A Lake District History of Static Caravans
Can you add to Skelwith's memory banks?
For over half a century, Skelwith Fold Caravan Park has been welcoming holidaymakers to the Lake District. So it's about time, we decided, to take a trip down memory lane to the early days of our static caravans - and we need your help.
Have you any memories of early trips to Skelwith Fold? Whether it was during the era of Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Abba or Bananarama, we'd love to hear your recollections.
Of course, if you had a picture, that would be a real bonus… but what we'd most appreciate are any memories of what the park was like then, and what you got up to during your holidays.
All contributions would be extremely welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we hope to be publishing a selection of these shortly on this page.
And just for starters…
Here's a few photographs we have found in our archives of Skelwith Fold in (we think) the early sixties. Can anyone arrive at a more accurate date for us, perhaps based on knowledge of when the cars which can be seen were in production?
Although it's mostly tourers which can be seen, there are also a number of early static caravans in evidence. Although we today prefer the description "caravan holiday home", the term "static" told it like it was: caravans in which you could enjoy a peaceful life in one spot, not being towed hither and thither.
Having said that, the absence of cars alongside many of the "tourers" suggests that these were perhaps placed on the park by owners for the duration of the holiday season.
The family group outside their VW camper van and tent appears to cover three generations - and it's interesting to note that, even on holiday, the men clearly didn't feel properly dressed unless they were sporting a necktie.
And that stick structure in the foreground? We can only imagine a means of suspending a cooking pot or kettle over a camp fire which is just out of view. No M&S ready-made meals to pop in the microwave for these early static caravan pioneers!
A privileged background
To gain access to Skelwith Fold's magnificent grounds before 1950, you would need to have been very well connected. Its 130 acres were in the ownership of the wealthy Marshall family who, in 1890, built a rather unusual mansion house at the highest point on the site.
Commanding breathtaking views over the fells, the house was traditional Victorian in appearance - but, apparently, was equipped with all the latest time-saving and aids-to-good-living gadgets of the period.
No record exists of what precisely these were, but the reign of Victoria did see the invention of, among other things, the vacuum cleaner, flushing lavatories, gramophone players, cameras, electric lights and systems for communicating remotely with servants.
It's a reasonable presumption that the family would have been one of the first families to have brought many of these innovations to the Lake District.
Sadly, the mansion was destroyed in the 1950s. The family had lost its fortune, and could no longer afford the building's financial upkeep - but it was a slow death. Relief from rates could only be obtained if a property was without a roof, so it was removed in order to avoid that burden.
Now a people's park
But as the mansion crumbled, a new life for Skelwith Fold began to be constructed - as a park in the heart of the Lake District where folk could bring their tents and caravans on holiday.
It could be argued that Skelwith Fold was among the first tourism businesses to make Lakeland accessible to a much wider cross-section of people. For until camping and caravan sites began to be developed more widely in the fifties, the Lake District was largely the preserve of the well-off.
Popularised by William Wordsworth, the region had plenty of fine country house hotels to comfortably accommodate the comfortably off. But for ordinary families in the towns and cities, Northern seaside resorts such as Blackpool were considered a more fitting holiday destination.
However, with its gates open to tents and the increasingly popular touring caravans, Skelwith Fold provided an affordable means to explore Lakeland's natural wonders - and from a more picturesque and romantic setting than many an hotel could put claim to.
The development of increasingly luxurious "statics" also meant that second-home ownership in the Lakes was more widely available - without depleting local housing stock, artificially pushing up house prices, or creating "ghost villages" of empty holiday homes.
Full glory restored
Skelwith Fold was bought fifteen years ago by the Wild family. Although the park had been well cared-for by its previous owners, the once carefully tended grounds had lost their landscaped appearance. Azaleas and rhododendrons had run riot, and many specimen tress and shrubs were lost, quite literally, in the undergrowth.
Today, more than a decade later, our restoration work of the grounds still continues - and the change has been spectacular. Forgotten or neglected features, such as the park's mystical tarn, have been brought back to their full glory, and pathways created to allow guests to explore the delightful woodlands and enjoy the beautiful views which suddenly open up.
Our changes have benefited wildlife too, and elsewhere on this website you can read how our conservation work has brought a new lease of life to Skelwith's indigenous flora and fauna.
Botanist David Bellamy, who has visited the park on a number of occasions and given it his special Conservation Award, declares it to be a "wildlife wonderland" - and was recently as thrilled as we were to learn that our efforts, and those of holiday home owners, had helped reintroduce colonies of red squirrels in the grounds.
Skelwith Fold is now in its seventh decade as a holiday park - and, we like to think, firmly in the first division of sustainable tourism destinations.