Los Gallardos Leisure is the hugely successful campsite and mobile home park located in Almeria, southern Spain.
Founded in 1991 by Anthony & Shirley Jackson, Camping Los Gallardos has developed from a small campsite into a large, self contained leisure park with many full time residents in their luxurious mobile homes.In 1988 Anthony & Shirley Jackson sold their businesses in England and, with their two young sons, David & Benjamin,Â flew to America for five months. They bought an American motorhome – a 32 foot Fleetwood Bounder and during their stay there covered some 12,000 miles visiting 24 states.
At the end of their stay they shipped the ‘Bounder’ back to England and set off to France with the intention of touring around Europe for another year or so. However they only made it as far as Mojacar where they fell in love with a part of Spain which represented all they had imagined Spain and the Spanish would be like and which visitors to the Costa del Sol or Benidorm totally miss.
Â On the way down through Spain they had noticed that there were a large number of northern europeans -mostly English, German and Dutch- who had retired and were spending part of the winter in the spanish sunshine in their campers or caravans. They also noticed that there were few campsites open in the winter and those that were were set up for summer campers with pitches of small size designed for tents and with their facilities only partly functioning.
Anthony & Shirley realised that the number of retired campers would increase over the next few years and felt that there would be a great demand for a winter campsite with full facilities. accordingly after finding the Mojacar area so much to their liking they decided to look for some land to buy. They didn’t want to be on the coast nor too near to Mojacar itself and after some searching came across some suitable land near to the small village of Los Gallardos with excellent access to the main road.Â Approximately 10 kilometres by road from the sea the climate is ideal. The site receives fresh cooling sea breezes in summer and inÂ winter is protected to the north and east by mountains.
Finding and buying the land however was the easy bit and only the first step on a long, hard road. The next step was to find and architect (easy) and getting plans drawn up and presented to the various governing bodies. This process was slow, frustrating and extremely expensive. In all it took two years from buying the land to the first brick being delivered for work to start. Whilst the local town hall and mayor were helpful and in favour of the project, the tourist authority was extremely slow and gave no real support. In fact they took six months to approve the initial plan. They were also sceptical that a campsite not on the beach could ever succeed. How times have changed -they now positively encourage rural camping and small hostels in the mountains and have realised that the beach oriented tourism of old has its limitations and a short season.
In July 1991 the building work was finished and final permission to open was sought from Tourism. No telephone was on site so no licence! Telefonica said there was no chance of a line but eventually agreed to produce a letter outlining a quotation for installing a phone (5000pounds) and on this basis Tourism granted permission to open.
In 2002 we have finally had the telephone lines installed and approximately 70 mobile home owners have their own line. We have had to make do with radio phones and mobiles but these did not become available until about four years after the opening.
Anthony & Shirley planted over a thousand trees and hedges but when the site opened these were young and provided little shade. However they quickly grew and now the site appears as a green oasis in the surrounding countryside. The first winter saw a maximum of 13 campers but the restaurant quickly gained an excellent reputation amongst the residents who live in the area. Shirley cooked, Anthony did the bar and their son, David, helped man the reception even though he was only 11. He also waited on tables and at the restaurant’s first Christmas lunch he looked extremely smart in a bow tie!
During the first winter the campsite was open work started on the new autovia which passed by the site. the disruption caused by this was prolonged and caused a lot of problems. The access road changed almost daily and even regular customers struggled to find the way in. The road authority was most unhelpful and removed any signs put up to direct people to the entrance. Even to this day they will not permit a sign from the motorway.
For the first two years the family survived virtually off the bar and restaurant but gradually the camping site built up. The second winter saw 40 caravans and the third a maximum of 60. as the numbers grew so Anthony & Shirley were able to improve and finish the site. Each winter they opened up a further terrace of pitches and put electric to each pitch.
The planned swimming pool had had to be shelved initially due to lack of funds as had the house so the family was living in two old caravans -one of which had been donated by some restaurant customers. However Anthony & Shirley were determined to build a pool for the second summer. A young couple, Dave and Claire, had arrived in their large motorhome one day on their trip south and had pulled into the site for an overnight stop. Anthony directed them onto what he thought was a firm pitch (there had recently been a lot of rain) only for their motorhome to sink up to it’s axles! An overnight stop turned into 8 months and Anthony & Dave built the swimming pool, finally opening it in time for the summer season. This proved extremely popular with the locals as well as the campers.
Another camper who called in and stayed was Les Senior. He was a stalwart for ten years and even has his portrait hanging in the bar. His work can be seen all over the site and he made a great contribution to its success. Sadly, Les passed away shortly after retiring, and there is a memorial seat in his name in front of the Bar.
The first mobile homes were placed onsite in ’97, and a few regular campers were the first to buy, in â€œLas Acaciasâ€�. These were the first mobile homes available in Almeria, and one of the first in Andalucia.
As the site slowly grew, it was suggested that the land next to the Bar could be used for bowling greens. At the time there was a small community of bowlers in the area, and they pitched in with advice and suggestions. Hence the Almeria Lawn Bowling Centre was born!
By the year 2000, the original campsite was full. The decision was taken to adquire the land next to the campsite and dedicate it to just mobile homes. This was an enormous project, and one that required dedication, hard work, and skill. However, once it had started the whole concept quickly took off and was soon very popular â€“ Shirley once sold three new mobiles in a day!
Today, the Los Gallardos Leisure Group has over 250 mobile homes sited, plus a further 125 caravans in the winter. We have built one of Andalucias largest and most luxourious mobile home parks, and this is reflected in the value that these mobile homes retain. We have built a thriving community, where people come back year after year, and we are very proud of what we have accomplished so far. We actively support the local community, and feel that we are a cornerstone here in Los Gallardos. And as for the future? Well, we have several exciting projects in the pipeline and we look forwards to telling you all about them as they progress!