Park residents Derek and Anne Robertson have found their perfect destination at the idyllic Otter Valley Park, in Devon. However, the intrepid couple plan on enjoying many more adventures.

Derek and Anne were originally from South Shields, a coastal town at the mouth of the River Tyne. They went to the same school and fell in love at the age of fourteen!

Derek’s family had migrated a few years earlier to Australia when the Australian Government initiated assisted passage in the 1950’s with ten pound tickets. Derek’s father had had enough after two years and they returned to South Shields. Little wonder Anne fell for the blonde, tanned boy with a slight Aussie accent! (Derek claims his legs looked great in shorts too!)

Just seven years later in 1962, Derek and Anne married. It turned out to be quite a celebrity wedding as Anne had decided to hand-knit, using baby wool her own wedding dress, which has been featured in the local newspaper. Intrigued to see the stunning creation, over 200 people waited outside the church to witness it!

That was nearly fifty six years ago and they have certainly packed some experiences in within that time.

Starting out
After leaving school at fifteen, Anne went in to General Nursing. Derek completed an apprenticeship as a ship’s Draughtsman and gained a diploma in Naval Architecture. When the downturn in ship building became evermore evident, Derek looked for an alternative career path and joined the National Coal Board as a draughtsman in the mining field. Travel wasn’t quite so easy in those days and for six years Derek cycled a 22 mile round trip to work daily. They were able to buy their first Victorian terraced home which cost £1300! It still had gas lamps in situ!

Derek was keen to work overseas and spirited Anne happily supported the idea. Derek was offered a post with Anglo American Mining Corporation to work in a copper mine in the town of Chingola, Zambia. It was at the time of conflict in the Congo so they deferred for a year, reapplied and in 1967 they arrived at the mining camps in Zambia.

Some parents may have been concerned with two young sons Desmond (aged three) and Anthony (aged two) but Anne took it all in her stride. In fact during their four years in Zambia, they also had a baby girl called Joanne. Anne readily admits she had a life of riley, with a fabulous detached house and gardens, home help and made many friends and expatriates of similar age.

Got the bug
Derek was later head hunted to work in a copper mine in NW British Columbia, Canada, adjacent to the Alaskan Panhandle. This is where they got their first taste of park home living! Set up in the Coastal Mountains they enjoyed the environment, if somewhat cold! They remember their shock at the degree of snow fall when later they were living in a two storey house lower in the valley and realised that as the snow began to melt it had been concealing fir trees that came up to their first floor level windows. It was that deep!
They made some lifelong friends but workwise was particularly challenging as the Canadian Workers Union were very strike conscious – pretty much on a weekly basis!

Time to move on! Some neighbours had suggested South Africa as a possible next destination so Derek became a Project Planning Engineer in Johannesburg with his old company Anglo American Corp. which was gratifyingly variable as the mines were a mix of coal, copper, gold and diamonds. Sadly no free samples were issued and unsurprisingly security was something else!

The family lived in Johannesburg for eleven years which ensured the children received a stable schooling and university education. Whilst life afforded them well, it was at the time of apartheid regime and being witness to some of it was not pleasant.

Let the nationalities come to you!
Derek and Anne decided to return the UK in 1986 with a view to buying a business. With the South African rand taking a fall against the pound, affordability in some southern counties was not permissible and they eventually purchased a Post Office and convenience store near Stranraer in Scotland. They were positioned remotely on the Southern Upland Way (a popular cross country walk from Port Patrick to Cockburn’s Pass) which lent itself perfectly for them to set up a B&B business too! For the next thirteen years they had the pleasure of meeting wonderful people of all nationalities! It was a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting venture for them.

However with the introduction of large retailers in Stranraer making competition unsustainable, a new Sainsbury’s hit Derek and Anne’s shop badly. Daughter Joanne, continued to run the post office whilst Derek and Ann took on new ventures!

Once an Engineer always an Engineer!
Over the next four and half years saw Derek and Anne move to Bahrain, Mexico and Ghana on different work projects. Mexico was particularly fun due to the friendly spirit of the people but it did require some quick language skills as all the construction plans were written in Spanish!

In all the places they lived and worked overseas Derek and Anne had participated in tennis, golf and travel. It is tribute to their fun, open and amiable approach that they were able to mix in so many different environments and cultures and embrace them as they did.

Unfortunately Ann contracted malaria and dysentery whilst in Ghana which encouraged a move back to the UK. Derek continued to work on engineering projects throughout the UK (sounds a trifle boring in comparison!), they built a lovely bungalow on the outskirts of Annan and lived there for the next fourteen years.

Time to retire?
But where to? The bungalow and gardens were proving too much. Joanne and husband, once son Callum leaves home, are likely to settle in the southern counties of England. Desmond and family live in Somerset and brother Tony is living in Namibia (I wonder where he got that gene from!). Besides the three children, Derek and Anne have five wonderful grandchildren. The answer was to put a pin in a map and Devon was chosen!

Having had the luxury of living in detached properties over the years, Derek and Anne were keen to find similar space and were drawn to park homes for that very reason. When they found Otter Valley Park in Honiton it had the absolute wow factor for them. The thirty plus dwellings were wooden, the park sited in the valley overlooking the black hills; simply stunning views with sensational sunsets.

Their three bedroomed home (they call it the shed!) is adorned by a long decked balcony and the interior was in a spotless condition. If there are any negatives, it’s that the plot is too big!

PHCS – it all makes sense!
Prior to purchase Derek and Anne wisely called Park Home Chassis Services (PHCS) to fully survey under the home. From an engineering perspective Derek was fully aware of the importance of the chassis and supporting structure underneath to the stability and security of their home.

Dave Foale, Director of PHCS, undertook the survey and prepared the detailed written report which identified the need for re-supporting of the home. It enabled Derek and Anne to amicably agree a compromise in price with the seller of the home to accommodate the works required.

Derek and Anne also required PHCS SnuggerFLOOR underfloor insulation to be installed.
“We have nothing but admiration for the PHCS team! They are hardworking, don’t stop and have great ethics. It’s not easy lying on your back all day under a home!”
They were also very pleased with the outcome of SnuggerFLOOR. Derek knew well that cold emanates from the base on which the home is stood and permeates the floorboards.

PHCS SnuggerFLOOR is designed to eliminate all air gaps under the home to prevent cold air coming through the floor. SnuggerFLOOR is the leading, high performing underfloor insulation system to ensure greater warmth, draught free floors and heat retention in the home.

Resting place
It may be a tad hard to believe that Derek and Anne have finally settled but they truly are happily nestled at Otter Valley Park. It is no surprise that they have fitted in to their new community seamlessly! However, that is not to say that they won’t be off to enjoy new adventures along the way.

Derek and Anne are members of Holiday Property Bond so holidays are already mapped out, a cruise through the Balkans to St Petersburg is planned for 2018 and there’s plenty planned with friends and family. Their first Christmas at ‘the Shed’ is being celebrated with Joanne and her husband.

Let the mulled wine flow, Christmas carols sung and the fun begin!

It’s definitely the best and happiest move for Derek and Anne of all!