I almost want to shake Mark Garner as I speak to him, while circumnavigating the lake at Wispy Meadows in Watton.

Emerging to a view of the neighbouring golf course from a neatly lined avenue of trees, it occurs to me he simply has no idea how special or glorious the holiday destination he’s created in this part of west Norfolk is.

Farming stock through and through, the property developer was gifted this spot by his father in the early noughties. Where once laid grain crop and sugar beet, now are strikingly mature-looking grounds, hiding six (soon to be eight) holiday homes amidst jungle foliage.

It really is incredible to think that this place, in the midst of the curiously-named Wayland (famed for its links to the Babes in the Wood), was a common, run-of-the-mill field nearly 17 years ago.

North Norfolk News: The entire Wispy Meadows site was built post-2005- including the fishing lakeThe entire Wispy Meadows site was built post-2005- including the fishing lake (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

“It’s a hobby,” Mark tells me, smiling modestly. He put in plans for a few caravans initially – nothing fancy. These were rejected by the local planning department. Mark did, however, manage to gain permission for 22 dwellings – but prefers to keep his business small. It’s unlikely he’ll take Wispy Meadows to its permitted capacity. Instead, he says, all being well, a café and a Thai restaurant (inspired by his Thai native wife) could be on the cards in the future.

It’s a relief to know that money isn’t the sole objective for Mark, because the charm of Wispy Meadows is to be found in its exclusive, and secluded nature. Few people have heard of it, yet it enjoys around 96 per cent occupancy, with more than 50 per cent of bookings made by returning guests.

Every holiday home (carved into the edges of the man-made fishing lake stocked with carp, pike, tench and rudd) has been designed and decorated by Mark and his small team of “a couple of guys”. They are nothing short of spectacular.

Each sleeps either two or four, with features including terraces, fountains, giant urns cradling enormous ferns and palms, hot tubs, and tiki-style pagodas covering fire pits. Sat on a deck (even in the chilly late autumn sun) it’s difficult to believe you’re in Norfolk.

I visited with my fishing-mad husband, his equally fish-mad friend and his partner to try out the full Wispy Meadows experience in the signature Boat House. Naturally, the menfolk had picked out their swims, discussed baiting tactics, and probably plotted the course of the sun and moon for the day/night of our stay. There was a lot of pre-chat about boilies and ground bait.

North Norfolk News: The outside seating area at The Boat HouseThe outside seating area at The Boat House (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Mark says we’re a typical booking. Where one half of the couple is a carp-fiend, and the other couldn’t care less...but does rather like the look of the luxurious facilities.

That’s my hubby and I to a tee. He's never managed to entice me on a fishing trip (I think he prefers the peace and quiet sans wife)…and I’ve never, funnily enough, been enamoured by the prospect of sleeping in a damp, krill oil-scented bivvy. An invite to somewhere the likes of Wispy Meadows on the other hand will always elicit a firm “yes”. It’s worth pointing out at this stage, you don’t have to be ‘into’ fishing to stay here. The fishing is a bonus – and you’ll need your own equipment and a rod license to engage in the sport.

We arrive at dusk, just as the garden’s tropical terrace has sprung to life – it's automatic, coloured lights illuminating a decorative water fountain, plants, a Jacuzzi, and covered outside seating area – where we relish drinking rum and coke, warmed by the gas fire pit.

Inside, the joinery and finishing touches are of the highest order. The Boat House is not a quickly-shoved-up, shoddily-made pre-fab. Every nook and cranny has been designed with longevity and quality in mind, from the curvy, unique chairs at the dining table, to the full-sized, fully-equipped kitchen with its granite and solid wood worktops, the brick hearth boasting a log-burner, the beautiful wardrobes in the two king-sized bedrooms, and the glamourous oval-shaped, oversized bath tubs.

North Norfolk News: The Boat House's living areaThe Boat House's living area (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

North Norfolk News: One of the bedrooms in The Boat HouseOne of the bedrooms in The Boat House (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

North Norfolk News: The Boat House's bathroom - there is an en suite like this with each of the bedroomsThe Boat House's bathroom - there is an en suite like this with each of the bedrooms (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Arriving totally unprepared for dinner (the menfolk were more focussed on feeding the fish than our human tummies), after a spin on the retro games console in The Boat House (including Frogger and Pacman), we hit Watton for tea.

There isn’t a great deal open on a Monday night, but actually, Express Fish and Chips does a grand job with its whacking great portions of cod, and crispy, soft-centered potatoes. Eaten by firelight, to the cackle of birds in the trees, they taste sublime. Sitting afterwards in the hot tub, we really could be anywhere in the world.

We all agree the beds are spot-on comfort-wise – especially the silky-smooth sheets, which feel pleasingly new. Ooh you can’t beat the feel of fresh sheets.

North Norfolk News: The kitchen at The Boat House is fully-equipped with everything you needThe kitchen at The Boat House is fully-equipped with everything you need (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Chef Jon (fisherman number two) cooks up a blueberry croissant bake with crispy bacon for breakfast, as we admire the outlook from The Boat House in daylight. Glazing stretches the full length of the lake-side, and can be opened on warmer days. On the other side of the lake (being nosy) we spy a group of ladies in dressing gowns, dangling toes from their deck. Just along from them, a lone fisherman sits, arms crossed, shades on, staring in contemplation at the surface of the water, urging a bite. We’re sure he hasn’t moved from the previous night.

I think Jon, in a moment of reflection, is quite succinct in his observations of the place: mesmerising. Even though no carp were apprehended, the fish-folk amongst us left mightily impressed. Their next trip, likely in the rain, perched on a bed chair, will be a crash down to earth after the experience of ‘fishing’ from the luxury of a fireside three-piece suite.

As for my mate and I? We’re positively encouraging the boys to arrange another visit here. Maybe fishing isn’t so bad after all...

North Norfolk News: Alan Jarvis baiting upAlan Jarvis baiting up (Image: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis)

Book your stay

Bookings are already looking busy for 2023 – especially at weekends. The Boat House is £234 per night for four sharing in low season, or £270 in high season, and is for over 18s only, with a minimum three-night stay. A deposit of 25 per cent is required to hold your booking. Find out more at wispy-meadows-norfolk.co.uk

In the area

Wayland is steeped in both mystery and history. Watton is a short drive away, with a large supermarket and a traditional high street. And Norwich, Swaffham, Dereham and Bury St Edmunds are all within easy reach.

A must, if you’re staying longer than a day or two, is a stroll on The Pingo Trail, with its Ice Age ponds. An eight-mile walk is marked up in Wispy Meadows’ guide book. Loch Neaton is also nearby, offering fishing, walks and picnic spots.