“I DON’T understand caravanning. I don’t understand people who can only have a relaxed vacation if they’re accompanied at all times by their own washing-up brush.”
So said the late, great Victoria Wood, and as I arrived at an east coast caravan site in torrential rain on Friday afternoon, I did wonder what exactly it is about these rather soulless aluminium-clad units that we Brits find so irresistible.
Parking up on a patch of sodden grass, we carried bags in the lashing rain from car to caravan. Having done the Big Shop that is obligatory before a caravan break, the car was packed full. My feet had been wedged under a cool box for two hours. Apart from eggs, which we realised somewhere near Driffield that we’d left in the fridge, we were loaded up with all the essentials for 48 hours in a caravan: dishcloth, washing-up liquid, tea-towels, kitchen roll, bin-liners and a multi-pack of loo roll.
Inside our static home-from-home, with the rain beating on the roof and our damp footwear piled up, there came that familiar cosy glow known only to seasoned caravanners. “I could happily live in one of these,” is what I say every time I settle into the corner sofa of a caravan. Once we’d turned on the heating, unpacked, filled the fridge and stuck the kettle on it felt like home – only better, with penny slots, nightly bingo, a ‘turn’ and the beach five minutes walk away.
I have stayed in caravans all my life, and I love their quirky charm. It’s not for everyone – there are those who shudder at the horror of a holiday in a scaled-down version of home in a windswept field, doing the washing up and putting the rubbish out. Some folk would rather die than set foot in a caravan. But to millions of Brits, it’s the best way to kick back and get away.
This week, caravan parks across the country will be heaving with half-term holiday-makers. In recent years there has been a boom in caravanning holidays and according to travel reports, they’re more popular than ever. During the pandemic, when more people took holidays in the UK, online searches for caravans soared, and sites quickly booked up. Caravan sales have continued to rise, along with membership of the Caravan and Motorhome Club. You can’t move on Channel 5 for shows with ‘Caravan’ in the title.
And, while staying in a static or towing caravan has traditionally been the domain of young families or the retired, many younger people are discovering the joys. Some caravans are designed for cool outdoor types, with storage for mountain bikes and surfboards. There are funky vintage caravans too, and luxury lodges.
Now a new survey reveals what we ‘vanners have long known – camping makes you happy! The Outjoyment Report, by the Camping and Caravanning Club and some university boffins, has found that camping/caravanning makes us feel more connected to nature; boosting wellbeing and mental health. Nearly 11,000 campers and non-campers were assessed on their attitudes to all types of camping, including pitching up in a tent, caravan or motorhome, or glamping. A whopping 97per cent of campers said happiness is their top motivator for camping, and 88per cent had lower stress levels than non-campers.
The report also looked at how camping and memorable outdoor experiences can help in “building a happier, healthier nation”. Now the club is urging Government policy-makers to harness the report’s findings to make camping part of children’s formal education.
I spent my childhood holidays in tents and caravans. At weekends we set off to our static on a site which had little more than a climbing frame and a clubhouse, and a neighbouring gas terminal. Chronic coastal erosion meant rows of caravans had to be regularly moved back to avoid falling into the sea. Our caravan was cramped and chilly, and we shared it with a family of mice, but we loved it. Those rainy afternoons playing cards on the fold-up table, with the wind howling outside, are among my most cherished memories. Caravanning is good for the soul – just remember to pack the washing-up brush.