How to rent out some of Norfolk's most stylish beach huts
- Credit: Katherine Ashdown Photography
Jodie Granger-Brown founded The Happy Huts, hiring out beach huts at Wells to holidaymakers as the country came out of the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020.
The company is named after the original Happy Hut, which belonged to her grandad, Thomas, who bought it in 2007 and she has fond memories of spending summer days on Wells beach with her family.
The seaside town's parade of traditional colourful huts on stilts is one of Norfolk's most famous, and photographed, views.
And because of their glorious location Wells beach huts are particularly coveted - earlier this year, one came on to the market with an £80,000 price tag.
“Growing up, it was fantastic,” says Jodie. “We’d use the hut to have a base, we’d make pancakes and we’d be down on the beach all day."
After refurbishing The Happy Hut, she started hiring it out in June 2020, as the country came out of the first lockdown.
Shortly after that she took on The Happy Hut’s neighbour, Up&Up, renting it out for its owners.
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The demand was huge and took her quite by surprise.
“As soon as everything relaxed with lockdowns, everyone was looking for things to do outside and the popularity of beach huts just soared,” she says.
“We got fully booked so quickly, I honestly couldn’t believe it.”
In July 2020, Jodie also bought her own beach hut, which she calls The Nauti Hut, and set about refurbishing and putting her own stamp on it.
“I bought it after seeing the huge demand for The Happy Hut and realised it could be an amazing opportunity,” says Jodie.
“It was very tired and a little bit sad, so inside there was absolutely nothing, it was just plain wood, and the outside needed some work done.
“It’s all nautical themed, and I made bench cushions, painted all the walls, made bunting, put up fairy lights, all of those bits of stuff.”
It was a labour of love, but in December 2020 The Nauti Hut was ship-shape and ready to be rented out.
By the start of the 2021 season, things had “snowballed” as Jodie describes it and they had 17 privately-owned Wells beach huts on their books.
Jodie is happy to give beach hut owners advice about how to paint and decorate them.
“I think beach huts have gone from a very traditional sort of shed to quite trendy and very Instagrammable,” she says.
“Something that we really strive with for all of our beach huts is that they’re really unique. We like them to really express the owners [personalities], so the owners can renovate it how they wish and kit it all out and I can guide them.
“With the exterior colours, it’s really lovely that on Wells beach they’re all completely different and people have their favourites.”
Hiring a beach hut is a real back to basics experience - perfect if you’re looking to totally disconnect and switch off from your hectic daily life.
“In terms of facilities there’s no running water or electricity, they are essentially sheds on stilts, but there are water taps on the beach and also there’s the toilet blocks and Wells Beach Café, which are run by Holkham,” says Jodie.
“And then inside the beach huts we provide your chairs, your windbreaks and beach toys inside, all kitted out really beautifully, and we supply mugs and plates and cutlery, acrylic glasses so you can enjoy a glass of wine, we’ve got little stoves so you can make a cup of tea, tables, mallets, everything you need for a beach day.
“I like to say we do all the carrying so you don’t need to - you can rock up just with your picnic and you’re all set for the day.”
Early each morning during the hire season the maintenance team heads down to the beach to give the huts a clean, sweep the steps and ensure that they’re stocked up with teabags and hot chocolate sachets.
Check in is from 9.30am, and there’s no check out time as, Jodie says, sunset is the most magical time of the day on Wells beach.
“I’d hate to deprive anyone of being able to sit and watch it,” she says.
The Happy Huts have proved hugely popular again this summer – the first availability is in early September.
And they’ll be closed over the winter, from November to March, for maintenance.
“The huts aren’t really designed for the elements down there, it’s very harsh in the north winds and the cold and the damp and because they’re all wood they all just expand and you can’t open the doors,” says Jodie.
“In the winter a lot of the beach huts actually get raised. They’re all on different levels, they’ve got a different number of steps to reach them, and the reason that Wells huts are raised off the sand is because the sand levels build up year on year so the steps end up getting buried.
"Through the winter you can pay to get them put on new stilts and a whole new set of steps. They can go from sitting completely on the shore to 12 steps high to protect them from sand build up.
“But I think the biggest thing with the maintenance of these huts is, because they are so exposed, trying to keep on top of rotting wood. A lot of the paint starts peeling, so that’s something you need to prepare for to get them ready for summer.
“Anything inside, such as soft furnishings, all needs to come out really just so it doesn’t get ruined over the winter. And you have to keep an eye on padlocks, because they can get jammed with sand when we get a really harsh wind.
“So it is a big job to keep them in pristine condition, but it’s certainly all worth it from an owner’s perspective when you can keep it looking lovely.”
During the pandemic, many of us rediscovered that you don’t have to travel far to feel like you’re really getting away from it all – especially here in East Anglia, with its miles of glorious coastline.
For some, their priorities for what they are looking for in a holiday have permanently shifted.
With concerns including the increase in the cost of living and the environmental impact of flying, it’s likely that the trend of holidaying at home will continue.
And while you’re generally not guaranteed wall-to-wall summer sunshine here in the UK, with a beach hut you can still make the most of the great outdoors come rain or shine.
“Now it’s about valuing the people that you’re with and getting back to nature, really,” says Jodie.
“The joy of having a beach hut is obviously the British weather can be so unpredictable, but if you’ve got somewhere where you can shelter and put your bits and bobs so that they don’t get wet if you experience a rain shower. It does make such a difference.”
Jodie says it’s heartening that in recent years people seem to have rediscovered their love of beach huts.
“Over the last two years as we’ve come out of Covid I really do think there’s been such a spike in people’s enthusiasm for beach huts again. Certainly, this year they’re all getting worked on and all getting painted and a lot of them now are getting rented out.
“It’s given a lot of these older huts a little bit of a new life and the opportunity to be loved by so many families.”
To find out more about hiring a beach hut at Wells, visit thehappyhuts.co.uk