THERE are caravan parks and then there are caravan parks.
Falling very much into the exclusive latter category is the one at Skelwith Fold on the outskirts of Ambleside in the Lake District.
A more sedate and picturesque pitch for your static or tourer is difficult to imagine.
It sits among 130 acres of stunning woodland which until the 1950s was the estate of the wealthy Leeds flax mill owners, the Marshall family.
Sadly the stately home is no more, although various pieces of stray masonry have been put to good use around the place.
What Cordelia Marshall - the last of the dynasty to live at the hall - would have thought about her land becoming the home to 330 caravans is anyone’s guess.
But she would have to agree that it couldn’t really be more tastefully done and would also probably salute the current owner Henry Wild in his pursuit of fostering all manner of wildlife on the site. Deer, rabbits and red squirrels are not an unusual site among the homes.
Certainly for anyone whose idea of caravan holidaying is something redolent of Carry On Camping, they are in for quite a surprise.
For many of the statics that occupy the park are more like penthouse suites in miniature with all the trappings demanded by 21st century Brits, including spaciousness; proper, comfortable beds (with en-suite attached to the main one), classy cooking facilities and modern central heating.
We were staying in what is an upper-end-of-the-range dwelling and we were very impressed and happy.
The only drawback for some folk will be that you can buy them but not hire them. Prices range from £25,000 to £80,000 plus annual rent to the site – then you go there almost as often as you like. I attach that rider “almost” because for planning reasons you cannot make it your permanent home and the park shuts from November 15 to March 1.
It’s house rules too that you buy new and you have to replace your static caravan with a new one within 12 years.
To bring your tourer or motorhome to Skelwith (no tents allowed) it is as little as £21 a night depending on the pitch.
There are show homes to view for sale too - plus a Motorhome which is apparently superseding the tourer-type caravan these days as the preferred choice of mobile home.
The statics themselves are distributed around the park in tastefully small clusters, mini “streets” and occasionally in relative isolation, all connected by seven miles of roads.
The views are nothing short of spectacular and of course on your doorstep there are more walks and climbs than you could shake a stick at.
Immaculately clean and wonderfully quiet, the site has a reception area and general store and there is a playground and artificial sports pitch where the young ones can let off steam, a recreation area complete with modern wooden henge, a small library with internet access and laundry facilities.
Mr Wild has made “sustainable tourism” its goal, winning a number of major awards for its conservation policies and it is one of the favourite haunts of the famous botanist Prof David Bellamy because of its fauna and flora.
Among Skelwith Fold’s many natural attractions are a spring-fed tarn which plays host to kingfishers and dragonflies, and a network of discovery trails which allow visitors to view the wildlife which includes deer, red squirrels, badgers, foxes and bats.
Historic countryside skills – such as hedge-laying, coppicing and dry-stone walling – are used to maintain the character of the grounds, and shielded illumination allows visitors to enjoy the night sky.
Even the park’s reception and conservation centre has been built largely from local materials and features an innovative “living roof” of wildlife-friendly plants.
Little wonder that it has been praised for its conservation efforts by the Prince of Wales.
As a hideaway holiday retreat it is ideal: within 90 minutes’ drive of Wigan, it is a world away.
For further information ring 015394 32277 or click here