Overcoming Adversity

Caroline Foster is one feisty lady who makes an impact wherever she goes…including Dewlands Park in Dorset!

‘No pain, no gain’ – Caroline has experienced a fair share of emotional and physical pain throughout life but has always striven to succeed and continues to be the upbeat and bubbly person she is.

Caroline and her husband, Noel, moved to Dewlands Park in June 2017. Caroline has already made a big impression at the park, whilst establishing many friendships and a settled way of life. It hasn’t always been as stable for Caroline.

Character building

Childhood was a mixed bag of adventure, new experiences but unhappy times too. Caroline’s parents moved to Australia on the £10 tickets available in the 1950s when she was four years old. An array of learning opportunities opened up albeit some quite obscure! She was taught to play cricket, ride on the milkman’s horse and cart delivering jugs of milk and learnt to milk the venom of the highly venomous tiger snake! Caroline and her friends received ‘sweet money’ for bottling venom which was used as antidotes for bites. Sadly a young friend was bitten and lost her life.

It may have been these early years that toughened Caroline to cope with the erratic and often unkind behaviour of her mother and that of her emotionally detached father. The family moved back to the UK when Caroline was eight years old. As the eldest she was often responsible for the welfare of her siblings. Caroline views this chapter of her life as character building. At the age of 16 she left home.

Always a silver lining

Caroline had always dreamt of being an interior designer. Although she was a top achieving student she was obliged to leave school at 16 without taking any exams. Instead, Caroline took a job on a farm and the tiny girl she was, was soon driving tractors, operating combine harvesters, ploughing fields, haymaking and milking cows. It’s no surprise that she collapsed eventually.

Caroline’s next role as a nanny enabled greater independence with a bedroom and sitting room while she looked after a little boy and girl. During this time Caroline was knocked off her pushbike by a drink driver and her right arm was horrendously fractured. Caroline underwent five operations and at one point amputation seemed to be the only solution. Fortunately new pioneering research around bone grafting finally benefited Caroline. The arm isn’t perfect; it’s shorter than the other arm but Caroline adapts well – and most definitely does not let it interfere with her golfing achievements!

It took two marriages before Caroline found her perfect match in Noel! Caroline has four lovely daughters who are now grown up with their own families. Caroline now happily entertains her grandson who lives nearby in Verwood.

Determination prevails

When her girls started school, Caroline’s deep-rooted desire to become an interior designer spurred her to enquire what qualifications were required. She would need four O-levels and an A-level in art. With sheer determination Caroline achieved her ‘human biology’ qualification in just four months and achieved the others just a year later by means of flexi study at home. This required huge self-motivation as study was fitted around the children and weekend employment (packing Ryvita, drilling circuit boards, you name it!). Caroline’s two year A-level course was obtained in one year!

By her early 30’s Caroline finally was able to study interior design at college. It was a hands-on course where she learnt about design and colour theory but also woodworking, bricklaying, rewiring etc. Not only is Caroline spirited but also very practical!

Caroline initially worked with YTS students and was later headhunted by a company which involved her working on design elements for organisations such as the National Trust and Barrett homes.

A dream realised! 

It didn’t take long for Caroline to establish an interior design shop selling a range of products in addition to her design services. She viewed a shop on the Wednesday, bought it on the Friday and 1 ½ months later was open for business!

Caroline wanted to dispel the myth that interior design is posh; rather, it’s about the people and property no matter how small or large the project. Caroline gained work with Nuffield hospitals (the Queen opened the one at Windsor), she designed a Sun Seeker yacht interior and a float for Lord Mayors show. Caroline had articles written in World of Interiors magazine and was awarded Interior Designer of the Year. All this was achieved in a 10 year period.

In her mid 40s, Caroline was forced to depart from the business due to several illnesses and change in personal circumstances. Caroline rented a flat, enrolled at a nearby golf course and met Noel! They met on 12 July 1996 and married on 21 December 1996! It’s been a very happy 22 years of marriage, and continues to be so!

Sun, sea, sangria and golf!

