We always looked forward to our summer holiday back in the mists of time- the 1950’s. For us then there was no jetting out to far flung resorts in foreign climes, but a drive to Endmoor, Cumbria to stay with our grandparents at Brook House. Of course it was always sunny and warm, or maybe we were looking back through rose tinted spectacles? We did things much like visitors of Millbrook do today, played games on the grassland and spent many happy hours picnicking in the Lake District. We fished from the bridge with the promise of a sixpence from our Grandpa if we caught a fish, however he knew his money would be safe as he told us the best bait was brown bread! We would peep through the big white gate at the end of the road, beyond the gate was forbidden territory. This was where the men and women of the Civil Defence came to train for disaster relief, finding casualties in collapsed buildings. Exciting stuff, happy days!
In 1968 Civil Defence was stood down and the land at Endmoor reverted back to our family. The options from the council of how the land could be used were limited but included use of a caravan site, so this is what our parents decided to do and they were granted licence in 1969. Millbrook Caravan Park was born.
Early development was not easy, the site had to be cleared of derelict buildings that had collapsed for the Civil Defence training. The old buildings were the remains of Low Gatebeck gunpowder works founded by W H Wakefield in 1850. There had been horse drawn tramways, waterwheels and a mill race, evidence of which can still be seen in the south woodland today.
The caravan park was laid out and our parents spent weekends and holidays working hard to develop the site. We served our apprenticeship; digging, wheeling barrow loads of gravel and cutting and raking grass. Most of the work was done by our parents, machinery only hired for the very heavy work. Eventually the park was opened but at that same time there were no water or sewage pipes to the caravans. Heat and light were from the gas bottles and water was carried from the stand pipes. We all remember the anticipation when lighting the gas mantles, they went with a pop and hiss. We had the oldest caravan on the site and we hated it! But it was all that we could afford, no posh new caravans for us. When Linda married Rodney, and later Barry to Glynis we welcomed two new members to the Millbrook road gang making a 6 bodied team.
Over the years Millbrook slowly developed, water sewage and electricity were made available to each site. The original small nissen huts which housed the gents and ladies toilets were remodelled, the central nissen originally a tool store now became our reception and shop. After our Dad passed away in 2004 the responsibility fell to us to take on the business and as partners we have continued to care for Millbrook with the continued involvement of our Mum.
In recent years, after storm Desmond in 2015 we were faced with flooding; Peasy Beck had never been known to overflow as it did that day. Thankfully, although we had flood damage, we did not suffer as badly as many in the area, but there were problems to rectify and measures to be taken to minimise any damage should the worst happen again. Fingers are firmly crossed every time there is a storm, after all who can predict the bipolar weather of the Lakes.
Each passing year brings new challenges, not all physical or material. There have been enormous changes to legislation since we first opened those 50 years ago; health and safety, data protection and VAT to name a few. We always do our best to ensure all our clients have protection to which they are entitled.
As we look around the site today our minds often go back to those early days, and we are proud of what our family has achieved and grateful for the efforts of all our wardens who have been with us over the years. I know Dad would be pleased with how Millbrook has developed. When our children and grandchildren come to visit we know they love it as much as we do, and will be giving the grandchildren lessons in wheelbarrow technique and mower handling just in case!
Take a look at how Millbrook looks today by visiting our gallery page on our website.
Linda Bedford and Barry Hutchings.