Caravan holidays - they've come a long way
PUBLISHED: 00:00 27 May 2016
Janette Sykes takes a tongue-in-cheek look at how caravan holidays have changed since her childhood
Camping and caravanning, it has to be said, never made the top ten of my bucket list as a child or young adult. Owning a horse and riding in the Grand National like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet – yes; crouching under canvas or confined in a caravan – a most definite no.
It didn’t help that my first experience of caravanning was at the tender age of eight, with the rest of the family in my aunty’s tiny two-berth at Mablethorpe in the mid-1960s. Not only did we have no proper heating or lighting – just the benefit of our own body warmth and flickering gas lamps – there was no running water and it rained solidly for two whole weeks.
You won’t be surprised to learn that 15 years later, when my then fiancé suggested taking a two-man tent up to Scotland as a cheap holiday so we could save up to celebrate our big day, my response was less than lukewarm. Against my better judgement, I agreed – only to discover I couldn’t stand up to get dressed, I was under strict instructions not to touch the canvas when inside, we had to cook on a primus stove – and yes, you guessed – it rained relentlessly for a fortnight.
Miraculously, we remained on speaking terms, went ahead with the wedding, and are still married more than 35 years later. But I must admit it crossed my mind that the divorce court might be beckoning when, in our early 50s, my husband broached the subject of buying a touring caravan. (By then he had sensibly conceded that he was never again going to get me in a two-man tent as long as I have breath in my body.)
‘Things have changed,’ he assured me. ‘They’re like a home from home that you can take anywhere. They’re really well equipped – they have running water, electricity, heating, kitchens and bathrooms. You could have a shower every day,’ he added helpfully, though I didn’t quite know how to take that at the time. ‘And we could buy an awning to double our living space when we’re on holiday. Let’s just go and have a look.’
I’m delighted to report that he was right, and since we bought our own (second-hand, but beautifully-maintained) two-berth Sterling Europa 460 and awning from Glossop Caravans five years ago, we haven’t looked back. I was an instant convert when I discovered that it offered an affordable, flexible, relaxing – and above all fun – passport to enjoyable weekends and holidays away for most of the year.
Since 2011, we’ve taken it on our travels to discover areas of England that we’d never been to before – Norfolk, Suffolk, Shropshire, Herefordshire and Rutland to name a few – and have also toured abroad in France and northern Spain. We’ve stayed cosy and warm whatever the weather, taken the dog with us to share our adventures and I have indeed been able to have a shower on board every day. Best of all, my husband has become addicted to barbecuing, so does most of the cooking, and I can concentrate on tossing together a light salad, then putting my feet up to enjoy a glass of wine and a good book. What’s not to like?
Other bonuses for me have been small things I didn’t expect – like the way you relax as soon as you step into your caravan, whatever your everyday stresses and strains; the carefree sense of ‘playing house’; the patter of rain on the roof as you chill out inside, toasty and warm; the genuine friendliness of fellow campers and caravanners and the beautiful, soothing sound of bird song when you wake up. Simple pleasures that spell pure happiness in an often frenetic, technology-obsessed world.
Another advantage is that you don’t have to venture too far to have an adventure. When we first bought our caravan, we stayed local and towed it for test weekends at The Caravan Club’s conveniently-located Buxton site and The Camping and Caravanning Club’s equally accessible Leek site. We were only a few miles from home, but could have been on the other side of the world because it felt like a million miles away from our normal daily routine. While both clubs have approved and accredited sites across the UK and overseas, they also have a comprehensive network of places to stay right on our doorstep in the Peak District and Derbyshire – including well-loved locations such as Ashbourne, Bakewell, Crowden, Hayfield and The National Forest.
And you never know, we might even be tempted to head east and lay a few childhood holiday ghosts to rest. Look out, Mablethorpe – you’re on our list!
What the experts say
Julia Bradbury, television presenter, whose series Best Walks with a View was recently screened on ITV1: ‘I’ve got my dad Michael to thank for my love of the Peak District. He introduced me to walking when I was just six or seven. In our spare time we’d stride out across the hills there. He made up stories as we went, to make each walk a real adventure, and today I’m lucky enough to make walking my work.
‘I’m proud to be President of The Camping and Caravanning Club, which operates five fantastic Club Sites in the Peak District, in areas including Ashbourne, Bakewell and Hayfield. It’s a truly wonderful place to enjoy the great outdoors.’ (Julia’s favourite outdoor adventures can be found at www.theoutdoorguide.co.uk.)
