First Season Done!!

The end of our season is here at last! Our first season as Holiday Site Assistants for the Camping & Caravanning Club(C&CC) at Canterbury Club Site is over. And what a season it’s been!!

Canterbury Club Site is a very busy campsite as it’s in a popular location near the city centre as well as being close to the Ferry Port and the Tunnel. It has all the normal campsite facilities such as various pitch types, shower/toilet facilities, a little play park and a dog walk, but it also has some extras like a caravan storage facility and Ready Camp tents, which are glamping units for people to hire. With all these extras it’s a great site for our first season, as it provides lots of opportunity to learn the job.

Most of the season, we worked in a pattern of 3 or 4 different shifts, ranging from early starts to include the ‘unlock’ of the gates at 7am in the morning, to day shifts and two different types of late shifts including the ‘lock up’ of the gates at 11 o’clock at night. At peak season, we had a team of 11 staff, with 9 staff on duty on most days and all 11 on a Friday. In the low season, the team goes down to only 4 staff and in the middle bits we had 6, 7 or 9 staff, with the shifts changing accordingly.

An average day across all shifts would look a bit like this, so you’d do the parts that fall within your shift unless it’s the low season and you’re working a 7am to 11pm shift(!), then you do almost all of it:

Unlock the gates at 7 am. There is no car movements overnight from 11 to 7 and the gates are locked for security. Quite often, between 6 and 7 am we would have to deal with customers who somehow managed to miss this bit of information at check in, and would try to get out to catch an early ferry or something. The electric barriers are automated however, so these don’t open until the clock strikes 7… Once the manual barrier is unlocked, it’s time to check the facilities. We make sure they’re presentable and tidy for the morning rush. We walk around the site to check everything is looking OK, and we can’t see anything that’s not quite right and general safety and security checks.

Following these early morning checks, it’s time for a breakfast break until 9am which we have in our own unit. At 9am, the day starts properly with the Reception office open for customers. In peak season, we do fresh bread orders for customers, plus often people ¬†come in wanting to extend their stay or to ask for information or advice about the day trips they have planned. We also start ground works at this time, such as mowing the grass, cutting hedges, changing bins around. Most importantly, in the morning we would start towing caravans from storage onto pitch for customers who keep their units in storage and have booked to arrive that day. Most days, there are a few units to tow either into storage or onto pitch.

At 11am, the first facility block gets closed and cleaned. The reception gets closed during this time and more groundwork and towing gets done, as well the cleaning. This is also when the departures of the day get checked, to make sure the pitches we expect to be free for new arrivals are properly free. This is also a good opportunity to meet customers and have a chat with them. From 12-1 is the lunch break for the early shift. These times are pretty important as you have to be ready to start checking in the new arrivals at 1pm.

The new arrivals can check in from 1pm, but they often arrive as early at 9am… This can be a bit of a problem as the pitches aren’t free yet, so these customers have to wait in the carpark until 1pm. From 12 noon there is usually a steady stream of early arrivals every day, but often there’s no staff available to check in, and the pitches not quite ready so often there’s a bit of a wait. If we can start check in early, we do, but with the tight morning schedule, it can be a bit tricky.

As such, 1pm is campsite rush hour. Often, some people are still leaving and especially during high season, there’s a big queue to get in. It’s all hands on deck to get customers onto their pitch. Most of the afternoon, the whole team is on duty to help with the check ins and helping the customers to their pitch. From 2:30pm, the second facility clean of the day starts as well, and there are more staff lunches throughout the afternoon for the various shifts.

During the quiet times in the afternoon, more groundwork gets done. There is always grass and hedges to be cut, a fence that needs painting or mending or some other chore to maintain the site and keep it looking nice. Normally, around dinner time, there is another busy time of arrivals: the people coming after they finish work, and tourists who have been out all day and now come in looking for a place to stay.

We work and pitch customers till 9pm, and sometimes even as late as 11pm! Although generally, if customers arrive after 9pm (without a booking), they have to spend the night in the carpark.

Certainly early on in the season we were pretty shocked at how tired we were doing this job. We probably underestimated it a little bit. We also found we had less free time than we expected, especially as even when you ‘finish’ for the day, you never really seem to finish. Your shift might be done, but if customers are arriving, they still need to be pitched and there’s often tasks to be done outside your normal shift such as locking some of the services for the night and getting work laundry done. So as much as I may have looked for some exercise classes to join at the start of the season, I wouldn’t have been able to go to them much more than one week out of 4 due to the work schedules.

Having said all that, we do enjoy the work. As the season progressed we became more accustomed to the work, started feeling a bit less tired and certainly got quite a bit fitter. We enjoyed learning new skills; using machinery we’ve never used before, driving the tractor, learning some gardening. It was lovely to work outside so much, especially as the weather was so amazing! Every day we’d see wildlife like rabbits (LOTS of rabbits), squirrels, various birds, foxes and the odd hedgehog.

The final verdict? We love the job! It’s been a good season with a great team. We feel like we’ve made some great friends, we’ve had lots of laughs and we’ve certainly shared a lot! We’re happy to have finished for the season, but we’re also already excited for, and looking forward to next season at Devizes!

Disclaimer: these views are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of the Camping & Caravanning Club.

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