Noel retired at 50 and it was a dream to live part year in Spain (UK winter time!) and part year in the UK. They bought an apartment near Torrevieja on the Costa Blanca and when they moved to Spain full time they moved further down the coast to San Javier on the Costa Calida. During the 15 years they resided in Spain they were able to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle and play golf regularly. As expected from an interior designer, the house was beautifully designed and tastefully furnished.

However, Caroline admits that she sometimes felt lonely for female company and realisation set in when both Caroline and Noel were hospitalised at different times and a support network was sorely missing.

A concern for Caroline and Noel was that house prices in the UK had outstripped them as they had been outside of the country for so many years. They put the Spanish property on the market and it was Noel who suggested the prospect of a park home. Caroline’s daughter, Melanie, lived in Verwood and visited Dewlands Park on their behalf. Melanie took a video of the site and also of the park home for sale and within minutes Caroline and Noel had a remote viewing! Whilst the decor wasn’t as desired, both the home and park ‘felt right’. As Caroline says, the home is what you make it, and as long as I’m with Noel, that’s what matters’

Making a difference

Dewlands Park is the perfect match for Caroline who is a people person and talks to everyone, and for Noel who is of a quieter disposition and appreciates the calm and tranquillity of the park. Plus it has the advantage of being near a golf course! The small Verwood town provides a sense of a village atmosphere.

Early on Caroline was motivated to find ways of bringing residents closer together, provide a greater feed of information and sharing of ideas; generally a more integrated community on Dewlands Park. Caroline raised the idea of a Residents Association in January 2018, the inaugural meeting was held in March and the Association was formed! In less than a year there is already a staggering 72% membership uptake.

Caroline and the committee members have energetically worked to create a close and caring community on the park. Residents are meeting other residents they would not have previously known. In addition to the committee, there are many members who are happily getting involved in the many events and projects.

Already there are many social events including barbecues, skittle evenings, theatre trips, monthly teas and knit and natter afternoons where items are made for charities. There is greater awareness of people on the park who maybe ill or need some extra support, so that a caring support network is on hand. A defibrillator has been installed on the park and funds raised to cover the next six years. They are currently waiting on delivery of a marquee as a pop up community centre.

Home is where the heart is

Amongst all this activity, Caroline and Noel have spent time decorating their park home to their personal taste. Caroline has introduced a wash of bold and blended colour schemes. A stunning new kitchen of blue teal cupboards has been fitted. The home is comfortable, cosy, warm and inviting.

Caroline and Noel were keen to ensure the underside of the home was in satisfactory condition as this is essential to the stability and safety of the home over the long term. Caroline employed the services of Park Home Chassis Services (PHCS) to carry out a survey under the home, which was then followed up with a detailed written report. Fortunately everything is in good order and PHCS were able to report a clean bill of health which was a welcome relief.

“I was so impressed by the professional service of PHCS that we decided to extend their discounted group survey offering to all our residents on the park”. The uptake of residents who had an underfloor survey carried out by PHCS was very impressive, with highly positive feedback from the residents. In some cases, some park homes did require some remedial work by PHCS involving re-supporting and chassis refurbishments. “It’s encouraging and provides peace of mind when one can be confident in the competence and trustworthiness of a company, and know that the work has been done properly. PHCS ticks those boxes”

Happy and purposeful

The move to Dewlands Park has brought Caroline friendship, happiness and a sense of purpose. There is no end to her energy and her enthusiasm, and along with the team will continue to build on what the Residents Association have already started. Caroline feels happy, the atmosphere on the park is different, it’s a cheery place, everyone is talking and it feels like the best home you could want!

In a Nutshell

  • Caroline and Noel moved back from Spain as they missed a close and caring network – they’ve regained that community spirit at Dewlands Park
  • Caroline and Noel bought a park home that they have personalised to their taste and decor
  • PHCS surveyed the underside of Caroline and Noel’s park home as they wanted peace of mind that the chassis and supports were in good condition for the foreseeable future
  • Caroline was pleased to co-ordinate a discounted group survey with PHCS so all residents could benefit from the service offering.