Beach Hut of the Year 2017

Congratulations to Grandma's Little House

Grandmaslittlehouse2

Phil Spencer of Channel 4’s Location, Location, Location, and seaside historian, Kathryn Ferry, presented Joy Reeve with her prize at the Grandma's Little House – the beach hut on Felixstowe seafront which beat off competition from around the UK to carry off the award.

The hut, named by Joy's grandson, carries on a tradition that has spanned generations of her family – and historian Kathryn Ferry, also a judge for the competition, describes it as a great example of how the humble beach hut has united young and old to enjoy simple seaside pleasures since the 1890s.

“I am so delighted to win this, it’s wonderful to think that the hut my father bought and where all my extended family has had so much fun has been voted the best in the UK,” she said.

“All my six grandchildren love it so much, and the rest of my family and friends all share it and love it. We’ve had lots of birthday and anniversary celebrations here too. 

“Everything changes so fast these days and moves so quickly, but at Granny’s Little House all of us slow down and relax and enjoy the simple things. There’s nothing better than a swim and a brew at the hut afterwards.”

Joy, who lives in Felixstowe, swims regularly up to the end of October with a friend, and a couple of years ago they decided to try raising money for charity as they enjoyed their post-swim cuppa. They provide hot drinks and home-made cake for visitors to the hut, who leave charity donations in return, so far raising nearly £5500. This community use of her hut is one of the things that stood out for the competition judges.

“It really is a place that is made the most of all year round rather than just on a few warm days in the summer, not just by Joy and her family and friends but also for the benefit of lots of others. It’s homely, comfortable, welcoming and well-loved – what more could you wish for in a property?” Judge, Phil Spencer, said.

Fellow judge Kathryn Ferry, a historian and writer specialising in seaside subjects including the history of beach huts, said they had now reclaimed their status as family favourites after falling out of favour for a period in the 1980s when the British seaside became unfashionable.

Top 10 Huts 2017

Lester and his wife Sue purchased Blue Breeze in March 2015. Lester had always wanted a hut as many summers throughout his childhood were spent in a beach hut. As a child from a large family, Lester’s mother, aunties and uncles used to rent three huts in a row at Walton. His brothers, cousins, family and friends would holiday there for two weeks every year for ten years running - with over 50 of them there at times, all fenced in by windbreakers. Because of these wonderful memories Lester was determined to own his own piece of heaven on the beach. However, it was only later in life that he and Sue were able to afford one which is why Lester was drawn to this beautifully positioned hut and they quickly got to work in making it their own. The nautical theme runs throughout this hut and with its subtle blue and grey hues it really is like something straight out of a children’s book.

After the birth of her second child, teacher, Anita found it difficult to adjust to family life. In order to take advantage of the school holidays, Anita encouraged her husband to hire a beach hut in a location which has been part of her life since childhood. They spent a number of weeks living in a little caravan and fell in love with the hutting way of life. As a family they embraced typical seaside activities such as crabbing, rock pooling, dinghy sailing, things they had not done in years and helped them fall into life as a new family. This inspired Anita to search for a beach hut of their own and she scoured the stretch of beach known as Eastcliff and stumbled upon a run-down hut. She immediately saw its potential and worked hard over three years to create a placid, pale blue haven for family and friends to enjoy. This opened the doors to what Anita really wanted in life. She came across a quote: "Do what makes your heart sing" and displays this on the back wall of the hut. This way of life also inspired her to start her blog 'beachhut blogger' which covers her beach hut journey and has also led to her writing children's stories - something she had wanted to do for years. Anita also rents Forget-me-Not out, which enables her to support her dream to write. Each summer, the hut is offered as a prize at the school's fair and at various other charity raffles. Alzheimer's Society, which have a forget-me-not logo, is Anita's charity of choice and she donates some of the money earned from rentals each year. The hut is decorated to reflect the nostalgia Anita feels when she is there, with crochet blankets and pretty vintage laced details. It's a literary haven and a bolthole after a long school year. Anita's husband has created a pump action tap, a breakfast bar and a bifold window and storage bench to make best use of the limited space.

