. “There's no Wi-Fi, there’s not endless power, so you can't be constantly hooked up to a screen or music.

“At the right time of year, you can hear the stags rutting; there are pheasants, muntjac and we've got the animals on the farm. It's a beautiful site, regardless of the weather.”

Andrew added: “A lot of people come from a busy city or whatever – and you can see they're really wound up and stressed when they get here. Then you go and say ‘hello’ a couple of days later, and they’re a different person.”

The company’s success at the East of England Tourism Awards – where it was also Highly Commended in the Camping, Glamping, Holiday Park and Self Catering Accommodation category – was unexpected, but very well-received.

“We were really surprised to win actually," said Rebecca. “But it's lovely recognition of what we've done over the last two or three years since we set the site up, and also what we're trying to do on the farm as a whole.

“One of the things that came out of the feedback from the judging is that we need to blow our own trumpet a bit more – which we don’t really like doing – so we're looking at ways that we can make it more obvious what we do on the sustainability side of things.”

Rebecca and Andrew are also looking at different ways to develop the site – such as offering health retreats for smaller groups and opening it up to school children during the low season.

“We are just trying to expand our site a little more, and increase the range of experiences that we can offer,” said Rebecca.

For more information, visit www.wildwithnature.co.uk

Archant organise and host the annual East of England Tourism Awards to recognise and celebrate those businesses and individuals that contribute to the regional visitor economy. To register for more information on the 2022/23 competition please visit https://www.tourismawards.co.uk/live/en/page/contact-us