In recent tourism focused press a great deal of discussion surrounds The Gove Affect, the fallout of a law banning parents from removing their students from school during term times. This isn’t the first time that seemingly unrelated UK public policy has had far-reaching implications on the tourism industry. In fact, it is thanks to a 1984 EU-sanctioned quota against milk production in the UK that Devon now boasts one of the most family-friendly attractions in the country, Milky Way Adventure Park.
As its name suggests, the Milky Way did not start as an all-seasons theme park. Today’s owners, the Stanbury family, bought the farm in 1940 from Clovelly as a dairy farm. Ever the entrepreneurial couple, Trevor and Christine also employed the warehouse that is now serving as the Milky Way entry area for a live cattle trading market. It was in the middle of this market that Trevor stood when, in April 1984, the booming hall fell completely silent: a European Union commission had instituted a milk quota on all English producers. In that moment, the business and personal livelihood of every person in that hall changed.
Trevor’s first step was not to leave dairy completely but to revamp the farm as a tourist attraction. “First, we became the first open farm in the UK. We had no planning permission! We just invited people to come and help us milk the cows. You wouldn’t believe their responses when visitors from the city learned the milk was warm. The look on their faces when they touched a cow. They said, ‘But the milk we get from the store is cold!’”
Month after month, year after year, the Stanbury family expanded Milky Way’s attractions. First was the Clone Zone dark ride with a suspended rollercoaster where visitors “interact with aliens.” Community groups began to note Milky Ways’ potential: with over 2.5 football fields of available land and a great desire to unite the North Devon community, the Milky Way became an incubator for Devonians. “Twenty years ago a surfer showed up with a barn owl,” Trevor said. “He gave us a demonstration and said he had more birds. Would we be willing to keep them here? We designed the centre so the birds could be kept outdoors. Then we started hosting the first indoor bird of prey demonstration in Devon. Today we’re one of the only organizations that’s experimenting with training birds to fly free. Actually, one of our birds leaves every day for a couple hours and then returns minutes before he’s set to perform. It’s amazing.”
Trevor’s ability to unite seemingly disparate groups in effort to benefit Devon society as a whole is evident in his latest endeavour, the North Devon Marketing Bureau. The Devon community is evidently impressed by Trevor’s ability to spearhead this business networking organization under the mission to promote North Devon as a tourism destination. Trevor was voted Business Champion in this year’s North Devon Journal Business Awards. Having enlisted 236 businesses with an overall pledge of £11,000/ year for three years, it’s doubtless that Trevor deserves the accolades.
Over twenty years ago a foreign-built quota nearly drove Trevor and many other Devonian business holders to ruins. Today, the Stanbury family has turned a limitation into an opportunity for himself, his visitors, and his community. So what’s in a quota, anyway?