Joy Reeve was gifted Grandma's Little House by her father eight years ago, so that she could enjoy the same pleasures at the hut with her grandchildren as her parents had with theirs. Joy’s two-year-old grandson is responsible for naming the hut as they were walking along the promenade looking for a hut and he suddenly rushed ahead and shouted excitedly "There it is - there's Grandma's little house". The hut has hosted countless special occasions, including wedding anniversaries and birthdays. Joy is prepared for visitors as there is an array of swimwear of all sizes and everything else you need to enjoy a sunny day beside the sea. During the winter months, Joy and her old school friend open a pop up café from the hut at least three times a week so for anyone visiting the beach they can enjoy one of Joy’s homemade cakes and there are even treats for dogs too! The proceeds of the pop up café allow Joy to donate money to a charity every Christmas and for the last two years, this has been Cancer Research UK. Many memories have been made at this pretty hut, but there is one on particular which stands out. In 2014 Joy’s 95-year-old mother visited the hut to have lunch with Joy and her brother. It was a beautiful day and they placed her wheelchair on the promenade so that she could watch as they swam in the sea. The three of them had a lovely fish and chip lunch outside the hut and reminisced over a cup of tea and cake. This was Joy's mother's last day - and it was perfect.

The Ogden family have owned Jabba the Hut for three years. It was a brand new addition to the Southwold promenade along with six other new huts. The family have been holidaying in Southwold for over 25 years now and never thought they would be lucky enough to own a hut. Judith has always loved the beach hut community and the way this way of life brings family members from different generations together. The hut oozes character and charm with a traditional British theme running throughout. There is also a day bed where you can relax and enjoy the view or pick up the binoculars to look at the variety of boats passing through.

This is a hut which was purchased with the sole purpose of hiring out so others could enjoy the beauty of Mersea Island. Featuring an eclectic interior, including a butler sink, a stained glass window and a brace door from an old Mersea cottage, Kitty exudes charm and personality. The hut is not only loved and used on summer days, but it is also great for Christmas celebrations with family and friends and has provided a tranquil haven for charities including Macmillan and the NSPCC. Kitty is not only enjoyed by family and friends, but is also rented out so others can enjoy the beauty of the hut.

15 years ago, Susan Steel had always dreamt about owning a beach hut at Walton-on-the-Naze, but they were too expensive. In 2003 Susan's father, Frank, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer caused by asbestos. By November of the same year, Frank sadly passed away. Susan was devastated as he had been her world. The year after her father's death, Susan's stepmother sent her a cheque for £5000 with a note reading "Your dad's wishes." Susan wanted to use this money to buy something that she could treasure forever. Soon after, her father-in-law visited for the weekend and brought with him an advert which had been displayed at his place of work. It was for a beach hut at Walton-on-the-Naze and Susan this was a sign. On a glorious September morning, Susan and her husband went to visit the hut. The sky was bright blue and the lady who owned it was cooking a full English breakfast to have on her decking overlooking the sea. Susan and her husband instantly fell in love with the hut, which was on sale for £6500. A few weeks later, they became the proud owners and named it 'Let's be Frank', in memory of Susan's father. Every August bank holiday, 20 of Susan's closest friends and their families descend upon 'Let's be Frank' for a full day of fun, including a barbecue, cricket, football and rounders, topped off with a bumper car ride on the pier. There is one rule: no electronic devices! Every time they visit the hut, they write a short entry in a book that they keep in the hut - ensuring that all their precious memories at 'Let's be Frank' are recorded.

In 1996 Darren met his wife, Faye. Bob, Faye’s father, owned a beach hut at St Mildred's Bay, Westgate-on-Sea, and had been holidaying there since the age of five (he has now owned this hut for 20 years). Darren and Faye would spend time there, surrounded by her family who own a number of huts in the same row. Four years ago, Darren and Faye purchased their own hut, No. 20, right between the huts of various relatives - including one which features a facade painted with the colours of the Italian flag because they all adore Italian food. Darren and his Faye have two daughters, Brooke (14) and Rua (13) and all of them helped with the beautiful painting on the front of their hut. It really is a family affair as between them and their extended family they now own five huts in a row! They all love getting together and relaxing with a cup of tea to watch the dazzling sunsets.

