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Leading naturalist praises river centre

PUBLISHED: 08:00 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 08:46 01 August 2010

THE family owners of Waveney River Centre in Burgh St Peter have sailed to victory in a national environmental award scheme - and been described as role models for sustainable tourism by its patron David Bellamy.

THE family owners of Waveney River Centre in Burgh St Peter have sailed to victory in a national environmental award scheme - and been described as role models for sustainable tourism by its patron David Bellamy.

The world-famous botanist said that Ruth and James Knight's work to protect the natural world had earned them the prestigious David Bellamy Conservation award at its top gold level.

Sited on the banks of the river Waveney, the family's holiday park and marina provides picturesque accommodation for thousands of visitors each year to the Norfolk Broads.

As well as luxury holiday homes to buy and rent, plus pitches for campers and touring caravan owners, the centre provides a range of river craft to hire, from canoes to luxury day cruisers.

Earlier this year, it was awarded the status of four Gold Anchors by the Yacht Harbour Association in recognition of the high standard of facilities offered to river users.

But as David Bellamy's independent award assessors found, wildlife and sustainability are given just as big a priority as the centre's guests.

Since taking over Waveney River Centre six years ago with Ruth's parents Len and Hazel Funnell, Ruth and James have embarked on a series of initiatives designed to encourage flora and fauna, and reduce their business's carbon footprint.

Among the many environment-friendly projects has been the creation of wildlife habitats for animals and birds, including, last year, a dedicated conservation zone beside a marsh soke dyke.

Here, a winding walkway encourages visitors to make their own natural discoveries, such as the wide range of common and less familiar butterflies attracted to high pollen-bearing wild flowers.

There are also willow huts and grass seats for guests to enjoy, plus a stumpary in which timber stumps are allowed to decompose naturally to encourage insects as a feeding source for birds.

In addition, bird, owl and bat boxes have been erected throughout the grounds - and visitors are often able to spot some of the park's many wildlife guests, including foxes, badgers and hedgehogs.

David praised the many measures taken by Ruth and James to minimise the impact of their business on the environment, including extensive water and energy saving features.

He also congratulated their efforts in encouraging guests to consider using bikes, local footpaths, public transport and the river as an alternative to driving.

Overall, he said, the couple had provided a shining example of how tourism and conservation could be perfect partners, benefitting both the regional economy and the interests of the natural world.

Ruth said everyone at the centre was delighted to have received the tourism industry's top green prize from Britain's best-known conservationist.

“Although many of our guests do come here to enjoy a river holiday, we can also offer a thrilling environment for children and adults to explore and make wildlife discoveries,” said Ruth.

“It's a great privilege to live and work in this beautiful region, and it's wonderful to be able to help preserve its very special character with the support of someone like David Bellamy,” she added.

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