Camping with class - Wyresdale Park, Scorton

If you thought life under canvas was all billycans and sleeping bags, you should head for one of Lancashire's old estates. Sue Riley reports Main photography by Darren Andrews

One of Lancashire’s long-established estates is slowly awakening from its slumbers. The impressive Wyresdale Park, on the outskirts of the charming village of Scorton, is now being put to a very 21st century purpose.

Jim Whewell and his sister Sarah persuaded their parents to transform parts of the grounds around this Victorian pile into a boutique camping destination.

Any thoughts of roughing it in draughty communal shower blocks are soon dispelled when campers arrive to be shown how to use the hot tubs, gramophones and telescopes available in five luxury eco-tents which overlook a magnificent lake full of trout.

Wyresdale is also raising its profile. Around Easter time it will be featuring on Channel 4’s Country House Rescue, the programme where presenter Ruth Watson dispenses no-nonsense advice to owners whose stately properties have started to fray at the edges.

It is not the first time Sarah has been involved with the programme. Last year she married DJ and aristocrat Anselm Guise who inherited Elmore Court, a 1,500 acre Gloucestershire estate. It featured in the first series and when she heard they were looking for other projects, Sarah recommended her family home in Lancashire.

In the programme, Ruth tells the family that the estate has been ‘asleep’ and points out that while Scorton has attracted increasing numbers of visitors, Wyresdale Park has missed out.

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Jim said Ruth had been to The Barn at Scorton, Old Holly Farm, and Greenlands near Carnforth to get inspiration and her conclusion was to keep the house private but use the grounds and outbuildings. She also suggested setting up a petting farm for children, some retail units and a caf�.

To involve the local community, they held an open day which attracted 1,000 people. After positive feedback, the family is opening a caf� at Easter and they also want to hold markets in the outbuildings, encourage tourists to visit during the lambing season and, possibly, use it as a wedding and events venue.

The whole family - their parents James and Sally are playing a full part in the development - has been working hard to get Wyresdale Park ready for the bank holiday and many of the outbuildings are being brought back to life. A stone shippon is being transformed and the walled garden, which was completely overgrown, is being excavated. However, the Whewells are insistent the changes won’t affect the estate’s traditional fishing and shooting.

‘When dad purchased this house its future was hanging in the balance. These places had lots of staff but as everything became more expensive these estates were impossible to maintain,’ said Jim.

He also sees the project as a way of integrating the family back into the village. Both he and Sarah were brought up in Scorton, attending the local primary school before going to Kirkham Grammar.

However, they went to University ending what Jim describes as their ‘Swallows and Amazons’ childhood and severing many local links. Although he lives mostly in London while running a successful events company, hasn’t lost one childhood passion - the first thing he does on his regular visits back to Wyresdale is go for a swim in the lake.

Most of the family were initially reluctant to take part in the Channel 4 filming. Sally, who works in market research, said: ‘I saw the tents as being very compatible. The camping attracts a very nice outdoor crowd and while Country House Rescue was welcome I was also terrified. We were comfortably sliding into retirement!’

It took six months for her 72-year-old husband to accept the idea. James said: ‘I run the estate on traditional agricultural, sporting and residential management. I was concerned that they should remain the core.’

Most of the land at Wyreside was bought by the Whewells in the 1920s but James didn’t buy the hall until 1967. In the mid 70s he married Sally who had been one of his tenants while studying at Lancaster University.

They have lived in the hall ever since, although parts are rented out.The hall was built in the 1860s by Captain Peter Ormrod who madehis money in cotton before moving into banking. He bought 6,000 acres from the Duke of Hamilton and then set about creating a home and pleasure gardens.

Even now there are traces of his flamboyance with some of the UK’s first giant redwood trees resplendent in the gardens. But after World War One the estate hit hard times and it was sold off. Now, it looks like Wyresdale is about to be given a new lease of life.

No rough stuff

The colony of tents that greet you at Wyresdale wouldn’t have looked out of place on the African plains during the days of Empire. Rather than roughing it, visitors can expect life’s little luxuries like a comfortable bed, proper furniture and even a wind-up gramophone.

There are sleeping canopies that can accommodate up to six with a Discovery Tent next door with more camp beds so your holiday party can easily expand.

There isn’t a paraffin stove in sight. Instead your pitch comes with a cart that looks like an Aga on wheels so you can still make your meals in the great outdoors. It’s a wood burner that heats up a hotplate and, naturally, it is also very energy efficient.

Boutique camping is available at Wyresdale from May to October. There are details on

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