About Us

The history of Pensthorpe

The Pensthorpe of today was created by a visionary conservationist, Bill Makins, who designed a truly sustainable gravel extraction process that formed one of the most biodiverse nature reserves in England. The then 200-acre reserve and its associated habitats were created as an integral part of this huge undertaking, which saw over one million tonnes of gravel extracted.

In 2003, Bill and Deb Jordan purchased Pensthorpe from Bill Makins, in order to preserve its special character and to take its development to the next level, to ensure that the business would be sustainable. Having grown up in Norfolk, Deb Jordan was keen to return to the county to raise her children and for many years, Bill Jordan had promoted working with nature in the family-owned breakfast cereal company. 

In 2008, 2009 and 2010, Pensthorpe became the home of the BBC’s Springwatch programme, playing host to Bill Oddie, Kate Humble, Chris Packham and a host of local wildlife stars all born at Pensthorpe in the last 20 years.

Inspired by reports that show children are more inclined to stay indoors rather than exploring outside, and wanting to inspire the next generation into becoming nature lovers, we developed a brand new outdoor expansion to reconnect children with the natural world. Launched in July 2013, WildRootz is our 7,000 square-metre adventure play area which is unlike anything else Norfolk has to offer. Child-friendly thrills are nestled subtly into their stunning natural surroundings with trees and gentle rolling hills managing to encompass over 30 pieces of individual play equipment including the giant 11 metre high slide tower called ‘The Worm’.

The next installment of the Pensthorpe adventure continued with the opening of Hootz House in July 2015, an amazing nature play experience for children. Imaginatively designed and complimentary to the overall vision of weaving play into education about the natural world, Hootz House provides wildlife orientated play activity.

We are very proud to have received two awards from North Norfolk District Council recognising the outstanding design and sustainable features of Hootz House. These were the Graham Allen Award for Conservation Design and the Local Authority Building Control Award for best inclusive building.

The future

Pensthorpe is pioneering a new vision for conservation, experiential nature and wellbeing. Our strong emphasis on customer experience and ensuring an inspiring connection with nature is at the heart of everything we do. Our motivation is to be Norfolk’s Best Attraction with a focus on conservation education accessible to all ages. We are continually looking to improve what we do, so watch this space….