Yorkshire's oldest caravan site is taking a 21st century approach to residential park home design

Chestnut Farm near York is reaping the rewards of designing and building its own residential park homes

Marcus and Rowena Smith are helping to take the family business forward
Marcus and Rowena Smith are helping to take the family business forward

Chestnut Farm in Acaster Malbis on the outskirts of York is one of the oldest holiday parks in Britain. The first caravan was sited there in 1899 and the spirit of innovation that abounded in the Victorian era seems to have stuck with subsequent owners of this idyllic stretch of land by the River Ouse.

The Smith and Dearlove family, which has run the park for decades to much acclaim, were early in spotting the potential for static caravans and holiday cottages and now the latest generation is taking the park home concept a stage further.

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While many park home sites buy in mass manufactured lodges, Marcus Smith and his wife, Rowena, along with other Smith family members, have designed and built their own, allowing them to make the properties more robust while bringing a contemporary look and feel to the exterior and the interiors.

One of the new residential park homes designed and made in Yorkshire by the Smith family

As the park has a residential agreement, owners, who must be aged 45 or over, can live there all year round and use the lodge as their main address. The lodges will also be marketed as second homes, ideal for those looking for a holiday property or a UK base for several months of the year.

“One thing sites like this engender is a sense of community, which a lot of people are craving due to the pandemic. Our other site at Mill Garth has some permanent residents and there is a real camaraderie there. They all look after each other. There’s also a sense of security,” says Rowena. “We know there will be a lot of people interested in making Chestnut Farm their main home but we also think there will be a lot more people looking for a second home. It’s a very safe and secure lock up and leave option for those who live abroad for several months of the year.”

The properties are a move away from the rustic log cabin style park homes and the glorified caravans with cladding. They have high-end finishes, plastered walls, homely touches and the latest technology, such as wifi-controlled underfloor heating and a super-fast internet connection. The layout is open plan with floor to ceiling windows and bi-fold doors that open out onto private decking.

The lodges, which have a 10 year structural warranty, have been designed and built by Acaster Homes, the Smith family’s lodge manufacturing business. They are constructed to BS3632 residential standard in its factory based on the outskirts of York, before being transported to Chestnut Farm where the finishing touches are completed, creating a seamless process from design and build to final purchase.

One of the new park homes with an open plan living space

With a steel chassis and steel frame, the park homes are packed with insulation. The majority of the materials used are from Yorkshire-based suppliers with the exception of the anthracite cladding system on the external walls, which is from German manufacturer Zierer Fassaden.

Permaroof has been used for the roofing and the decking is grey composite. There are also furniture packages from Loft Interiors available for those who want a turn-key home. They range from £1,130 to £3,035.

Marcus Smith says: “Chestnut Farm first recorded a caravan on the land in 1899, making us one of, if not the oldest caravan park in Britain. Therefore, the park comes with a huge legacy and is a place where so many people have cherished memories from holidays and visits over the years.

"We knew it was time to move the park forward and it was vital to us to create a lodge experience that is like nothing else on the market, something design-led that would also appeal to a younger clientele. We want our customers to feel they have something really special and completely bespoke.”

The kitchen area with breakfast bar

Marcus’s father Steven Smith, director of Acaster Homes, adds: “This is our second residential lodge development and we’re looking forward to launching this new style of property onto the market. The entire design and build process happens in York which has allowed us to work with our trusted local suppliers to create a high quality product to suit Chestnut Farm’s new chapter.”

He adds: “We have spent the past few years designing and building a lodge that not only feels contemporary and is unique, but is also homely and ideal for the customer to live in all year round or to use as a second holiday home. We’re looking forward to welcoming people to the show lodges now open to view on the park.”

Phase one of the development has now been released with prices starting from £110,000. The lodges available for sale on Chestnut Farm are the Wharfegate: one bedroom, one bathroom studio lodge, 281 sq ft; the Fossgate: Two bedroom, two bathroom single unit lodge 484 sq ft and the Ousegate: Two bedroom, one bathroom twin unit lodge 628 sq ft.

The annual pitch fees are Wharfegate: £2,500; Fossgate: £3,000; Ousegate: £3,500 and Ousegate Riverside: £4,000. This includes access to the internet. Other costs to consider when buying a park home as a main or second home are council tax, insurance and utility bills including electricity, water and gas. The latter are metered and park home sites are not allowed to make a profit on them so rates are generally good. Like most holiday parks, there is a 10 per cent commission to be paid to the holiday park owner if you sell your park home.

Furniture packs are available for those who want a turn-key option

The sales office is open seven days a week from 9am until 5pm. Due to Covid guidelines it is recommended to book an appointment, tel: 01904 704676 or email [email protected] www.chestnutfarmhp.co.uk; www.acasterhomes.co.uk. For details of park home rights and regulations visit www.gov.uk/government/collections park-homes

The new park homes are selling well
The Smith family is designing and making its own park homes in Yorkshire