Enjoy family fun at Hirsty's Family Fun Park
Family fun is growing at a diversifying farm, which has added tourism to its mix of crops and livestock.
Hirsty’s Family Fun Park at Hemsby took tentative steps into the tourism world 10 years ago when it launched a maize maze. It has since added a dozen play features ranging from pedal go karts to climbing bales and a wooden combine harvester - and tourism has become the most profitable part of the business.
Visitor numbers have soared from 1,000 to 27,000 and the park won the best family-run venture at the 2016 Greater Yarmouth tourism and business awards.
The attraction is currently running its first event of the season – an Easter Baa-nanza combining play fun with farm tours with a chance to feed lambs and see them being born.
Owner Richard Hirst said: “We offer a different kind of day out – where families can have fun and get up close to farming – including learning about where their food comes from, and how farmers care for their livestock and the countryside.”
“Our most popular feature is a pile of haybales families can climb on – they love the simplicity of it,” he added.
The idea of working in the tourism industry came during a period when farming returns were “not that clever” so the family, which has run the farm for 60 years, looked at what else they could do to generate income.
“We are in a good tourist location so we tried the maze which took off in its second year and we have been adding features ever since.
“We have had to learn new skills, because we were not used to dealing with the public. We put customers first and now tourism is the most profitable part of the farm business per hectare,” he added. “And it is a quicker cash flow than the two years it can take from sowing a crop to getting paid for it.”
The fun park is lengthening its season, having added 27 days of Easter and Halloween events to its main seven-week summer season linked to the maze. It now employs up to a dozen casual staff.
Richard and wife Katrina are helped by their children Robert, Eleanor and Fiona in the family venture.
The farm - which produces wheat barley, beet, potatoes, peas and salads as well as sheep, cows, pigs and runs a livery stable – won a Norfolk Farm Business Award last year, ahead of its recent tourism business success
“The awards are recognition we are getting something right,” said Mr Hirst.
He praised the promotion of the area by the Greater Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area team, which is helping show visitors the range of things to do across the wider borough area.
GYTABIA chairman Gareth Brown said: “Hirsty’s is a great example of the kind of ventures run by local families that we are proud to support. They are using their initiative to improve the tourism offer, strengthen the economy and create jobs."
A video looking behind the scenes at Hirsty’s Family Fun Park is helping promote the area. It can be seen in the outdoor fun section on the website.
Find out more about Hirsty’s at www.hirstysfamilyfunpark.co.uk