The council-owned beach huts in Swanage all but sold out within hours of becoming available for this summer, with one man queuing outside the Swanage Information Office from 6.45 am to make sure he got one.
The final tranche of huts, released on Wednesday 28th July 2021 after the loosening of social distancing rules, were bookable online after staff were swamped with calls back in the spring, when the previous ones were made available.
Swanage Town Council visitor services manager Culvin Milmer said they had never known anything like it, as they went like “hot cakes”.
Hot property – the beach huts on Swanage seafront are snapped up
“Five thousand missed calls in an hour”
The council has 72 huts, but did not release them all in March 2021 to allow for social distancing. Last week they released the rest. Within just ten minutes they had taken 40 bookings, including the early riser through the front door.
Culvin Milmer said:
“In March, we had five thousand missed calls in an hour which is very difficult to manage. So, we decided this time to do it online.
“A lot of people were unhappy with that, saying we were making it too easy for people going online, but we simply couldn’t manage the phone calls again.
“The three staff were on the phone all day long in March, just to tell people there wasn’t any availability.”
The Swanage Tourism office team: Culvin Milmer, Amy Wells, Sarah Tattershall and Kathy Bangle
“Absolutely love it”
Previously, the allocation of weekly bookings (some book a whole season) was done through a lottery but there were complaints that this was not transparent enough.
It seems that lockdowns and the trauma of the last eighteen months has created a pent-up demand for the comfort and nostalgia of the old-fashioned beach hut. It gives people a place to relax and socialise.
Beach hut user Sam Kirkpatrick, Swanage ‘born and bred’, said:
“I just absolutely love it. The children are not playing on iPads, they are just running around, finding things to do and making friends with other children. We feel safe that they are okay and enjoying themselves.”
Sam Kirkpatrick and Abi Notley with their children
“Doing what kids should be doing”
“We had a beach hut when they were the old wooden ones. We used to come down with my Nan and Grandad.
“It’s just the convenience of having stuff in the hut. You can come here for breakfast and have tea here too.”
Friend Abi Notley said:
“This is our first year of doing it. We were determined to have one for last year because my son was born in the January – he was a lockdown baby – but of course we couldn’t, so they allowed us to transfer the booking to this year.
“We have been down here every day. The kids love it and they’re doing what kids should be doing. They’re not sitting watching TV. I don’t get that ‘I’m bored thing’ – they’re having fun making up their own fun.”
Jane Hannah, with parents Colin and Marion Lee
“Everybody is happy down here”
Audrey Bonfield, from Swanage, said:
“For us it’s so we can be with the family, so the grandchildren have a base. It’s just a lovely spot and everybody is happy down here.”
Jane Hannah, visiting Swanage for last the 45 years, is using the hut with her parents Colin and Marion Lee, and her children.
“We use the beach hut every day. It’s nice to be able to keep your things in the hut. I don’t like the sand, so this is ideal!”
The Laycocks and Bardsleys from Manchester
“Obsessed with beach huts”
For Jen Laycock, from Manchester, it’s a little home by the seaside.
“I love Swanage. It’s just a little seaside town and as we’ve got family here it’s nice to come and see them. It’s a long drive down but it’s worth it. I love it. And the beach hut is great for the kids and storing all our stuff. It’s like a little community here.”
The unprecedented popularity of the huts means an income for Swanage Town Council, already in excess of £100,000 from the limited season. That’s compared to the pre-Covid total of £120,000 in 2019. And they’ve even saved on the advertising budget.
Culvin Milmer added:
“People are absolutely obsessed with beach huts!”