We are beginning the first weeks of our year of travel in a fairly inconspicuous place — a static caravan in a small camping park near Whitstable in Kent.
We knew that we couldn’t sell our house and get on a plane all on the same day and so needed something as an interim and this was a fairly close commute to our (ex) home town plus reasonably priced. Note: When looking for longer stays on AirBnB don’t be scared to contact the owners directly to ask about discounts, lots of them are really happy to engage in some haggling and you might get a real bargain.
It’s everything you might imagine a park like this to be, there’s 190ish static caravans (plus a couple of camping pods and spaces for tents) on a 12 acre site smack bang between Seasalter Beach and Thanet Way dual carriageway. There’s a tiny pool, a bar/restaurant, a play park and a launderette.
The same two or three people rotate between manning reception and carrying out maintenance and the staff that manage and run the bar have obviously long been part of the furniture.
It’s not modern or fancy but it’s well run, clean and, as I’ll explain, a really lovely place to spend some time.
It’s out of season while we are here, the whole park actually closes for the winter period the day after we leave, which means there are not many people around during the week with it getting marginally busier at the weekend. But I am so enjoying meeting those souls who are here.
At first glance it’s all very stereotypical: couples who tick the “newly retired with a caravan for weekend escapes” box, lots of small dogs being taking for walks around the block and at the weekend lots of nieces, nephews and grandchildren arrive to be close to the sea, kick footballs about and drink too much lemonade in the park bar.
But one thing I love is meeting new people and finding out about their lives. My husband and sons (well more so our eldest right now) are the same and we have met some great characters during our first weeks here (none of the names below are their real names…).
There’s Mabel and Bob who have 4 tiny, yappy dogs who have replaced their now grown up children and keep them active with all the walking and playing that they need.
There’s Vivienne who, having divorced husband number 3, comes to the park at weekends for some good company and a shandy or three.
Over the road is Terry who was widowed a few years ago and keeps maintaining his late wife’s precious caravan even though he originally didn’t even want to buy it.
My favourite is Dan, well into his 60’s who, with any tiny sign of the sun being out, is to be found sitting in his tiny neon green shorts, chest bare and disco music playing while he soaks up the rays! (he has a tan I am endlessly envious of!).
As we walk around the park we see beautifully tended flower beds, huge collections of garden gnomes and the odd vintage car.
But the one things that ties it all together is how friendly and open everyone is.
Everyone, I mean everyone, smiles at you as they wander past. Everyone is quick to stop and ask how you are, who you are and what your story is.
That’s what happens here, people collect stories from their neighbours.
I love the fact that we are becoming known as “that family who have sold their house and are taking their children travelling”. I love that we get told “bravo”, “I wish I’d done that” and “you’ll never regret it”.
I think sometimes we dismiss communities like this and it’s easy to ignore or poke fun at the folks choosing to spend their time here but I can really see the joy and growth they all get from their little village and I hope that everyone has something like this in their lives.
Somewhere they feel safe and connected to those around them. A place where, if even for just 24–48 hours a week, they are free from the stresses of their Monday to Friday life to eat a fried breakfast, drink too much tea and walk on the beach until their cheeks are red and hair is tangled.
Pure iconic British seaside life.
I am so pleased we chose to spend our first weeks here — after the utter madness that was the final week in our old home: dismantling furniture, selling belongings, rubbish tip and charity shop runs, it’s been bliss to slow down, chill out and breathe a little more slowly.
Thank you Seasalter and thank you Homing Park, I hope we get to revisit you in the future.