On the blog we are taking a deeper look at our national winners, and what it is that makes them so special. Each week two different winners’ profiles will be posted, so keep checking back for more rural business success stories!
2018/19’s winner of the Outstanding Rural Diversification Project is William’s Den. This Yorkshire-based rural visitor attraction offers indoor and outdoor play and a range of facilities tailored to families. The judges remarked on William’s clear and ethical strategy, confidently identifying a gap in the market and working to fill it with vision, attention to detail and high standards. They were impressed by the business’s impact on the environment and local employment.
Christian and Tor Carver first conceived of the idea for William’s Den around five years ago. They were shocked by statistics that children spend less time outside than prisoners, which made them both reminisce on their own childhoods, spent running around outside on farms. Inspired, they decided to create a space where all children can play freely and imaginatively, in a rural setting.
Determined to bring their vision to life, the couple found a site on the 13,000 acre Hotham Estate. Incorporating barns and brick former agricultural buildings, the construction used local or British supplies as far as possible, including sustainably sourced wood from the estate’s own woodlands. Sustainability is incredibly important to the Carvers, who want the business to create a legacy that lasts without taking away from its environment.
An investment of £3.5 million has created a 475 sqm indoor, and a 2.5 acre outdoor space, complete with a restaurant and ground level play facilities to ensure that William’s Den is accessible for all children. To design the play areas, the business consulted the UK’s leading experts, resulting in a space that encourages learning through active play, and develops skills like teamwork, communication, socialisation and risk-taking.
The business is also a significant local employer, with over 50 staff, 23 of whom are full-time employed.
The restaurant, named “The Kitchen Table” is based on the traditional ideal of families coming together for wholesome meals, over the kitchen table. It uses seasonal, local ingredients as far as possible, and also sells William’s Den’s award-winning home-made ice cream.
The Carvers have created a place where children have the freedom to be curious, creative and run wild. It is a place where tablets can be put away, and joyful family memories can be made.
The business has been a roaring success: having opened in the summer of 2017, in its first year welcomed over 100,000 visitors and sold around 50,000 scoops of its home-made ice cream!
‘We are over the moon to have won the National Rural Business Award for Outstanding Rural Diversification Project. In creating William’s Den, we aimed to diversify in a way which would benefit the landscape, the environment, and the community, and we are so proud of the results. The business enables children to play freely and creatively in a rural setting. We have really enjoyed our experience with the Rural Business Awards, and believe that programmes like this are vital to promote the rural sector.’ – Tor Carver, owner of William’s Den.
If you are interested in learning more about William’s Den, head to: www.williamsden.co.uk
To see all the blogs in this series on the winners of the 2018/19 National Rural Business Awards, click here.