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County Council Announce Partnership With Rufford Abbey Country Park

6th February 2017

The county council has recently appointed Parkwood Leisure to help enhance the visitor facilities and the visitor experience at Rufford Abbey Country Park to continue to make the historic site a wonderful place to visit.

Parkwood Leisure is one of the UK’s largest leisure providers with huge experience in delivering a range of leisure and family activities to communities across the country.

As a commercial partner, Parkwood Leisure has started operations this month, taking on the management of shops, cafes and the park’s overall visitor offer.

To mark the start of commercial operations, storyteller Nicky Rafferty met with Nottinghamshire County Council Leader Councillor Alan Rhodes, Culture Committee Chairman Councillor John Knight and Parkwood Leisure Operations Director Glen Hall last week.

Councillor Alan Rhodes, Leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “We are rightly proud of our historic and picturesque Rufford Abbey Country Park. This is an exciting and important moment for everyone. Parkwood Leisure impressed the county council with its proposals which meet our vision for an external partner to develop a more modern and attractive offer for visitors without detracting from the heritage and natural appeal of the country park and abbey.”

Councillor John Knight, Committee Chairman for Culture, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Rufford is already one of the most popular tourist attractions with more than 350,000 visitors each year and we want to protect, preserve and enhance the country park for future generations to enjoy. We are delighted to welcome Parkwood Leisure which has a strong track record in the leisure industry working with local communities and partners.”

Storyteller Nicky Rafferty is a popular guest at Rufford Abbey, and has entertained visitors in the past with her tales of the Victorian housekeeper who served at Rufford Abbey when it was owned by the Savile Family in the early 1900s.

Nicky appears in period dress and sets the scene for her events by welcoming guests to the restaurant the day after King Edward’s visit to the Abbey in 1904. It fits the image of the popular Downton Abbey scene which has entertained television audiences in recent years.

Nicky said: “There was a strict social hierarchy that we don’t have today and this was observed just as keenly below stairs as it was above. There was tremendous loyalty and pride that went with working for a family like the Saviles, similar to feelings generated by celebrities or corporate brands in modern times.

“I am so excited about this partnership between Parkwood and the county council. It is fantastic that Rufford, which we all love and feel very protective of is going to be invested in and get a new lease of life.”

A new external partner provides the most effective way for the county council to manage Rufford Abbey Country Park in line with the Redefining Your Council strategy. The County Council will continue to manage the overall park and its grounds, while Rufford Abbey will remain under the guardianship of English Heritage.

Glen Hall, Operations Director of Parkwood Leisure said: “We are extremely pleased to have secured the commercial management of Rufford Abbey Country Park. We have already established a positive relationship with Nottinghamshire County Council and look forward to working in partnership to deliver a fantastic visitor experience here at Rufford Abbey Country Park.”

Rufford Abbey Country Park is already one of Nottinghamshire's most popular tourist attractions and visitors enjoy its unique combination of fascinating history and heritage and its stunning countryside. The country park’s staff have transferred from the county council to Parkwood Leisure to work with the expert partner on further enhancing visitor facilities for everyone. Around £1m funding has been secured from the county council’s capital funding which will be used to invest in the refurbishment of existing facilities and the potential future provision of new facilities for visitors.

Parkwood Leisure has outlined activities and improvements that they are looking to develop at Rufford Abbey which include a new mini golf area for children and adults to enjoy alike. An improved retail and catering offer which will see the operator working with local suppliers to deliver new and improved menu’s in the catering facilities.
The Coach House will receive a culinary make over and include a delicatessen which will stock local meats, cheeses and local produce.

The Outdoor Living Centre will be moving closer to the Abbey entrance and will feature a selection of outdoor living clothing items for men, women and children. Parkwood Leisure is also working on a brand new mobile app that will guide customers through the history of Rufford Abbey, providing an insightful and enjoyable visit.



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