The man planting the seeds of change at Burnham Deepdale
From farming the land to promoting the county Jason Borthwick has always found himself returning to Norfolk. Now he is working hard to create something special on the North Norfolk Coast.
While he would not describe himself as a farmer as such, Jason Borthwick has spent a lot of time at his family’s farm in Burnham Deepdale.
He has helped to plant the seeds of change which have seen parts of the 1000-acre holding become a campsite and hostel as well as regenerating a petrol station to become a unique shopping complex almost within sight of the sea.
Thousands come to Dalegate Market’s Deepdale Christmas Market each year and Mr Borthwick estimates a 250,000 visitors come to the farm and market every 12 months.
He said: “I always enjoy telling people about Norfolk and showing it to them.
“I think people like to discover it and they like the fact that most other people can’t point to it on a map.
“The tourism industry is a massive part of Norfolk but it still doesn’t feel full. It’s not crowded.
“The nice thing about Norfolk is that there are always times when it calms down.”
The family have had a connection to the area since the 1930s when Mr Borthwick’s great-grandfather came to Norfolk to escape London life.
Mr Borthwick, 44, said: “I’m the fourth generation of the family to develop Deepdale.
“My great-grandfather bought Deepdale, I think more as a bolt-hole from London.
“The family returned to London and realised Norfolk was where they wanted to be.
“I think each generation of the family has doubled the size of the business, both in terms of land and in terms of involvement.
“When I took over Deepdale I wasn’t massive on the farming side of things but I saw the potential for other things.”
It was while he was abroad that Mr Borthwick started to formulate a plan to do something different with the family’s land back home, with the aim of showing others the beauty of the Norfolk coast.
“I travelled extensively for a number of years after I left university,” said Mr Borthwick.
“I worked for a travel company and I was training people about places I had never been to so I began to travel. I travelled a lot and absolutely loved it. I worked in various places including for the UN in southern Africa.
“I had a massive passion for travel and the north Norfolk coast was the sort of place I had been seeking out when travelling.
“My parents had been running a sort of hostel and campsite in the summer already but that was when I decided developing Deepdale as a tourist destination was what I wanted to do. Anybody who works in the tourism industry needs to travel around to see the world.
“Norfolk is wonderful but I think you need to see other places to really appreciate that in some ways.”
It was still a little while before the dream could be realised but after a few years working for Virgin he set about it.
“Farming is a bit like gambling, you stick something in the ground and then hope it is worth something in 12 months time,” said Mr Borthwick. “I wanted to do something different.
“We opened the campsite and the backpackers’ hostel all year round and developed those.
“Part of that included a small cafe which was run by a friend, but it started to outgrow its space and when we got the chance to buy back the old filling station it moved to there and became part of Dalegate Market.” The Dalegate Market Complex recently celebrated its 10th birthday and boasts shops including The Hare and Hen Gallery and Craft Shop, Gone Crabbing, Relish Boutique and the One Stop Nature Shop.
Mr Borthwick, who lives with his wife Emma and daughter Ava, 11, in Aylsham, is also keen to create a connection with the arts world and a number of performances have already been lined up for the summer including productions of Gulliver’s Travels and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
He said: “Norfolk has a wonderful arts scene and I would like to see more collaboration between the arts and tourism industry, whether that is artists such as painters or whether it is theatre and music.”
Another recent addition is the Deepdale Spring Market, held for the first time this Easter which proved popular.
Doug Faulkner - Eastern Daily Press