Published: 06:00, 10 June 2020
| Updated: 12:29, 10 May 2021
Internet searches for beach hut hire this summer are up a whopping 300% according to one rental company.
With foreign travel remaining uncertain as a result of the government's limited green list of travel-safe countries, it seems holidaymakers are attempting to upgrade their seaside staycations by securing top spots on the sand - or shingle - instead.
Online rental service Beachhuts.com offers both day-trippers and holiday makers a means by which to book a beach hut at popular locations along the coast, with huts on more than 40 beaches open for bookings including a number in the county.
Claiming to be the largest beach hut rental website in the UK, offering both a live availability search and online booking system, popular location searches for shelters in Kent include West Beach in Whistable and neighbouring Tankerton Beach while elsewhere in the country popular holiday destinations including Southwold and Felixtowe in Suffolk, St Ives in Cornwall and West Wittering in West Sussex are also capturing the attention of interested customers.
Those behind the website believe being able to book a slice of British summertime, which is unlikely to be cancelled by Covid restrictions this summer, is behind the rapid rise in popularity and sudden surges in traffic and inquiries since lockdown.
Beach huts available to hire in Kent are available from between £50 and £80 each day on the website with a week-long rental in Whitstable ranging from £300 to £450 for those keen to upgrade to a more lengthy coastal escape.
CEO of Beachhuts.com Charlie Ramsay explained: “Beaches give pleasure and health benefits to millions of people of all ages each year. And huts are both a fun and practical aspect to any visit to a beach, somewhere to lay your hat, your head, take shelter, eat sand-free, lock up your phone, and store your clobber to avoid lugging it back and forth to the car each day."
With a history spanning over 250 years, beach huts started as icons of the Victorian era but are now fast turning into desirable rentals and highly valuable pieces of real estate.
Hundreds of people across Kent rent or own a beach hut and love the benefits that come with it - whilst exceptionally long waiting lists have prompted local authorities to look at how they can expand their own offering.
Folkestone and Hythe District Council is considering proposals to build additional huts in New Romney whilst Canterbury City Council is looking at installing 100 new beach huts across its most popular coastal spots, a proposal prompted by the staycation boom which would also generate 'income raising opportunities' for the authority.
Huts - in all colours of the rainbow - can be found at beaches across the county, including Thanet, Dover, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Folkestone and on the Isle of Sheppey.
Mark Whitton, from Minster on the Isle of Sheppey, helped establish the Minster Beach Huts Association in 2012 after watching an episode of George Clarke's Amazing Spaces, a TV show which explores the world of inspirational small builds.
Mr Whitton, 54, explains: "The next day I phoned the council and asked if we could put some huts up on Minster Beach.
"After a number of discussions and meetings, the council felt that the project would be too much of an expense and a risk, due to vandalism etc.
"I then decided to put a small business plan together and talked 10 friends, family and residents into buying a hut each.
"Therefore the council had no risk and no cost; they had nothing to lose!
"We agreed to trial the project for a year in 2013 and if a success, we could keep them up and if a failure we would take them down, and put them in our back gardens."
But it was a success and there are now 35 huts on Minster beach and 15 at nearby Leysdown - with a staggering 350 people on the waiting list for one.
The majority of the huts are privately owned, with the owners paying a ground rent each year to Swale Borough Council, but some are also rented out by the authority.
Mr Whitton, a surveyor, said he would never give his beach hut up.
Asked what the benefits of having one are, he said: "The view and the peacefulness, the evenings - the silence apart from hearing the waves, socialising with friends, barbecues, meeting and talking to strangers walking by, local community area to congregate and meet up with friends, reading and relaxation, unwinding from the stresses of life, it's a two minute cycle from home and I also paddle board.
"I could go on."
This will include making improvements to some of the existing huts, tearing others down and installing 80 new wooden ones. All renters were asked for their keys back in January in preparation of the new project, and it is understood more than 100 people are on a waiting list to rent one.
Ms Fletcher said: "The best part of having a beach hut is that families can comfortably meet by the beach with chairs, shade, tea, food, kayaks, toys, a portable toilet and more.
"They are for everyone from 0 years to 94 years, in our case. A healthy open air space with no limit on numbers."
But with the benefits, come some negatives; for example, for the most part, no running water. And they're definitely not cheap.
In Thanet for example, the most expensive renting plan costs £1,025, and that is for annual hire at either Minnis, Westbay, St Mildreds, Westbrook, Dumpton, Louisa, Viking, Stone or Kingsgate bays.
But in the same towns the beach huts are so popular that waiting lists have been closed.
It is a similar story with Dover District Council - the waiting lists for huts Kingsdown and Walmer beaches are currently full. And rent at St Margarets Bay Beach for a year would set you back £1,535.
Nicola Tolson, who also rented in Folkestone, described the huts as "an important part of life here on the beach - almost like another village".
She rented the same hut for 20 years along the promenade towards Sandgate.
She said: "The beach hut gave me the opportunity to have outside space with the convenience of leaving chairs, tables, barbecue and associated materials together with sea side equipment.
"It was convenient for my children as they grew up, especially when they were teenagers as this gave them freedom in a safe place.
"The beach hut also gave the family all the benefits of social gatherings and just being outside."
And while renting a hut can be pricey - Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) charged £750 last year - Mrs Tolson, 70, says the the pros outweigh the cons.
She said: "I agree that the rental is expensive especially as there is no running water, no electricity, no toilet facilities, plus some people use the beach slip behind the huts as a convenience.
"At about £1,000 per year average - some higher, some lower - it works out at approximately £100 per month - and having used my hut for almost 20 years, I’m very aware that there are limited days/weeks that they can be used.
"The cost of parking for a day in Folkestone has been increased to £20 so it starts to make it a very expensive ‘day out’.
"That said, with situations as we’ve experienced so far this year with the possibility that summer holidays abroad won’t be possible it puts it into perspective as a good option."
Mrs Tolson is however dubious about the introduction of wooden huts in Folkestone, which will be similar to the ones in Tankerton.
Despite everything though Mrs Tolson is hoping to rent again once FHDC's renovation scheme is complete, if the price is right.