We’re finally settled!

After a lifetime of not wishing to be at home, Karen Wardrope and husband Dai, moved to Hillside Park in Baldock, Hertfordshire…and now they can’t think of anywhere they’d rather be!

If ever ‘live wire’ was to describe someone, it’s most definitely Karen Wadrope! Friendly, outgoing and spirited certainly sums her up!

But Karen has come from a dark childhood that many of us couldn’t imagine. Faced with fear, rejection, poverty and instability, she lived in more than eleven homes throughout her childhood, split between parents and a succession of step parents and partners. Karen was the eldest of her siblings and was confronted with huge responsibility at a very early age, often fending for them alone at seven years with the youngest still in a cot.

There were periods when one stepfather would burgle the gas meter leaving them penniless and without food. Neighbours would kindly deposit bags of food or clothes on the door step in recognition of their need. Little wonder that Karen grew up finding it difficult to settle and find contentment easily.

Real Affection

Throughout her teens Karen lived in Baldock, a place she has real affection for now. School was not a happy place for her as she favoured more practical subjects to academia. However she was put in the second from top class and laughs that she managed to stay there throughout. That may have something to do with threatening a girl called Angela to donate her homework! Surprisingly they became friends, and have remained best friends to this day!

It is very evident that Karen is a social person and forges deep friendships, many lasting decades. When Karen left school at fifteen, she and friend Maureen gained employment at the same places. Listening to Karen’s recollections of their antics can only make you giggle.

Their first job was in a small factory which manufactured electric fires. Remember the old fashioned ones with the U back and bars at the front? Karen was responsible for the U back bit! This was Karen’s first experience of a warm and caring environment which was very valuable to her.

Their next job was in a custard factory where she was responsible for the part where the powder was released at ceiling height to drop in to a bag below. This resulted in a daily coating of powder and any dampness made her hair go ‘custardy’! Karen felt quite good about this job as it was deemed as one of the better ones in the factory!

Kaysar and Bandor, a hosiery company, is where Karen and Maureen next worked. Based in the packing department they were charged with stretching the tights over a large machine to smooth out wrinkles, prior to being placed in boxes. It came to an abrupt end when Karen had been dared to wear a pair of tights on her head, leg extensions signifying pig tails and was caught by the supervisor… they thought they’d pre-empt being fired by offering their resignation first off!

That’s when they got serious and worked for SERL (Service Electronics Research Laboratory), a government body involved in satellite information. Karen signed the official secrets act (sadly no gossip forthcoming therefore!) and worked as a laboratory assistant for the next seven years.

By her own admission, Karen had always harboured a longing to ‘belong’, to feel settled and secure in a home and relationship. Despite this she struggled to ‘settle’.

Saturday nights were Mecca dancing nights in Baldock (now a bingo hall). Karen had several close relationships – even engagements – but it wasn’t until Dai Wardrope came on the scene that life really turned for the positive.

Karen had been working in a clothes shop pared with a video shop next door. Dai was a video enthusiast and whilst Karen knew nothing about videos, she was intrigued by the quiet, laid back and empathetic man. She offered him a coffee if he got the chocolate biscuits and that was the start of a very happy thirty four year marriage, still going strong!

He’s my rock

Karen enthuses about Dai; he has been a constant kind and caring support to her. Dai was head chef at the George and Dragon when they met and he has remained there ever since. Dai doesn’t chef full time now but still keeps his hand in.

When asked who does the cooking at home, Karen chips in that she does as Dai is too messy! (That is his only downfall however!)

It’s strange how things can turn full circle. When Karen and Dai looked for their first home together they had thought about a park home which was met with some disdain from the estate agent partly as Dai is 6ft 6” tall and wouldn’t fit in one! Knowing what they know now however, they wished they had pursued that path.

Karen and Dai married on 1 June 1984 and moved in to their one bedroomed ‘rabbit hutch’ the very next day. So small was it that people would ask where the living room was and Karen’s reply was that they were standing in it! However Karen was able to absorb herself in her love of cooking and baking in her little kitchen. Still a passion of hers.

Karen and Dai have always placed great emphasis on making their homes pristine and as homely as possible. They didn’t have children but have never looked back, content to be together. They have two fabulous nephews, Jason and Curtis, with whom they share a valued and mutual adoration.

Magic move

Karen and Dai moved house seven times before a chance call from a family friend asked if they may still be considering a park home. They had been looking at some park sites and were set on Hillside Park particularly as they were comfortable in Baldock. The park home in question was a 1975 Bluebird but although fairly aged (forty years!) it had been maintained and updated in a sympathetic way.

Initially Karen was put off the idea of ground rent (and the possibility of mice living in the vicinity) but once she had done her calculations (and was assured of no mice!) both obstacles were overcome. On the day of viewing both instantly fell in love with the home and proceeded to buy it in September 2016.

What is heart-warming is that Karen says that now when she is away from their park home, she craves to be back in it! She has really found true settlement and couldn’t be happier at Hillside Park. She has no intention of moving anywhere else!

Hillside Park rises uphill from where you can see for miles across the Hertfordshire countryside on a sunny day. Karen and Dai’s home is sited at the bottom of the park but if given a choice again, they’d still opt for the same home! Lucky, that!

Karen considers themselves fortuitous to have such wonderful neighbours that have become great friends such as Michelle next door, Carol opposite and others. In the past Karen has struggled to feel ‘safe’ but in this environment she feels confident, with everyone looking out for each other, no matter what. As a natural chatterbox, Karen is getting to know more and more people on site!

101% superior

It was when she was chatting to resident Peter Hawkins, a previous customer of Park Home Chassis Services (PHCS), that he highly recommended their services and professionalism to Karen. Karen and Dai were aware that their home was resting on wooden blocks as opposed to appropriate support stands. Karen also spoke with Gary Dawson, site manager, who advised to contact recognised experts only, plus she called another supplier in the industry who told her to approach PHCS as they are ‘superior’. Karen made the call!

Impressed by the informative and knowledgeable PHCS surveyor, Michael, Karen and Dai commissioned PHCS to carry out a full chassis refurbishment, including re-supporting the home with PHCS HD supports – best quality hot dip galvanised, approved and verified by NCC. “101% superior! The home is much more solid and stable. The dip in the lounge has been addressed, and even in the highest winds we’ve got no movement whatsoever!”

PHCS also installed their PHCS SnuggerFLOOR under floor insulation system. “PHCS SnuggerFLOOR has made a vast difference to the increased warmth in the home. In fact we had a new radiator fitted in the back bedroom due to it being cold, now its redundant and never turned on!”

“The work underneath the home is perfection. The installation lads are top class – I’d give them more than five stars! We are so pleased, well worth doing and PHCS provide real value for money”.

The outlook is sunny

As ‘homemakers’ it goes without saying that Karen and Dai have made some pleasing enhancements to the home. Not keen gardeners, they have changed much of the outside to block paving decorated with flowering tubs. The home has also been clad which has transformed its appearance.

Now that all work on the home has been finished, Karen and Dai are eager to sit back and rejoice in their much-loved abode. Now Dai has more free time available they can enjoy more time together, doing exactly as they please. Definitely on the agenda will be many more of their social gatherings, and Karen’s infamous buffet parties (all cooking from scratch). No wonder all invites are readily accepted!

This has been a journey of strength of character and resilience rewarded with a fabulous home, neighbourhood and a very happy future to look forward to.