talks to John Hutton about his creation - The
Park Mawgan Porth in
Cornwall. This is an eco-friendly and totally new kind of
holiday experience for people of all ages. The park features
Vintage Airstreams and Yurt tents, among other forms of
accommodation. All located in a beautiful woodland setting just a
stone's throw from the sea and with all the modern facilities
and comforts one would expect.
Can you please tell us the background to the park and about
your passion for these Airstreams?
Yes. In terms of bringing the Airstreams in from America, we wanted
to have something that had some character associated with
them. The site that we’re in at the moment did have a number
of static caravans. And while they’re completely different,
they’re rather soulless. We’re building a park that has
got character and individuality associated with it. The
Airstreams, certainly from the outside, look gorgeous, and what
we did was decide to change the retro feel on two of them. So
we’ve got two of them that are retro and two of them that
are 'boutique' if you like in terms of the inside finish. It’s
more about trying to create a feeling of individuality on the
park. Something that is more akin to the standard of
timber-framed accommodation that we’ve got here - that’s also
something very different.
Are you tapping-in to a feeling there is around – a retro and
No. I think we’re tapping-in to what we see as a slightly
different type of holidaying. I can’t say we want to go down the
retro route – we have got a couple of the Airstreams
laid-out in a retro style, because I think they do look kind of
nice that way.
Yes, I’ve seen them used as diners, recording studios...
Yes, of course, I mean really what happened was that the two
which we brought in complete were just such a mess that
we really had no option but to gut them and re-weld them. We
had to re-weld the bases and we put an aluminium layer all the
way through the inside as well, which they don’t normally
have, because we wanted them to have that metal feeling
They’re called a monocoque design, aren’t they?
Yes, that’s right. So we were forced to do that and the
other two we got from this country – from Sarah-Jane, I
don’t know if you know her?
Yes, I do.
She and her dad will lovingly restore and repair the
original retro feel and so those aren’t too bad at all. So
we’ve got one which is a Yellowstone and one which is a Route
66 and they’re very retro but they kind of work.
Digger: They look gorgeous. So what options are there for Airstream
caravanning at Mawgan Porth?
We don’t have caravanning so we’re not a caravan park, as
such, where you bring a tourer. We are a holiday park that
already has its accommodation in situ – we have the four
Airstreams and we are what we describe as en eco park. So
everything we do has to have a sustainable air and feel to it.
All the way from trying to use sustainable heat and energy
mechanisms, such as solar thermal systems, all the way through to
using reusable furniture. We’d rather buy old furniture
and re-cover it.
Do you have those eco loos that you see at festivals?
We don’t have a lot of those eco loos because they’re a
bit impractical. We’re open all year round now. We have some
solar showers which we use if the weather’s nice. It all has
what we describe as an 'eco-practical approach' to it. You
can’t be too eco because it’s too expensive and you
can’t be fully sustainable but we go as far down that route
as we can.
While being pragmatic from a business point of view?
Yes, exactly and in addition we’ve got a yurt village and you probably
know about the Mongolian yurts?
Yes I’ve seen them at the festivals.
We’ve got those and if you’re talking about retro –
that’s a very retro way of living but it’s rather glamping-esque.
It’s not roughing it – you’ve got oak wooden floors,
you’ve got insulation, you’ve got a communal yurt which
laid-out in a really lovely way, proper beds, a communal kitchen which
is nicely fitted-out etc. etc. There’s a lot of thought and
effort that’s gone into making the park into a park with a
difference and not a traditional holiday park.
There’s a shop – is there somewhere to eat there as well?
We’ve got a café restaurant. We’ve got some guys that
we’ve known for a long time that I’ve brought down here
and they’re brilliant. She’s front-of-house and he’s the
chef and he had worked at Hambleden Hall and is a proper
trained chef. And we’ve got a vegetable growing area so we use as many
of our own vegetables and fruits and so forth as we can
depending on the time of year. And he’ll use as much local
produce as can possibly be sourced.
You’re in a great geographical location there as far as
green credentials and the environmentally-friendly movement
are concerned, aren't you?
Yes, Cornwall does have a reputation for that which is also
assisted by the planning departments in this area being much
more helpful – further east, for example, we’ve got
another site in Dorset which is much more difficult to do
creative eco-sustainable things. Just north of Dorchester at
Can you describe the Airstream Camping experience compared to
I think, first of all, we’d like to think that certainly the
two that we have renovated are very individual. They’re very
detailed inside and it’s unlike anything you’re going to
see anywhere else. You’ve got a wooden floor, a log burner
specifically-designed for them, a home-made wooden kitchen, a
wet room which is beautifully-tiled, a man-made bed at the
top, flat screen TV. It’s very luxurious, five-star
accommodation in a caravan.
