Farm and fortune as Purbeck favourite scoops top tourism title

Purbeck attraction Farmer Palmer’s has been crowned a winner of the South West Tourism Awards 2023 during a glittering ceremony at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The family run farm park near Wareham celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2023 and will now mark the occasion by heading for the Visit England awards in June to compete for the national Best Large Tourist Attraction award.


Farmer Palmer’s director Sandra Palmer-Snellin meets a new arrival at the farm park

“Customers see us like a second home”

Last year, in 2022 that title was won by Chester Zoo and Farmer Palmer’s director Sandra Palmer-Snellin said she was thrilled that her team of more than 50 employees has been recognised at such a high level.

Sandra said:

“Our team is like one extended family and their exceptional, top quality attitude where nothing is too much trouble deserves this recognition.

“We want our customers to see Farmer Palmer’s like a second home and truly believe that they deserve excellent, quality service, and a warm welcome.

“It is lovely to see all the hard work, ongoing investments, and attention to detail being recognised by the judges who secretly shopped our experience.

“We always listen to feedback from our customers, so we are grateful for the opportunity for feedback from the judges.”

One of Farmer Palmer’s new alpacas poses for the camera

Wishing and visualising a win

Sandra added:

“Knowing that Farmer Palmer’s is heading to the National Awards is mind-blowing – although when I was asked to write a press release ahead of the ceremony just in case, I wrote saying how excited I was that we had taken gold.

“I entered us for the awards last summer because I wanted to say thanks to the team who had all stayed with us through two difficult Covid years.

“I know in the national finals we will be up against very diverse businesses who have all worked equally as hard, but I am going to apply the same logic of wishing and visualising a win and see if it works again!”

Feeding time for the guinea pigs at Farmer Palmer’s

Getting the under eights back to nature

Farmer Palmer’s started life in 1998 when Phillip and Sandra diversified the dairy farm owned by David Palmer, who is still farming today at 87 years old.

Their mission statement was to help local children develop across all levels through education, exercise, entertainment and events, and today have a team of 62 employees.

They recently won a gold award from Dorset Tourism for the large attraction of the year as well as the Winners of All Winners award and Dorset Coast Forum’s sustainable business award.

Their aim of focussing on children of eight and under, and of giving them the chance of getting back to nature in an environment that is fun and educational has paid dividends – last year up to 125,000 visitors came to the farm and 2023 will see a big reinvestment in the business.

New play areas, improved animal barns, a place to cuddle rabbits and guinea pigs, a chance to meet new animals like snakes and insects, a new camping area and visits from Disney princesses are on the way, as well as Easter egg hunts and activities for the King’s coronation weekend.

There’s no sitting down on the job for Sandra Palmer-Snellin

A dinosaur trail around the farm’s woodland and lake is a highlight for many

Fun experiences away from technology

Sandra said:

“We wanted to focus on traditional and fun experiences for children, away from technology. People say that if you give a child a cardboard box to play with, they’ll be happy, and we find that guinea pigs and pedal tractors work the same way.

“Play is a crucial full body exercise that develops critical thinking skills and children are like sponges, soaking up everything as they learn new things.

“Here, they can be curious, investigate, explore, run, bounce, climb and communicate, as well as develop their imagination and creativity. Add giggles of laughter to the mix and the magic is made!”


The Pig on the Beach took a silver award for Small Hotel of the Year

The rustic charm of the dining conservatory has made it a firm favourite

Silver award for The Pig on the Beach

Two other Purbeck businesses won awards at the South West Tourism Awards on Thursday 23rd March 2023, in competition with other firms from Cornwall to Bristol.

The Pig on the Beach at Studland won silver in the Small Hotel of the Year category, while Durdle Door Holiday Park took home a bronze award in the Holiday Park of the Year category.

Hoteliers Robin and Judy Hutson opened The Pig on the Beach in 2014 as the fourth in a chain of charming rustic hotels and it has since become a Purbeck favourite with its Victorian architecture and arts and crafts furnishings.

It was praised for its restaurant’s 25 mile menu, where 85 percent of everything served to guests has been sourced from within 25 miles of Studland.

As with all of the Pig hotels, it has a kitchen garden and greenhouse where many of the ingredients for the menu are grown, including fennel, courgettes, pea shoots, garden beans and tomatoes, and fruit cages which produce blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and more.

The hotel has two dozen quirky rooms with Victorian windows, freestanding baths and amazing views while the whole building, formerly the old coastal villa of the Bankes family of Kingston Lacy, is furnished with finds from auction houses, antique stores and second hand shops.

A spokesperson for The Pig group – whose Combe hotel in Devon won gold in the same category at the Eden Project ceremony – said:

“At The Pig on the Beach, you can see the kitchen garden where the menu is created every day, depending on what’s growing, and local suppliers turn up every day, some fishermen having just got off their boats. There’s a real community feel and everyone supports each other.”


Horizon Heights at Durdle Door, bronze award winners in the Holiday Park of the Year award


Glamping pods are proving a popular addition to the holiday park

Camping to glamping at Durdle Door

Bronze award winner Durdle Door Holiday Park is part of the Lulworth Estate which comprises 12,000 acres of Purbeck countryside, and includes Lulworth castle and park, Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.

It has a full range of accommodation options to suit every budget and style of holiday from camping and touring to luxury glamping, pods, cabins and holiday homes.

A spokesperson for the park said:

“We consider the beaches and countryside the best entertainment there could possibly be for a holiday. We are peaceful and uncommercialised, the perfect base for exploring Dorset and the Jurassic Coast, and are delighted to have been recognised at the awards.”


The beaches and the countryside are the real stars of the show

Level of excellence was inspirational

The South West Tourism excellence awards ceremony at the Eden Project was the culmination of a year-long process in which nearly 500 businesses were entered from Cornwall, Bristol, Bath, Somerset, Dorset and Devon.

Independent judges made unannounced visits to all of the attractions, checked their websites, social media feeds before final decisions were made.

Chair of judges Dr Natalie Semley, lecturer in sustainable tourism management at Cornwall Business School, said:

“The level of excellence throughout the South West was truly inspirational, and represents the extraordinary level of dedication and commitment from each and every business shortlisted.

“It is clear that these finalists have taken responsibility, and have actively embedded resilience and sustainability into their organisations.”


The Eden Project in Cornwall hosted the South West Tourism Awards ceremony

Further information

  • Visit Farmer Palmer’s website for all the Easter opening times and events
  • Discover the delights of The Pig on the Beach on its website
  • Durdle Door Holiday Park bookings can be made on its website

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