Park Home Advice: Picking your perfect park
Making a move to a park home is as much a lifestyle choice as it is a move to a new location. Park home estates enjoy a reputation of friendliness, of people caring about each other and, very often, there are community activities, too. Whichever area you choose, you’re likely to find all of those advantages. But how do you pick the perfect park, in the perfect location, for you? There are many factors to consider, from obvious ones to more obscure ones. We explore lots of them here, to set you on the right track to choosing park perfection for you.
Your perfect region
Perhaps the purpose for your move is to live nearer to relatives. That’s an obvious factor. Maybe you are looking for a new home in a region with which you are familiar; perhaps downsizing in the area that you already live. Or maybe you’re after a new start in a new area. Working years usually mean living in a place dictated by work, in one way or another. When retirement beckons, you can potentially be free from that restriction. So, for the first time, you can look at areas in which you really want to live.
So where do you start? Well, climate may be one consideration. If weather matters to you, very broadly, go south for sunshine, east for less rain, west for more rain (and therefore less garden watering!) and north for cooler climates. It’s obvious – but nonetheless worth thinking about. If you pick an area that you have come to know well and enjoyed for holidays and short breaks, you can be pretty confident you’ll live there happily. That said, in the course of visiting parks, we’ve met several couples who have uprooted and moved to an area that they didn’t know well, and settled happily.
This can be a major influence on a decision to choose a particular area. If, in the course of downsizing, you want to stash away a chunk of money, you will need to look at property values. Park home prices vary by area in just the same way as prices of bricks and mortar homes. So, if you move from Berkshire to Berwickshire, for example, you are going to be very much ‘quids in’, as the saying goes. According to Rightmove, the average price of a house in Berkshire is £429,506, whereas, in Berwickshire, it’s £198,843. Take another example: compare Lincolnshire, with an average house price of £193,802, to Leicestershire, where the figure is £245,041. Need any more convincing? If you don’t mind moving areas, you can make your home work for you and give you a more comfortable lifestyle with more money available for holidays and cars of your choice.
Another really major consideration is a park’s proximity to convenience. That’s about how far from the park are the things that we all need. Shops, dentists, doctors, vets, perhaps. Do you want to be within easy walking distance of all of those? If so, a park on the fringe of a large village might be your ideal location.
You may not always want to use your car; if you use public transport, you can avoid parking hassles and cost. So, find out where the nearest bus stop is in relation to a park you may be considering. And a train station, perhaps. That’s especially important if you are contemplating a move to anywhere surrounding London; getting to the capital easily, by train, means you can take advantage of all that London offers – theatres, museums, perhaps – and sightseeing (being a ‘tourist’ in one’s own country is really rather nice sometimes). Another transport consideration is about roads. Do you need to be near to a motorway network? Living in the most delightfully remote countryside is an attractive prospect but there are times when you may want to go elsewhere, and you need to consider how long it will take you to get to places you may want to visit regularly.
Your pursuits of choice
Buying a park home enables you to carve out a new lifestyle. Maybe retirement is about to happen, or already has, and you find yourself with free time on a scale that’s never before been possible. So what are your pursuits of choice? And what do you want to do more of? It’s something to consider carefully, for it will influence your choice of location. After all, you will want to derive maximum enjoyment of the free time that you’ve earned during the full-on working years. So, be it golf, gardening, going to a gym, eating out, walking or cycling – to name some of the obvious ones – you will need to find out what’s available in the area that you may be considering.
Coast, country or city
One really powerful consideration is whether to go for a coastal (or near-coastal) location, or countryside, or on the fringe of a town or city. Go for proximity to a city if you want to be able to go to theatres and orchestral concerts, for example. Go for coast if the sight and sound of the sea refreshes you, relaxes you and inspires you to take beach and clifftop walks. Go for countryside and, perhaps, hill views, if you like being surrounded by open space and vistas. By now, considering these factors, you might be forming a clear picture of the sort of location that would make you happy.
Gardening and garden visits
Time to consider some finer details. If you like gardening in a grow-your-own-vegetables sense, look at areas where allotments might be available. If you are lucky enough to get one (there is often a waiting list), you have an instant hobby – and a lot of satisfaction in cultivating vegetables that are more delicious than you can buy. We know of one park that has a communal vegetable area. It’s Willow Park in Calverton, Nottinghamshire. Residents can grow vegetables there; nothing formal, no rent to pay – just enjoyment and community spirit.
Still on the topic of gardens and gardening, if you enjoy visiting formal gardens, in the grounds of stately homes, for example, it’s worth remembering that some areas of the country have more of them than others. Cornwall is arguably the best example of an area known for its gardens, with more than 30. A quick search revealed that Kent has 20 and so has Yorkshire, Dorset has 14, Cheshire has 12, Northamptonshire has 10, both Derbyshire and Cumbria have nine. Lincolnshire has seven and so also does Hertfordshire. It’s also worth remembering that garden visits are by no means an occasional treat; repeat visits, at varying times of the year, will enable you to see gardens as they change through the seasons.
The most popular – and the most available – pastime is walking. Some areas offer better and more interesting walking opportunities than others. Do you like challenging terrain? All-level walking? Walks punctuated by a pub or coffee stop? Walks with views around every corner? Walks well off the beaten track with no pavement in sight? Or walks through pretty villages? Consider what sort of walking you most enjoy and superimpose that on a map. Then see what park home estates may be within easy reach.
Exactly the same format goes for cycling. It’s easy to find which regions offer cycle routes that suit your taste. The National Cycle Network is a great source of information; visit sustrans.org.uk (Sustrans is a contraction of Sustainable Transport. It’s the guardian of the National Cycle Network and is also a good source of info for walking routes).
Your perfect park
So, you’ve selected a region that suits your needs and your interests. Now comes the big decision: what sort of park would you like to live on? Residential parks each have their own character. The lie of the land, whether there are views, and the layout of the park are all major contributory factors to creating a park’s character. The size of the park is also a major consideration. That’s about ambience and community spirit. A great attraction of buying a park home is that making friends is easier than in other environments, largely because most of the people are home-based, so you are more likely to be able to chat with them.
In theory, the more homes there are, the more potential friends you may have. But we have been told many times by residents in the course of visiting parks that, on smaller parks, everyone tends to know everyone else, so the community spirit element can be stronger than on a larger park.
New park or established park
If you go for a new development, you are moving into a new and growing community. So residents are more likely to try to get to know each other. Everyone is establishing their gardens at the same time. That’s an obvious route to conversations. On an established park, though, like moving onto a mature housing estate, shrubs are already growing well and it’s easy to assess the general look of the park when you first go to see it.
Size of plots
The size of plots is a key factor in the decision-making process. If you like gardening, a park where the plots are larger is obviously going to interest you. Conversely, if you are wanting to downsize not just your house but the garden, too, then look at parks where the gardens are smaller.
Layout of the park
Some parks have homes set at differing angles, making the park look more interesting than if homes are arranged on straight roads. Yet straight roads give a park a neat, uniform appearance. Which do you prefer? That’s a very individual choice.
Some parks have ready-made community spirit. Activities such as barbecues and garden competitions take place, often organised by residents, rather than park staff. A few parks run their own minibus services to local towns. Some parks even have buildings for get-togethers. At Killarney Park, in Nottinghamshire, for example, there’s a clubhouse with a bar and lounge. And a park in Berkshire has its own community centre where activities include line dancing, table tennis and a craft group (that’s Warfield Park).
Images in this feature courtesy of berkeleyparks, Ashwood Park, Marston Edge and Warfield Park and cannot be reproduced without permission.