East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022: Small Visitor Attraction of the Year winner announced

The team from Hippersons Boatyard in Beccles, winner of the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year award

Left to right: Martin Dupée (sponsor), John Wyer, Stephen Fletcher, Mary Sparrow, Simon Sparrow, Lisa Vincent, Josh Collins - Credit: Matt Brasnett, I Do Photography

Hippersons Boatyard has been named the winner of the Small Visitor Attraction of the Year award, sponsored by Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions, at the East of England Tourism Awards 2021-2022.

A family-owned microbusiness located on the Norfolk/Suffolk border in Beccles, Hippersons Boatyard has been under new ownership since 2014 and aims to bring the river to life with unique tourism and accommodation experiences.

Working in partnership with local businesses and the community, Hippersons offers 21 craft for visitors to choose from, including dayboats, canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUPS) and pedal boats. There are also six accommodation units on-site, allowing visitors to relax and watch the River Waveney go by.

Guided tours and lessons are also available for those looking to add a little adventure to their holiday.

The judges said that Hippersons’ offering made for an “excellent” day out on the river, and praised the team at Hippersons for the “outstanding” level of customer service provided.

They felt that the external appearance oozed charm, and the accommodation was in keeping with the surrounding environment.

Mary Sparrow, director of Hippersons Boatyard, said: “We work really hard, and we realised that we had lots of lovely reviews, so decided to enter this category.

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“We try and listen to our customers, try and include everybody, try and help bring the river to life. We look after our staff to make sure they are having a good time, as if they aren’t, our guests won’t enjoy it.

“We really enjoy the river. We have worked really hard to make this business something special.”

About the sponsor

Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions (NSTA) is the only organisation in Norfolk and Suffolk that concentrates solely on promoting and representing the tourist attractions in these counties.

Through its membership and marketing activity, NSTA ensures its attractions are at the forefront of visitors’ minds. 
NSTA produces the Great Days Out in Norfolk and Suffolk booklet for locals, day-trippers and holidaymakers alike. It also represents the sector as a whole, ensuring that the needs and voice of attractions are heard by partners in the region’s Destination Management Organisations (DMOs), media and business economy. 

The finalists

Rayleigh Town Museum – Highly Commended

Rayleigh Town Museum in Essex showcases the rich history of Rayleigh and is operated entirely by 50 volunteers.

The judges described this attraction as a tribute to all the people who have devoted their time, enthusiasm and knowledge to create and nurture it. 

Watatunga Wildlife Reserve – Highly Commended

Watatunga is a new, family-run wildlife reserve in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, situated in 170 acres of woodland, grassland and lakes. The judges said that Watatunga is an excellent example of how conservation could and should be done in the modern age. 

English Spirit Distillery

English Spirit Distillery in Great Yeldham, Essex, offers visitors the chance to learn about the distilling process for a range of alcoholic drinks, and was described by the judges as a leader in the UK in producing high-quality artisan spirits.

Shepreth Wildlife Park

Shepreth Wildlife Park in Royston, Hertfordshire, is one of East Anglia’s major attractions, with more than 100 species to see. The judges said that all team members were focused on providing a positive experience and that the animals were clearly well cared for.