Together with my wife and daughter, I have been visiting the North Devon coast and the countryside around Ilfracombe for about 25 years. It is an extremely picturesque part of the country and while holidaying in a touring caravan we were never bored. However during 2014 I was fortunate enough to retire and we decided to look for a static caravan or lodge. After looking round some sites I was initially somewhat put off the idea by the high annual fees (in excess of £7,500), but my daughter found Hele Valley on the internet with fees of just over a third of this. As our touring caravan was close we paid them a visit.
On arrival at Hele Valley I was greeted by the Reception Team, a group of helpful, smiling and professional people. After explaining that I was interested in a caravan purchase, I was passed over to Sandra, who with her husband David, own the site and have done so for in excess of 40 years, and Jess, who is the site Office Manager. We talked through what we were looking for and they suggested that we have a walk around the site with the list of caravans up for sale. There were several which we rather liked, and Sandra then showed us around those which were vacant. There was one we liked both for the caravan layout and its location. We agreed with Sandra that we needed to think about it. A day later we had decided to buy the caravan and returned and signed up the paperwork with Jess. What made buying the caravan a pleasure was there was no pressure at any time, everyone realising we were making a big financial commitment. The significant difference between Hele Valley and most other commercial sites is that no one is on commission for the sale and so it was all very relaxed. When we were making the decision, the costs of running the caravan were explained in detail (site fees, gas, water, electricity, insurance etc), which occur on all sites, but are frequently skimmed over, so that when I signed on the dotted line, I had a clear understanding of what I was signing up to, there are no surprise expenses later on!.
When you purchase the caravan, you agree to complete the purchase a couple of weeks prior to taking possession. This gives them time to transfer the caravan to your name, and they transfer the remaining lease for the pitch to you. When new, all caravans are given a 15 year lease, and so, in my case, I had 12 years lease transferred to me as the caravan was three years old.
The day for us to take possession arrived, and we were given the keys and a whole pack of documents concerning the caravan to read at our leisure. We were shown how everything works in the caravan by Steve, Sandra’s son and a Director of the site. Any problems you ever need to resolve in the caravan, Steve is the man, what he doesn’t know about caravans and lodges isn’t worth knowing.
And so in September 2014 we became static caravaners. The day to day operation of the caravans is very straight forward as everything is connected to the mains except gas. The gas bottle system is simple, and when a bottle needs replacing, I just inform Reception and it gets changed, the bill arriving at the end of the season. When we took the caravan, Sandra mentioned that there is a competition for the best garden around the caravan. My daughter took this to heart, and she and my wife worked to make our decking look like home, so much so that we were joint winners of the competition.
At the end of October, when the main season ends, the site hosts an end of year party, usually Halloween. This is a great evening, with many memorable activities and costumes. It was at this that my daughter received her prize for her gardening activities. The highlight of the evening has to be the firework display run by Steve.
In summary, Hele Valley (I must point out it is pronounced “heel” not “heli”. I was corrected in my pronunciation at the nearby Mill tea room – excellent cakes!) is a quiet site, there is no clubhouse and no shop. However, within walking distance there is a pub and restaurant both with excellent reputations, and a garage shop and a supermarket just up the road. It is a really pleasant site to be on, with charming and helpful staff, and delightful management whose objective is to make holidays at Hele Valley a pleasure.
They succeed in this objective!