Lynn and her family moved to Lymington nine years ago. Her husband owns an RIB so Lynn insisted on owning a beach hut, something that can be used in all weathers! Just over a year ago, they were offered a plot with an empty shed on it - No. 390 - which the couple snapped up. Lynn wanted to make their hut a home away from home which is why it is painted and decorated in a Scandi-style with blue and white as the main colours. When one of Lynn's children (who are nine and 13) fall ill and need to stay home from school, Lynn will take them to the beach hut where they can relax on the bed-like bench inside their hut. This always makes them feel better, thanks to a good dose of sea air!

Heather's creative flare is evident from her chameleon-like hut, No. 85, which she redecorates to a different theme every so often. This year's theme is Indian Summers and the previous themes have been shabby chic and Caribbean calypso. To create the perfect shelter from English monsoons, Heather brought back textiles from her travels to Delhi, India. Purchased by her father when the family moved to Lymington, the hut has been in the family for almost 30 years. As a child, Heather's family would rent a caravan and a beach hut each time they visited Milford-on-Sea from their home in London. These early beach hut memories were magical - and the magic lives on for Heather each time she visits No 85, which boasts stunning views of The Needles. As a podiatrist, Heather loves spending a beautiful sunny day on her day off, and enjoys chatting with walkers who love taking a look at her ever-changing hut.

Stuart Branch, affectionately known as 'Twiggy', is the unofficial Mayor of Harwich and Dovercourt seafront, where you fill find his traditional, blue fronted hut which isn’t short of a seat or two if you need to rest your feet. The hut has been on the site for over 50 years and owned by the Branch family for almost half of that time. Stuart can often be found sitting outside his hut, 'One', next to the historic Low Lighthouse and Harwich Green. This area is a popular destination for tourists from across Europe with ferries arriving each day and you can be sure that Stuart will always offer a warm welcome. Stuart is renowned for sharing local maps and guide books to help tourists make the most of their visit to Harwich. It doesn’t matter if you are a local or just passing by you can always be sure to see a friendly face at this hut and also enjoy a light refreshment while Stuart shares his local knowledge with you.

Terms and Conditions

Judging Process
Towergate Insurance will select a group of finalists to be announced on 2nd July 2017. The winner will be announced on 24th August. By entering the competition, the winner agrees to be available at their beach hut on that day. The winner also agrees to have his/her name, photograph and postal town published and to take part in any publicity arising from the competition. Voting The public vote is open until 9am on 24th July 2017. Individuals may vote multiple times. All eligible votes cast will be considered by the judging panel who will meet on 25th July 2017. Towergate reserves the right to disqualify entries or disqualify voting if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that fraudulent voting has occurred. Towergate cannot accept any responsibility for any technical failure or malfunction or any other problem with any online system, server, provider or otherwise which may result in any vote being lost or not properly registered or recorded.

Prizes
Should the winner meet all eligibility criteria, they will receive a cheque for £1,000, a personalised plaque for their hut, a signed collection of author, Lucy Clarke’s books, plus one year’s free insurance worth up to a maximum price of £1,000 including Insurance Premium Tax and Customer Service Charge if purchased on the open market. The winner’s local Beach Hut Association (if specified during the entry process) will be given a cheque for £500 for the benefit and enjoyment of its members. One entrant and one voter will also be selected at random to win a hamper to the value of approximately £100. Winners will be notified by email within five working days of the end of Towergate’s Beach Hut of the Year competition voting closing date. If we do not hear back from the winner within seven days of that email, we reserve the right to select a new winner.

Restrictions
The prizes are non-transferable and there is no cash alternative. Towergate Insurance reserves the right to substitute any prize with another of similar value should it be unavailable for any reason. Towergate Insurance reserves the right to withdraw the competition or change the dates and processes detailed at any time.

General Terms
By participating in the competition you are deemed to have read and understood these terms and conditions and agree to be bound by them. If you breach any of the terms and conditions, you will be automatically disqualified from the competition. Towergate Insurance is a trading name of Towergate Underwriting Group Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered Address: Towergate House, Eclipse Park, Sittingbourne Road, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 3EN.

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