THE owner of a caravan and camping holiday park in Henley has spoken of his pride at winning an award.
Joseph Borlase has been running Swiss Farm since 1997 and is about to complete a five-year renovation project costing more than £1 million.
The two shower blocks, the clubhouse and the swimming pool have all been refurbished.
Now the site off Marlow Road has been named the best in the South-East by the AA, which said it offers excellent facilities, including spacious pitches and a fishing lake.
The AA said: “The whole park is well landscaped and makes for a peaceful and relaxing camping environment. The attention to detail across the park is excellent and campers are guaranteed a warm welcome from the whole team.”
Mr Borlase said: “We have gutted and refurbished everything. We started in September 2008 and we have almost finished.
“We have done the basic infrastructure, such as the shower block and refurbishing the clubhouse and swimming pool, and are about to add some play areas.
“The award is a real boost for everyone who has worked on this.”
Now there are plans for a new café, which will be run by his wife Erika. The couple have two daughters, Olivia, five, and Eleanor, three, who attend St Mary’s School in Henley. Mr Borlase, who was born in Henley and attended Rupert House School, said he enjoyed his work.
“It is very challenging with the weather but it is great fun,” he said. “A typical day is dealing with a lot of customers, checking people out and making sure they have a nice day.
“In the summer I start at 7am and finish at 7pm. I will come on to the park and walk around to check everything is okay and then I will do a bit of admin — emails and phone calls — and make sure everything is ready for when the staff arrive.
“I have a very supporting wife and great maintenance team who do all the hard graft. At the height of summer there will be about 16 of us.”
Mr Borlase took over the business from his father Stephen in 1997 following a huge barn fire which meant he had to cut short his studies in order to help out. He said: “My father had been poorly and couldn’t cope with the idea of getting it all sorted again.
“I left my international agricultural and business management course at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester after 10 weeks. It was a case of coming back and rolling up the sleeves.
“In 2008 we decided to embark on a five-year plan to become one of the top parks in the country and we have invested heavily in time and money to reach this goal.”
Mr Borlase’s grandfather, Harold William Borlase, moved to Swiss Farm as a tenant farmer in the mid-Forties and when the farm was being sold by the Fawley Estate he bought it.
There was a dairy attached to the house and the farm had a herd of shorthorn cattle. Just after the war people would come to Henley from London and camp at Swiss Farm in army bell tents. Harold then built up the camping park and permanent “park homes”.
In 1968, his son Stephen took over and set about building up a poultry business with 25,000 chickens and developing a pedigree herd of beef cattle.
As farming became less profitable, he turned his attention to tourism and built new facility blocks and a social club, dug a coarse fishing lake, planted hundreds of trees and miles of hedges and landscaped the farm before passing it on to his son.
As a result of the award, Swiss Farm will now be included in the AA Caravan and Camping Guide 2014.