ABOVE: Fred Grange’s first caravan – the Searles Leisure Resort has come a long way sonce those early days. Left: the Searle family pictured in the late 1950s. (Photographs courtesy of Searles)
The Searles Leisure Resort covers a 330 acre site providing holiday accommodation and entertainment for the thousands of visitors who come to the seaside town of Hunstanton each year. But although the Searle family name is one of the first associations made with the town today, the business began quite differently a century ago. William and Alice Searle were fruit and vegetable producers who used some of the profits from their business to purchase boarding houses for the increasing number of holiday makers visiting the coast. It was their son, Geoffrey, who realised the potential of Hunstanton and all it had to offer. In 1929 he added boat trips to the family business, with The Tigress making regular trips along the coast. By 1932-33 the ‘park’ had formed, quite unintentionally as friends asked if they could pitch their caravans on Searles grazing land. Geoffrey Searle agreed and gave each camper a board on which to put their name and asked them to erect it on their pitch. Sharing an area of the grazing fields in 1934 were the Searles donkeys as the traditional rides on the beach were introduced. Soon, two women from the auxiliary airforce had teamed up with Searles after storing a plane on the land and began offering holiday makers passenger flights over the coast. As business began to boom in the 1950’s, Geoffrey Searle, his wife Margaret and each of their five children all had roles to play within the busy company. In 1954 the site
KLmagazine March 2011
officially became The Searles Camping Ground. Since then the area has grown, new additions have been made and now The Searles Leisure Resort caters for around 3,000 people a night during peak season. Paul Searle took over from his father and recognises one of the biggest and most beneficial changes to the resort has been the extension of the season “We have always been keen to introduce new facilities to the site to make the resort more enjoyable for our guests. During the nineties we saw a lot of investment and we made it our policy to buy well insulated, all year round caravans. The holiday makers wanted to come here out of season so it made sense to make it possible. It does of course mean that we can keep more staff in employment all year round and the town also feels a benefit to the economy not just during the summer months, something which is always welcome in seaside towns. By organising music, theme and event breaks through quieter winter months we have also found we are introducing a whole new crowd of visitors to appreciate Hunstanton.” From fruit and vegetable producers the Searles family business has become holiday accommodation, owner occupied holiday homes, food outlets, a play centre, a swimming pool to name a few and more recently The Heacham Manor Hotel and Golf Course. Still retaining the ethos of a traditional family business Searles is proud to enjoy a mutually supportive relationship with the seaside town it calls home.
July sees the annual Lifestyles Festival come to Hunstanton with a showcase of extreme sports. There are nationally ranked competitions in kitesurfing and windsurfing, (where our own local talented sports people have often excelled) as well as some ‘have a go’ sessions. A truly electric atmosphere not to be missed, with music, extreme displays such as skateboarding, street dancing and lots, lots more. Held annually the Hunstanton Lawn Tennis Tournament is the largest lawn tennis tournament in Britain after Wimbledon. The event, which takes place over one week in August, has been running since the 1920’s and is extremely popular attracting many visitors and players, including some from around the globe.
There are plenty of attractions to keep all of the family amused in Hunstanton, most of which are situated along the promenade. The Sealife Centre houses an aquarium with a variety of interesting marine life as well as a number of other animals including penguins, otters and of course seals. During the year the sanctuary rescues seals that are sick, injured or orphaned pups and rehabilitates them in the dedicated seal hospital. Other attractions along the promenade include a crazy golf centre, amusements and a funfair with a variety of stalls and rides. 45
Published on Mar 1, 2011