If you have come straight to this post, you will find it makes more sense if you read search for a campsite pt 1 first.
By now we had researched sufficiently to turn our dream into a plan. We had decided that we wanted to make a profound change to our lifestyles and that we could probably afford to do so.
Our children had grown up and left home and other family ties had reduced so there was little holding us back; except finding a business that would give us sufficient income and provide us with a more relaxed outdoor lifestyle where we worked for no one except ourselves.
Clare was becoming increasingly frustrated with the bureaucracy within the NHS, like most people she loved some parts of the job but loathed others. I also enjoyed my job as production manager in a manufacturing company but although there was plenty of job satisfaction, ultimately I was just working out how to make more “stuff” more efficiently. The focus was entirely on making money for the company and although I was paid well for it, it didn’t really give me a good feeling about myself.
Our search continued, many hours on the internet plus several trips to Wales. I guess it was at this point we narrowed our search to South West Wales.
My parents had bought a dilapidated cottage in the 1960’s which would probably just fallen down if they hadn’t (it had no electricity, no WC, just an outside tap, heating by openfire), it had been empty for two years. Slowly they improved and repaired it during frequent trips to Wales and as a result I spent 10 or so weeks per year in that quiet part of Cardiganshire (as it was then).
The following trips were to view several interesting properties:
Property one – Near Ammanford, an ordinary small detached house built on a road with lots of similar houses hid a secret world behind it. The sellers had lived in the house for several years and had slowly been developing a very large campsite behind the house. It had a huge fishing lake, as yet un-stocked, they had terraced the sloping site to provide level pitches, put in electrical hook-ups and planted loads of trees and shrubs. No one had ever camped there, the access road wasn’t built and there was no toilet block. It would have been a comparatively inexpensive and simple job to finish the site and get the business up and running but the location was not one that attracted holiday makers. In the end we decided that we didn’t really want to live there and were not convinced that enough people would want to camp there no matter how nice the actual site was.
Property two – By this point we noticed how cheap buying a smallholding was compared to a functioning campsite and had talked to a couple of people who had gone or were going through the process of putting in the infrastructure required – it seemed like an idea that needed more investigation. Some county councils had completely closed the planning door to campsite applications but some seemed to be encouraging applications, I guess to attract more tourists to their area. Ceridigion (previously Cardiganshire) were one such county.
As a result we started to search for small farms for sale and found one near the lovely seaside village of Aberporth. A fairly elederly lady and her grown up son had decided to move to a house with less land and less work and showed us around their property. She had several ponies who followed us around the fields taking a very keen interested in our little dog Milo. Clare is not very keen on horses and was worried about Milo so picked him up to take him back to the car. Unfortunately the horses were much more interested in following her than us so she had a little gang of equine “helpers” to escort her back – she was not in the slightest bit impressed!
It turned out that it was in the wrong part of the county so planning would not have been forthcoming but it was a very interesting viewing and the lady and her son were lovely.
Property three – Abermarlais camp site near Llandovery.
This was a large, well established campsite that had been developed around 30 years by two bothers. By strange co-incidence they where from Southampton and had lived in a house about 50m from the house we lived in for 25 years!
The one brother had retired and moved away and the remaining brother and his wife were elderly and in poor health.
We fell in love with it straight away, staying on site overnight in our motorhome we walked around the site buzzing with ideas to improve it. It is a great little site; a large level field next to a small river with a little meadow over a foot bridge and a pretty sloping wood ideal for children to play in.
It was in need of a bit of investment, the toilet block was past it’s best for example but the main problem was that the couple had run down the business so far with no advertising or marketing. It was turning over just £17,000 a year. We couldn’t afford to buy it without borrowing some money and no mortgage could be found for a business with such low income regardless of the potential.
The asking price was too high and we were not in a strong negotiating position with no mortgage offer. No matter how much it hurt we just had to walk away and keep looking.