DETERMINED Brits queued for over 24 hours in the freezing cold and rain to rent their perfect beach huts ahead of the summer.
A group of committed staycationers went to great lengths to secure one of the 12 most sought-after beach huts in Christchurch, Dorset.
The huts on Avon Beach were not available to book until 8 am on Monday, January 3, and when staff arrived at the beach shop on Sunday morning they found several holidaymakers braving the elements.
The queue in Dorset grew through the day, as dozens camped overnight with nearly 50 people waiting as the administration office opened.
The huts, usually 6ft by 4ft, cost £3,570 per year to rent and are often booked up within minutes, while some huts are rented privately for up to £80,000 and come fitted with fridges and gas hobs inside.
This year, there were 40 huts out of 130 available to rent with just 12 available for the full summer holidays or a whole year.
Ken Ryder, 72, and his partner, Jan, 70, were some of the first to arrive at 4 am on Sunday, waiting 28 hours in total to get a hut.
Ken said: "This is the 6th year I've queued to get a beach hut – we've been here for 28 hours.
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"You read books and chat – that's all you can do to pass the time.
"Luckily we're under cover beneath a canopy by the ice cream kiosk – the first dozen or so people get under there but the rest are out in the open.
"My wife came down from 8am until 10 yesterday morning so I could go and get breakfast, then she came back from 12 until 2pm and I stayed overnight.
"The reason we retired here was to be close to the beach and having a hut is just the icing on the cake."
With the reintroduction of Covid restrictions, bookings for staycations and holiday rentals in the UK has soared over Christmas and New Year.
And the prices for beach huts have soared by 40 per cent in some areas, despite most of them having no toilets or running water.
In July one hut in Mudeford near Bournemouth in Dorset went for a whopping £320,000 – nearly £80k more than the average cost of a house in the UK.
Nicola Davies, 38, arrived at 4 am on Monday and is one of the lucky few who got their hands on a hut.
She said: "My grandfather made me promise to get one for the whole family but he passed away in November aged 93 so never got to see it happen.
"He loved to come down and watch his eight great grandchildren play by the sea.
"It's such a beautiful and friendly beach which is so clean and the kids feel safe here. It was well worth the wait."
Beach hut manager Laura Huxtable-White said the huts were incredibly sought after this year, which is why people were so willing to queue for such a long time.
She said: "With the pandemic and staycations, I think people are even more keen to get one this year.
"In lockdown last year the phones were extremely busy and yesterday we had a lot of calls from people checking they have the right date."
Experts said rising UK demand will help plug this gap.
James Starkey, from holidaycottages.co.uk, said: "Demand has been really strong over the past few weeks, with a lot of people looking to get away from it all with family and friends over Christmas.
"We expect this level of demand to continue into 2022 as travel plans may need to be put on hold with the potential of restrictions."
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