But with attitude and with character. So I think the term
glamping kind of fits, although I don’t necessarily like it, it’s a
boutique hotel experience in an Airstream caravan.
What are the best things about what you’re doing down there? It sounds like a
very dynamic environment.
I think it’s different and when you come here you’ll enjoy
it. The experience is second-to-none and I can honestly say,
hand on heart, there’s nothing like us. I think we’ve got
an interesting environment that you wouldn’t find anywhere
else – we’ve got an indoor pool and a café/restaurant
designed to a pretty high standard. The indoor pool’s
important, especially in Cornwall as it does rain and blow a
lot here. So we like to think that we’ve created a new kind of
holiday experience and it’s not just for families, it’s
also for couples or for people from the older generation.
For older gits like me?!
I’m no nipper myself and we like to cover all kinds of
angles. We are marketing ourselves to niche sectors and
you’re a niche sector. We are marketing to Saga, then niche
sectors like walkers, poetry sessions, painting workshops –
all these kinds of things will help us with the down months of
Yes, a great idea. Because you’re open all through the year
so obviously you’d like to fill it through the year.
I think it’s just a dynamic experience and you really have
to come here to feel it and 'get it'. By going onto the website
you don’t get the full idea.
Are these Airstreams insulated?
They are insulated. Between the aluminium inner and outer
layers there’s an insulation layer using the material they
developed and used for spacecraft. The people at the end of
the marathon wrap it round themselves to keep warm - you may
have seen them?
I know, I have that in my stable office here to keep me warm.
They’re insulated to a very high level and we have an
electric heater. If people don’t want to light the log burner
but if they light the log burner then you’re down to your
I’m not sure how long you have been going there John?
A couple of years.
So what sort of comments and feedback have you been getting?
Positive. As long as people come along to see us we get good
reviews. I think they are probably more akin to a one-bed
accommodation, even though you can fit four people in them if
you like. The front area in the two Airstreams we have done
converts the table into a proper sized bed and the one at the
back is fixed. The Yellowstone is a similar configuration and
the Route 66 can actually take six people. But they’re quite
small, so they’re not that spacious. They’re not as
spacious as a cottage or a yurt or a static caravan for that
matter. So that’s probably one of the things that people
need to understand – that they’re going to sleep in
something that’s characterful and different. When it rains
you’re going to hear the rain against the aluminium.
And if you weren’t friends before then you will be afterwards?!
Yes. (Both laugh) Absolutely, absolutely. But then they’re
not sited in a way that takes away your privacy. They’re
sited cleverly – we’re in a very interesting location
because we’re 400 yards from the beach and yet we’re in a
woodland setting, so that’s odd. It also creates
character for the Airstreams and the park.
Has the Internet had a big impact on the business? I mean in terms of awareness and bookings?
Yes, we bought the site here about three years ago and we’ve
spent about two and three quarter years working our socks off
to try and develop the site into a way that we want the site
to be. We’ve just about got there and we’ve just got the
last house accommodation about to be nearly finished in a couple of
Do you have a good relationship with your bankers?
They’re still talking to us and they still like us. We’ve
done very well and we’re paying the interest. We’ve
probably grown twice in the space of a year in terms of the
number of people that come here. So it’s doing well.
What are your plans for the future John?
There’s three phases to this really. One is to find the
park, the second is to develop it and the third one is to make
it profitable. We are now embarking on the third phase – ask
me that question a year’s time and then I’ll tell you. At
the moment we’re just focusing on making this work properly.
It sounds lovely. We visited the north coast around St Ives
last time we were down there but the next time I come down to Cornwall I’ll
look you up.
Please do. This coast is lovely – you’ve got some gorgeous
bays – Mawgan Porth the local one, of course, Watergate Bay,
Harlem Bay, Fistral Bay, Booby's Bay – the small bays north of
Mawgan Porth are the nicest ones around and it’s untouched
and they’re lovely. It's the Atlantic coast, which means the
beaches are very clean. And because of the tide you can take
dogs there which is also a nice thing. In my mind, it’s
probably nicer in the low season that the high season.
Thanks for letting us know about your new holiday experience
at Mawgan Porth John. It sounds really different and exciting.
Many thanks David.