From squatter site to prestige park
“Eventually, grandfather bought the farm. After the war there were squatters in the billets the Air Ministry had put up on the land. Grandfather demolished them. He saw there was a demand for camping and decided to put up a chalet. Soon there were old double decker buses, railway carriages, chicken huts and beach huts. This was the beginnings of camping.”
This incredible chronicle is the history of what is now one of Britain’s premier-facility year-round family holiday parks. Roland Stanwix was tracing, for Out&About, the shaky beginnings of Stanwix Park Holiday Centre, which now has 140 touring pitches and a list of facilities ranking it among the UK’s most comprehensive parks.
It has an entertainment complex that houses two nightclubs, one for young people and families, the other for adults. There’s a bar for snooker players, another area for pool, a suite for fitness enthusiasts, two swimming pools and a tenpin bowling facility with stunning hi-tech equipment.
Roland Stanwix runs the park, on the northern coast of Cumbria at Silloth, with his brother Eric. Roland continues:
“In 1965 when we took over after our father died the place was a tip. There were gipsy caravans and no mains drainage.
“Over a 12-month period we put electricity to most pitches, showers and a mile of sewers. At the time it cost £1600 to finance it and we had to put the rent for each pitch up from £11 to £18 a year, which caused outrage among the tenants!”
Touring caravanning was just evolving: “At this stage we were getting just an occasional touring caravan on the park.”
In 1966 the Stanwix family bought more land and established a park for touring caravans but still with only three toilets for 100 pitches.
“In 1968 we built what are now the Skiddaw and Criffell touring areas – each named after the view they offered, of Skiddaw, the mountain, and Criffell, the mountain range over the Solway into Scotland.”
But it wasn’t until 1972 that Stanwix Holiday Park really took off – with the building of the Sunset Inn, named after the famous sunset visible from the park over the Criffell mountain range across the Solway and which forms the logo-symbol of the park to this day.
“After that we began a strategic progression,” says Roland. “In 1967 we opened the Cabin Club which seated 116, the Sky Bar in 1977, in 1980 the indoor pool, in 1985 we bought another farm (Fell View Farm) and increased the number of touring pitches.” And so to the present:
Stanwix Park Holiday Centre is still very much a family establishment in every sense of the word – run by almost the entire Stanwix family, for families.
Roland and Eric Stanwix are the proprietors. Sons Eric and Stephen, daughter Lynn, Eric senior’s wife Barbara and more all play a part in the enormity of the fun that greets the touring caravanner and motorhomer here.
We’d been chatting in various of the family’s offices during the early part of the evening. We’d toured the arcade, soft play area, found the stunning UV-striplighted four-lane bowling alley that’s British Tenpin Bowling Association-registered. Those UV lights make the walls, the pins, the channel guides and the balls glow. It’s an incredible sight – another feature that sets this park apart from anything you expect to find in the caravan park industry.
We’d viewed the figure-of–eight-shaped pool that’s open from early morning until late in the evening, from several of the entertainment areas which overlook it. We discovered the snooker room with full-size snooker table; a room that’s suitably quiet and subdued and away from the razzmatazz of fun elsewhere in the complex.
Then we found a terrace overlooking the indoor pool that’s popular for coffee and newspapers on a Sunday morning. From this haven of tranquillity Eric Stanwix junior, our guide, ushered us through a door into a total contrast of atmosphere: a bar that exudes friendly ambiance with its cool lighting theme, all recently refurbished.
Next on our itinerary: the cabaret area for adults.
But first we needed to be at the Garden Restaurant before it closed at 9.30pm. Local-recipe Cumberland sausage is on the menu along with a good choice of alternatives. Both the dinner and also the breakfast we devoured on the Sunday morning here were well presented and delicious.
Well fed, it was on with the tour. By this time we’d met up with Eric Stanwix senior. We’d have lost our way in the labyrinth of complexity without a guided tour. He escorted us to the Dunes Bar (again named after the view). Mauves and blues and style greeted us – this is so uncampsite-like, so sophisticated, so prestige-nightclub.
This is the cabaret area: Computerised lighting, with gel-colours selectable at the touch of a switch and a mouse-click library of 17 thousand tracks and MAC lights that swivel 360 degrees.
On we go in our guided tour as the night wears on at Stanwix Park. We’re now in the pool and darts bar. This is pub-character, with Spitfire and Catalina flying boat images on the walls. Finally we settle for a drink in the Dunes Cabaret Bar with Eric and Barbara Stanwix.
We’d sampled an evening at Stanwix Park – in fact our tour of the whole complex meant that we’d sampled several evenings here. No time on this visit for a swim in that gorgeous pool with the enormous fun water chute or to top up the tan in the solarium, though – those will have to wait until we find time for a return visit!
|Site Info: Stanwix Park|
|Address:||Greenrow, Silloth-on-Solway, Cumbria CA7 4HH|
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