Waveney River Centre toasts Southern Broads revival

James Knight who runs the Waveney River Centre at Burgh St Peter.Picture: James Bass

James Knight who runs the Waveney River Centre at Burgh St Peter.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

It is a typical English summer's day with storm clouds brewing and the first spots of rain in the air.

However, save for a lack of sunshine, the scene at Waveney River Centre is a perfect advert for a holiday at home.

The campsite with its views over marsh and marina is reassuringly packed and there is a steady toing and froing from the site's secluded lodge development.

It is a very different picture to the one that James and Ruth Knight saw when they bought the centre at Burgh St Peter on the River Waveney in 2003.

Mr Knight, 47, is proud that they could even see the potential in a site with just 12 static caravans and a basic campsite that was unrecognisable from the one today.

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Twelve years on, after 'millions of pounds of investment', it is a thriving family business and a symbol for those who believe the southern Broads can still have a strong future.

With the financial support of Ruth's parents, Len and Hazel Funnell, the couple have re-developed every aspect of the centre.

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Surveying the site, Mr Knight reels off the long list of improvements: a revamped swimming pool, a new shower block, a vastly upgraded and re-contoured campsite and marina improvements.

He said: 'The final piece in the jigsaw was the redevelopment of the pub on the site, the Waveney Inn, which we carried out last year. It has become the perfect hub for the centre, with a popular restaurant, reception, shop and seven-room hotel.'

The former shop, meanwhile, has been turned into a five-bedroom apartment which has proved to be an inspired decision.

'We opened it at Whitsun and before we had even put photographs on our website we had taken 33 bookings,' said Mr Knight.

'With all our facilities, from the campsite, with its escape pods as well as tent and campervan pitches, to luxury lodges and day boat hire, we penetrate lots and lots of markets.'

This summer is proving a watershed for the couple in reaching the site's potential with self-catering bookings 50pc up on last year.

Mr Knight said: 'After two years of fair weather, people are showing the confidence to book holidays throughout the year. Families are not necessarily booking their primary holiday, in fact for some that concept may even have disappeared. Over the last 12 months the majority of business has been in short breaks.'

The couple, who are helped by their children Alexandra, 15, and Charlotte, 12, during holidays, believe investment in hot tubs for their lodges was a wise decision.

'The hot tubs, along with the pub/restaurant, have helped to create a sense of destination. Many people now come here for their break and never leave the site,' said Mr Knight.

Future plans include extending the lodge development - 'we have planning permission for another 24' - and introducing hire cruisers on the site. 'It might be that we start with smaller ones. We try to do differently and do better,' said Mr Knight.

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