A family who have been holidaying at Strode Park for more than 30 years are back again this year and enjoying Kent life. Karen Jeal is Strode Park Foundation’s Fundraising, Marketing and PR Manager and she popped in to see the Browns to find out why they keep coming back year after year.

I sit in the spacious living area of the bungalow with George and Anne Brown and their daughter Fiona and they reminisce about the 31 years gone by that they’ve been enjoying their holidays here. You can really see the smiles as they share their memories.

George and Anne Brown first came here in 1988 with their daughter Fiona, now 44 and who has cerebral palsy, and their son Graeme.

Anne said: “We remember the three caravans that were here – they were called Leoville, Kadville and Yeoville. At the time Fiona was 13 and Graeme was eight. We saw an advert for them in Disability Now magazine and we decided to book.”

The family have made the 20-hour round trip every year since from Dalgety Bay, Fife, Scotland to the south east coast in England.

They joked: “There’s better weather in Kent, we’ve always been a bit more successful going further afield.”

Because of Fiona’s complex medical requirements, Strode Park’s holiday bungalows are perfect for them. Anne, 69, added: “We were always looking for places with level access, ceiling hoists, an electric bed and something that was completely accessible but we could never find everything we wanted.

“We’ve got a tick list and most places other than here just don’t meet what’s on our list. Here we know what they have and what we’re coming to. We don’t have to think about it, it’s just all here.

“I think there’s only been one year we haven’t been able to come and that was when the caravans were taken away and the bungalows were being built, I think it was around the year 2000.”

The Browns are here this time for three weeks and have enjoyed some wonderful days out during their stays. 68-year-old George said: “When the children were young we used to do the beaches but now we just like to visit various places – we like Herne Bay, Deal and our favourite beach is Minnis Bay. We love to do long walks along the promenade and it’s all very wheelchair friendly.”

Their holiday mainly consists of relaxing now and they come to Strode Park because it feels like home.

“There are some fabulous places to go to in Scotland but we love to come here because we know everyone, and we’re spoilt here. If Fiona isn’t happy then she just gets what she needs because everything is in the main house”, said Anne.

Both George and Anne, who were the first people to stay in the bungalows when they were opened, go on to tell me about a time they saw a mouse in the bungalow. They both laughed: “It was so funny we saw this mouse and asked the main house for some mouse traps that’s all we really needed, the next minute a pest control van turned up. That’s the sort of service you get here, they go above and beyond and nothing is too much trouble.”

“It’s the little touches that go a long way.”

The family were here when Theatre in the Park started back in 1992. In fact, they were here before that too. George went on: “It was always here, but the plays were held on a stage under a large tree and it went from there with the theatre actually being built. We also saw it being built and we’ve been coming to some of the shows every year ever since. Fiona prefers the musical type ones. We remember one year you had Godspell and she absolutely loved it.”

They also shared the story about the infamous Strode Park snapping turtle. The family were here in 2008 when it was pulled out of the charity’s pond. And in a funny twist of coincidence their son Graeme was visiting St Andrews Aquarium, which is in Fife, and noticed a snapping turtle with the wording underneath ‘Rescued from a care home in Kent’. They both said, “We just couldn’t believe it at all. Just what are the chances?”

Their stories could have continued all day with one after another bringing back such wonderful family memories of their time at Strode Park.

They still have another couple of days down here yet and will be booking their stay next year just after Christmas. Anne added: “We always just say we will see how we feel and then we always end up booking something. Fiona even has a countdown from about 27 weeks to go and crosses it off every week until it’s time to set off. It really is a highlight of her year.”

Strode Park Foundation has two holiday bungalows within its grounds and it’s surrounded by 14 acres of gardens. Pricing varies depending on what time of year you would like to visit. You can find out more and how to book on our website www.strodepark.org.uk