Parkwood Leisure Named Preferred Bidder at Rufford Abbey Country Park

Parkwood Leisure has been named by Nottinghamshire County Council as its preferred bidder to manage commercial operations at Rufford Abbey Country Park.

Rufford Abbey, set in 150 acres of parkland in the centre of Nottinghamshire, is one of the most visited free-to-enter tourist attractions in the region. The park is owned by Nottinghamshire County Council and managed to a plan agreed with Historic England. 

Each year, the Park welcomes around 350,000 visitors and has an annual turnover close to £2m. Nottinghamshire County Council is committed to securing a long-term, sustainable future for Rufford, to protect and enhance the heritage of the historic abbey buildings and the surrounding parkland, and to develop a modern and attractive visitor offer. The County Council has also identified a capital contribution of up to £1m towards the development of enhanced visitor facilities.

Commenting on the news, Glen Hall, Operations Director at Parkwood Leisure stated: “We are delighted to have been selected to manage the commercial operation at Rufford Abbey Country Park. We understand the importance of the Park to the local community and look forward to working in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council, Historic England and English Heritage, to deliver a fantastic range of new and enhanced facilities and leisure activities for both children and adults, whilst maintaining the integrity of the site.”

Parkwood impressed the County Council with its proposals to manage and enhance the commercial operations at the country park, including the cafes, shops and overall visitor offer, while at the same time preserving and protecting the site’s unique heritage.

Their proposals meet the County Council’s vision for an external partner to develop a more modern and attractive offer for visitors without detracting from the heritage and natural appeal of the country park and abbey.  

The County Council’s Culture Committee discussed the options at its meeting on November 1 and today (Nov 16) the Council has announced the outcome of that process. The Council will now work with Parkwood to complete the necessary contracts, with a view to Parkwood managing the commercial operations at Rufford early in the new year. 

A new external partner provides the most effective way for the County Council to manage Rufford Abbey Country Park in line with the Redefining Your Council strategy. The County Council will continue to manage the overall park and its grounds, while Rufford Abbey will remain under the guardianship of English Heritage.

Councillor John Knight, Committee Chairman for Culture, at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “This is a significant and exciting time for Rufford Abbey Country Park. The park is already one of Nottinghamshire's most popular tourist attractions attracting more than 350,000 people each year who enjoy its unique combination of fascinating history and heritage and its stunning countryside.

“We want to protect, preserve and enhance it for future generations to enjoy. Parkwood has a strong track record within the leisure industry of working with local communities to manage successful venues which promote leisure and the great outdoors.”

Parkwood Leisure already manages a number of outdoor sites in the UK, including Dolygaer in the Brecon Beacons, the Victorian lake within Roath Park in Cardiff, and the Alice Holt Cycle Centre in Farnham. 

Parkwood Leisure is committed to encouraging children and adults to get more active outdoors. With its outdoor activity centres the company is able to offer something for everyone whilst enjoying the natural environment.