Andrew Jenkinson, caravan historian and expert: ‘From gas lamps and two-ring gas cookers, the caravan holiday has evolved since 1918/19 to become a sophisticated way of travel. With different designs, layouts and specifications, the modern touring caravan is one of the best ways to discover the freedom of holidays without restraints. The future will see further developments in construction and equipment, making caravanning more comfortable than ever. But what remains the same is that it is all about reaching out to a wider spectrum and meeting like-minded people, forging friendships that can remain for a lifetime.’
Robert Louden MBE, Director General of The Camping and Caravanning Club, said: ‘Throughout its history, the Club has been proud to help people enjoy the outdoors and feel the same enthusiasm we feel for it. Sharing the adventure is hugely important to us. By the passion, knowledge and expertise we can impart, The Camping and Caravanning Club continues to play a major role in making camping an adventure, whether it’s a staycation at the British seaside, or a motorhome holiday in New Zealand.’
join the club
Many caravanners and campers are members of The Camping and Caravanning Club, The Caravan Club, or both. The Camping and Caravanning Club is the world’s oldest and largest Club for all forms of camping, including tents, caravans, motorhomes and glamping.
With more than 500,000 members, its facilities and services are developed by people who share a love of camping and caravanning.
It was founded in August 1901, originally as the Association of Cycle Campers, by Thomas Hiram Holding. www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
The Caravan Club was founded in 1907 ‘to bring together those interested in van life as a pastime... to improve and supply suitable vans and other appliances...to develop the pastime by collecting, publishing and supplying to members, books and periodicals and lists of camp sites etc... to arrange camping grounds.’ More than 100 years later, The Caravan Club provides just over 375,000 member households with access to nearly 3,000 locations, as well as access to its vast storehouse of knowledge and expertise in how to make the most of caravanning as a leisure pastime. www.caravanclub.co.uk
Glossop Caravans celebrates 40 fabulous years
Celebrations are in full swing at Glossop Caravans, where the company, its partners, industry colleagues and customers are looking forward to a nine-day spring festival to mark 40 successful years in business.
Customers old and new, manufacturers, suppliers and key caravanning organisations will be heading for the company’s headquarters to party in style during National Camping and Caravanning Week, The Camping and Caravanning Club’s annual celebration of camping, caravanning and the great outdoors, from 28th May to 5th June.
‘It’s our way of saying a big thank you to all the people who have supported us in building and developing our business over the past four decades,’ said Joint Managing Directors Stan and Brian Laing.
‘We’re hoping as many people as possible will come along to enjoy the entertainment, enter our competitions, check out the range of special deals that will be available and join our special birthday celebrations as we look forward to an equally successful future.’
To mark the occasion, here are ten key facts and figures about the family-run company:
• Brothers Stan and Brian Laing founded Glossop Caravans Ltd on a small plot of land at Glossop, Derbyshire in 1976.
• The Joint Managing Directors have since expanded the company on the same site, now spanning seven acres, at the gateway to one of England’s top tourist destinations – the Peak District and Derbyshire.
• Their landscaped and customer-friendly showroom now boasts an extensive selection of around 600 new and used caravans.
• Each year, Glossop Caravans works in partnership with leading caravan manufacturers Coachman, Elddis and Swift to produce a Special Edition range offering a host of unique features and exceptional value for money. This year’s models scored a near clean sweep in three categories of The Caravan Club’s prestigious Caravan Design Awards.
• The company is proud to have been selected as a member of The Camping and Caravanning Club’s recently launched Preferred Dealer network, which recognises dealers with a proven record of high standards and quality customer service.
• Glossop Caravans are main agents for Autocruise, Bessacarr, Escape and Swift Motorhomes as well as Autoquest, Accordo and Encore by Elddis.
• The Glossop showroom includes Glossop Awnings, with more than 50 full and porch options on display, plus quality floor coverings and specialist furniture. There’s also a well-stocked accessories shop selling more than 3,000 lines – everything from home ware to barbecues and caravan covers.
• Aftercare is second to none at the nearby Glossop Caravans Service Centre, where fully trained and experienced professionals use state-of-the-art equipment and the finest products to keep caravans in first-class condition.
• Glossop Caravans has an extensive, nationwide network of approved service centres, so that wherever customers live, they can count on the very highest standards of workmanship.
• As well as supplying customers across the UK, the company exports around the world, to such diverse destinations as Australia, Abu Dhabi, China, Kuwait, India, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and South Korea.