Please Credit Picture:Keith Taylor

Please Credit Picture:Keith Taylor

The family-run Thorpe Farm Centre in County Durham is embarking on multi-million pound investment plans.

Husband-and-wife Paul and Jo Barkes, who own Thorpe Farm, near Barnard Castle, are now in the second phase of a major revamp at the tourism attraction.

The farm centre has already been boosted with £1m worth of investment. Having completed the first phase of a new holiday home and lodge development, phase two is now under way.

The site already had space for touring caravans and tents, and has now extended its offering by redeveloping three acres for 20 static mobile homes.

The latest investment is part of a sweeping diversification project which will see a five-year programme of investment and development.

Already, barns have been redeveloped and new fencing put in place to bring Wetheriggs Animal Rescue Centre onto the site. The centre was facing an uncertain future until Thorpe Farm stepped in, after its previous home near Penrith was put on the market.

Hundreds of animals, including rare breed pigs and poultry, llamas and pygmy goats and hedgehogs are now proving to be a huge draw for visitors to Thorpe Farm.

The next phase will see commercial space being made available to complement the existing food and retail offering at the farm shop and Peel House Café, with the first new tenants set to move onto site later this year.

A heritage wood has been planted, which is maturing into a haven for wildlife, and viewing areas have been built around Thorpe Farm’s wetlands area.

Longer term plans for the holiday park will bring the total investment to more than £10million, with a new site for high-end luxury lodges expected to be developed on adjacent land.

Paul Barkes said: “This is a significant investment which demonstrates our ongoing commitment to providing a quality tourism attraction and facilities at what is the gateway to County Durham. The new facilities will bring more overnight visitors, and their associated tourism spend, to the local area.

“Already, phase one of our new holiday home development has sold out and we have families waiting to move their new holiday homes onto phase two. We’ve also sold the first of our £90,000 luxury lodges.

“We’re finding many families who come to us for a day trip are deciding to invest in a holiday home so they can spend more time here at Thorpe Farm.”