3 beach hut owners in Kent on why they love them

PUBLISHED: 16:00 19 August 2019

Jo Youll at her hut overlooking 'the Street' in Tankerton (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Jo Youll at her hut overlooking 'the Street' in Tankerton (photo: Manu Palomeque)

Manu Palomeque 07977074797

An iconic part of our seaside resorts, we ask some of Kent’s lucky beach hut users what they love about their ‘sheds beside the sea’

We all recognise the vintage colours and nostalgic charm of the quintessentially British beach hut. Small, boxy and providing basic shelter beside the sea, these humble wooden huts have a special place in the hearts of the millions who grew up on trips to the seaside.

The history of beach huts can be traced back some 250 years, to the Georgian 'bathing machines' that would be wheeled right down the water's edge, ensuring the modesty of those keen to enjoy a dip in the water but not so keen to display their swimming costumes.

By the 19th century the railway would make trips to resorts like Margate, Broadstairs, Whitstable and Folkestone not only easy and affordable, but the very height of fashion.

Later, these machines would have their wheels removed, becoming a permanent fixture along many of our beaches.

It is estimated there are at least 20,000 huts across the UK today. Having rather fallen out of fashion over the years, the tide has now well and truly turned and they are so sought after there can be waiting lists of up to 10 years.

Although some are rented from local councils, they are often privately owned and even passed down through the generations.

Prices have escalated in recent years too, with basic huts often selling for tens of thousands of pounds. Christchurch in Dorset is home to the most expensive huts in Britain, with one selling last year for an incredible £295,000 - not bad for a shed with no electricity, toilet or running water. We meet some of the people who think there is no better place to be than beside the sea.

Jo Youll in Tankerton

Jo Youll has given her Tankerton hut a pretty, nautical feel (photo: Manu Palomeque)Jo Youll has given her Tankerton hut a pretty, nautical feel (photo: Manu Palomeque)

"Our hut is front row at Tankerton, overlooking 'the Street'. We've had the hut for 18 months now; we used to own one on West Beach but much prefer it at Tankerton.

"It's a Blue Flag beach, the tide doesn't affect us too much and it's a great place to get together with the family. It's really friendly and there are plenty of bars and restaurants nearby.

I've always wanted a beach hut; it was one of my childhood dreams. It's also a great investment and something for my children's future.

"We have a license to rent our hut and it gets very booked up, especially in the summer months (Whitstable Dreams on Facebook). We block out time for ourselves though and will often pop down for a midweek swim and have drinks or dinner there, watching the sunset.

Jo Youll rents out her pretty hut in Tankerton but makes sure she blocks out time for the family (photo: Manu Palomeque)Jo Youll rents out her pretty hut in Tankerton but makes sure she blocks out time for the family (photo: Manu Palomeque)

"Our children are teenagers now so they are less inclined to join us, but it's the perfect excuse to get them off the Xbox and enjoying some quality time as a family. We love using our kayaks and paddle boards down there.

"We were lucky to get planning permission to build an extension to our hut so we now have a large decking area and side ramp. This is a great addition and perfect for sitting out on and enjoying the sunshine.

"I've also recently painted the hut and enjoyed experimenting with mixing colours together to make a shimmery grey/mauve. The Painted Pearl paint shop in Tankerton is great for a huge range of beach hut paints in all colours.

Ansty Harris and Clare Baker share a rented beach hut in Deal, which they've painted white throughout (photo: Manu Palomeque)Ansty Harris and Clare Baker share a rented beach hut in Deal, which they've painted white throughout (photo: Manu Palomeque)

"The beach hut community is really friendly and there is always something going on in Tankerton. The best part about the hut is that it helps us make the most of where we live. Looking at the sea and watching the world go by is so relaxing, it's a great place to de-stress."

Anstey Harris and Clare Baker in Deal

"I'm Anstey Harris, I'm a writer and I share a beach hut with my friend, Clare. We rent the beach hut from the local leisure provider, on behalf of Dover Council, and moved in last September. Clare had been on the waiting list for a long time.

"Our hut is part of a group that originally went up in Walmer. Unfortunately, local residents complained about them spoiling the view (I know!) so they were kept in a field out in the countryside for a few years until another site was found - it's the old crazy golf site.

Ansty & Clare's beach hut, Deal (photo: Manu Palomeque)Ansty & Clare's beach hut, Deal (photo: Manu Palomeque)

"Consequently, when we moved in, it was little more than a shed, spotted here and there with mould. We painted it white throughout - ceiling too - then put in some fitted furniture.

"We have a long bench down one side, carefully measured to be Clare's favourite reading height and width. And on the other side we have a work surface and mini kitchen with shelves above. We have a solar power system that will run two lightbulbs and charge a phone too! "I write in the hut in the mornings, if the weather is right, and Clare tends to walk down in the afternoon with her dog, Charley Bucket, and they stay there and read.

Ansty & Clare's beach hut, Deal (photo: Manu Palomeque)Ansty & Clare's beach hut, Deal (photo: Manu Palomeque)

"But a perfect beach hut day would be a not-working day. A day when we fill the cool box with ice, grab a bottle from the excellent off licence just over the road and chill out with friends.

"Clare keeps a boat in the beach hut which will hopefully see some use this summer, and we both have boxes of beach shoes, swimming costumes and towels under the bench.

"The best chip shop in Deal, Mario's, is almost opposite our hut too and Mike's Bikes is nearby - great for not only bike hire but coffee and cake. Over the wall is the paddling pool, which is perfect for the grandchildren and godchildren.

"We're still building our beach hut community here because it's quite new and most people left the huts empty over winter, but we're getting there. There are lots of dog owners, and I'm one of two writers to work from the huts."

Jacqui Wellbrook in Stone Bay

"We moved to Broadstairs just over six years ago, and have had our hut five years. It is situated in Stone Bay - a beautiful family friendly beach.

Since I was a little girl I've wanted to live near the sea, and to own a beach hut is the icing on the cake. I refer to it as my special place and I even wear a necklace which has the map coordinates of the hut on the pendant.

Even though the huts are pretty small and ours has to be dismantled for winter storage, we thought very carefully about colour and contents. We have painted and decorated the inside and the outside front in common with many other owners. We aim to use it as often as the weather and time allows.

A perfect day would involve an early morning walk to the hut, possibly a swim, followed by bacon sandwiches for breakfast as we watch the tide change. Weekdays are our favourites, when it is blissfully calm and quiet.

Following a number of acts of vandalism on huts, a small group of us set up the Thanet Huts Association. We operate mainly via a busy Facebook page which has more than 1,100 members.

We liaise with Your Leisure over facilities and act as a communication point for users to report any problems, share experiences and discuss other community issues.

The page was invaluable during the really bad storms last April when many huts were damaged or washed away.

We even acquired a small amount of community funding to set up a Hut Watch scheme."

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