Vanessa tells Littleport Life how it all started!
‘We moved into Riverside in April 2002, taking an absolute flyer on making a living from running a caravan and camping park.
Whilst we had caravanned and camped for many years, running our own business was a different story! We thought that being a customer for so many years would be good experience for us to know what customers want when they’re camping.
But first we had to sort out the basics.
Our cottage was barely habitable, suffering from serious damp problems, an earth floor, and a flat roof in the kitchen that leaked like a sieve! (we didn’t find this out until it rained!) There was also a large mouse population that needed to be evicted!
As living in there wasn’t possible, we stayed in our small caravan in the drive, until we did some serious cleaning, and made temporary repairs to the roof.
The campsite was equally bad, with blocked drains, rubbish, dumped cars, fridges and mattresses strewn everywhere, and a barely useable shower block.
We had no idea what lay ahead of us, and what a luxury sitting down and relaxing would be!
We also inherited several Eastern European workers staying in statics, here illegally, before the law changed. We were totally unaware of this at the time.
I was ashamed of the conditions they were living in here, being totally exploited by the gang masters, who paid their rent.
Slowly we replaced the rental statics, and once the law changed they moved out into proper accommodation.
We cleared all the rubbish from the site, repaired the shower block and started work on the cottage.
The damp was cured, walls and ceilings plastered, and two beautiful brick chimney breasts exposed.
We put a website together, and customers started to arrive.
We’ve met some real characters over the years, some of whom have become good friends, and others that are memorable for all the wrong reasons!
We also decided to rescue some chickens from a battery farm, giving them a complete free range, and a nice stable to roost in at night. But they have become very cheeky, helping themselves to customers’ dog food when it is left out, and the odd rasher of bacon sizzling away in a frying pan on the grass. Their eggs are so delicious that we can’t keep up with the demand from our regulars.
The decision to change over to adults only, was a good move, as our business has increased two- fold, and we have many return customers, especially teachers, enjoying getting away from the kids!
Being next to the river has been good for business too, as we get many fishermen, canoeists and boaters. We also have much fun, when it’s warm enough, swimming in there with customers, many of whom have never swum in a river before, but are tempted in, and then find out how lovely it feels after a day in the hot sun. Floating lilos and armchairs are great to relax in, and then capsize out of!
All in all, it was the right decision to leave our office jobs, and start a business, as we have a nice life and enjoy living in this part of the fens, which has so much more to offer than we ever realised.
Ely, Cambridge and the north Norfolk coast are great places to visit, together with Wicken Fen and the Welney Wildfowl and WetlandsTrust’s centre for nature watching.
Also, moving from a busy town to the countryside, where the pace of life is so much slower, is definitely good for the soul!
This is our 15th year and we held a celebratory BBQ party for all our customers.
Fairways Catering, our neighbours, supplied the lovely food, and customers brought their own liquid refreshments.
Here’s to more happy days!’