Kent Leisure Parks was born out of the amalgamation of two leading holiday parks in the Kent region – Preston Park and Dog & Duck Leisure Park.
Now under one umbrella, these two popular parks both still retain their original identities and charm.
Here we take a look back at their history, from humble beginnings.
The original ferry cottage was built in 1530 and was a timber framed farmhouse and ferry built on the River Stour. The ferry cottage was first recorded as an ale house in 1622, during the reign of King James I. The ferry cottage was principally a farm dwelling, a ferry and an ale house. The ferryman held a lease of ferry charges over the Stour before the bridge was erected.
In 1634 the ferryman at the time added ale-house keeper to his list of occupations and the ferry house became known as the ‘Dogg and Ducke ayle House’, which was a common ale house name, originating from when dogs were used to flush out ducks when hunting and retrieving.
The ferry cottage remained as an ale house and ferry until 1903 where it was demolished and a new road bridge was built. A new cottage was built in its place, where it still stands today.
The Dog and Duck Inn was built in 1904, during the reign of Edward VII and remains a public house to this day.
The leisure park started as a small family run holiday park in the 1960’s where a few static caravans were sited. The Park has now grown to over 70 acres, split into 4 different areas, on both sides of the road.
The area The Dog and Duck is situated is called Plucks Gutter after Mr Pleog (Pluck). According to local folklore, Mr Ploeg, a Dutch drainage engineer was given land in lieu of pay for draining the marsh land at Plucks Gutter, by creating a ploughed ditch.
A mile upstream from the Dog and Duck is known as ‘Bloody Point’ where King Alfred the Great defeated the Vikings, often referred to as the first Naval battle won.
In the 1800’s Plucks Gutter was frequented by the North Kent Gang of smugglers who crossed the River Stour at The Dog and Duck, escaping the Revenue Officer at the time.
The Dog and Duck is steeped in fascinating history!
Surrounding Ferndale Lodge were two meadows, an orchard and fields where horses, calves, chickens and pigs freely roamed. The orchard, now known as Orchard Park, was originally established as an experimental orchard in 1880. To this day, cherry, plum, apple, damson and yellow gage plum trees can be found in the grounds.
Opposite Ferndale House was a chalk pit and bank covered with blackberries. A war trench and tunnel could also be found, creating an idyllic children’s play area. There were no roads, only agricultural fields, beautiful meadows, bountiful orchards and grazing livestock.
The beginning of Preston Parks came about one day in 1950 when campers first started arriving.
Visitors were free to approach Ferndale House and request cold water from the stable block. As time passed, through word of mouth more and more campers arrived on the land.
As the numbers grew the overspill of campers, mainly tents and touring campers, set up camp on land opposite Ferndale House which is now known as Maytree Park. The chalk pit, trenches and tunnel were securely filled and covered. The atmosphere was charged with an exhilarating community spirit, visitors happily doing all that campers love to do, whether they were collecting water or generally enjoying the pleasures of camping. Queues of tents and tourists could be seen buzzing in harmony with the beauty of the meadows.
Static caravans started to arrive in the Park in the early 60’s. Unlike today’s caravans, fully equipped with home-from-home comfort, there was no electricity, water or bathroom. However, toilet blocks were later built to accommodate visitors’ basic needs and hot water jugs could be bought from Ferndale House.
In March 1970 the land was named Preston Parks, where a few static caravans were located. Access to the Park was improved with the addition of roads. In 1971, planning permission was granted for Orchard Park requesting larger more exclusive caravans to occupy allocated space. Later that year water and drainage connections were built, providing more water points and in 1975, Maytree and Jameson Park received their mains drainage system.
In 1980, the neighbouring cornfield received planning permission for a play area to be developed. The woodlands you can see today are a credit to the owners’ careful and strategic planting of numerous, beautiful trees. The area was then named Ashton Park.
In 1990 a new reception and administration office was built and which stands today. A launderette is available inside for holiday makers to use any time.
In 2005 the park was extended further with a new development know as Woodlands. It was similarly landscaped with up-to-date modern conveniences and the benefit of piped gas for single and double luxury units.
The peace and harmony of the countryside remains at the heart of Preston Parks.