£1m drive to enhance Rufford Abbey and park as tourist attraction

On the abbey steps, (from left) Couns John Knight and Alan Rhodes with staff members, Victorian housekeeper and storyteller Nicky Rafferty and catering manager Isabel Garratt, and Parkwood Leisure chief, Glen Hall.
On the abbey steps, (from left) Couns John Knight and Alan Rhodes with staff members, Victorian housekeeper and storyteller Nicky Rafferty and catering manager Isabel Garratt, and Parkwood Leisure chief, Glen Hall.

A twofold drive to invigorate Rufford Abbey Country Park’s status as one of the best tourist attractions in the county was launched this week.

About £1 million is to be spent by Nottinghamshire County Council on refurbishing and upgrading the facilities at the popular park, which attracts more than 350,000 visitors every year.

And the council has joined forces with a commercial partner, Parkwood Leisure, who will take over the management of the park’s shops, cafes and range of leisure activities.

Parkwood, who already manage several outdoor sites across the UK, have plans to create a new mini-golf area for adults and children, while the Coach House cafe will get a makeover with an improve menu. The craft shop will also be given a facelift, while the former gift shop will be turned into a delicatessen, stocking meats, cheeses and local produce.

The park, set in stunning countryside, and 12th century abbey are managed by the council in co-operation with English Heritage. Council leader, Coun Alan Rhodees, said: “We are rightly proud of our historic and picturesque Rufford Abbey. This is an exciting and important moment for everyone.

“Patkwood Leisure have impressed the council with their proposals, which met our vision to develop a more modern and attractive offering without detracting from its heritage and natural appeal.”

Coun John Knight, the council’s committee chairman for culture, added: “We want to protect, preserve and enhance the park for future generations to enjoy. Parkwood Leisure have a strong track record.”

Parkwood’s operations director, Glen Hall, said: “We look forward to working in partnership to deliver a fantastic visitor-experience.”