A COUPLE who took a risk on giving their glamping park a major makeover during lockdown say the gamble paid off.

Joanne and David Bridgen, who run South Lytchett Manor park in Lytchett Minster, invested time and money on the project despite their income having dried up.

But as soon as they were allowed to re-open on April 12, the couple said, holiday bookings “went wild”.

The five-star park, which the couple have owned for almost 15 years, is almost at capacity during some summer weeks and has reservations through to autumn.

Mrs Bridgen said: “We decided that we had a choice during lockdown – to just sit it out, or to try and make the park fighting fit for when we could open again.

“The makeover put a lot at stake as our business had suffered badly over the previous 12 months, with our income completely drying up over the lockdowns.

“But we decided to go ahead, and with the help of our son Matt added six new luxury four-person pods to our existing glamping accommodation of shepherd’s huts and Romany caravans.

“At the same time, we set to work on enlarging the park’s cafe – and searching out more local suppliers for the food and drink we sell there and in our shop.

“We also added 20 new fully serviced pitches for motorhome and touring caravans, and planted more honeybee and butterfly friendly flowers and shrubs in the grounds.

“David and I were encouraged that bookings were still coming in during lockdown, but we knew the true test would come once we were able to welcome back guests.

“In the event, we needn’t have worried – and in fact our phones have been ringing virtually off the hook during the past fortnight with people wanting to book stays.

“We’re also delighted that our full staff team is back with us again, and we’re all looking forward to giving families the holidays they need and deserve.”

Glamping, she said, was proving especially popular – particularly with those looking for a top-end experience in the UK in place of an overseas holiday.

She said as much of their lockdown work as possible used materials and skills sourced from Dorset.

As well as the top VisitEngland award, South Lytchett Manor has received a raft of other accolades in recent times including the AA five pennant platinum award.

The park is also a member of the Best of British group which comprises some 50 independently-run parks with top quality ratings throughout the UK.