We just spent three weeks in Cornwall, England over the summer and I swear we got stuck behind every caravan and camper van under British ownership along Cornwall’s beautiful but narrow, hedge lined, bendy rural roads. Roads, by the way, which were built more with horse and carriages in mind than the cars and holidaying paraphernalia of modern Britain.
It’s bad enough crawling at a snail’s pace behind a monster caravan pulled by a huge four by four but it gets worse. Much worse. Meeting an overstretched mobile holiday home on a sharp bend on a road not much wider than a car is hair-raising.
During this year’s summer holiday it struck me that I had spent years living in the Netherlands pointing out the volume of Dutch caravans on European roads to my Dutch husband and had somehow missed that my own countrymen are also partial to a caravan or motor home themselves.
In fact there are more caravans in Britain than in any other European country. Only the USA gets more excited about motor homes than Britain.
To be more precise, according to the national industry statistics, there are currently 1.5 million people in Britain who regularly take caravan or motor home holidays. One fifth of nights spent away from home in the UK are spent in a mobile leisure vehicle.
In short, it’s a popular lifestyle choice. But one reserved, understandably, for the warmer months of the year with by far the majority of caravanning trips taking place between April and October.
So if you choose to holiday in Britain in anything but winter you are forewarned. The chances of getting stuck behind a caravan on Britain’s road during the summer months are huge.
In fact, it is inevitable that you will find yourself creeping along a scenic road at a pace that actually allows you to appreciate the full beauty of Britain’s countryside (as long as no hedge blocks your view of course), whether that was your intention or not.
So maybe it helps to understand a little more about Britain’s love affair with the caravan whilst you are edging your way along country roads, cursing under your breath, behind an enormous leisure vehicle.
Caravans have been popular for a hundred years in Britain so it’s no new fad but caravanning was once only for the rich. These days it’s something for everyone. I asked a friend why she has a caravan and here’s what she told me,
“The freedom. Spending days outside, going back to your own bed. Especially with kids, it’s great.”
All well and good, but I have my own theory about why caravans are immensely popular in Britain. The reason is twofold: tea and nature.
It’s a fact that we Brits love nature; pure, unadulterated, good old fashioned British nature. Everyone knows that Britain has its fair share of beautiful places.
There are miles of lush green rolling hills, shimmering crisp blue lakes, a whole country of coastline, immense stretches of national parks and well-loved historical treasures dotting Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
Now imagine sleeping every night with a different breathtaking view: Stonehenge on the horizon, Lake Windermere sparkling in the distance, the Pennines stretching as far as the eye can see from your caravan window, the smell and sounds of the sea as your head hits the pillow. It’s a romantic ideal. Agreed? Bear with me here.
Us Brits also love a nice cup of tea. How can you combine those two loves I hear you ask? Simple – with a caravan. If you own a caravan there is always a kettle within hand’s reach and you never have to be parted from your favourite mug or preferred brand of tea bag.
Simply put, the British love caravanning because they can have a cuppa with a view.
I hope next time you are participating in the British summertime crawl, it makes you a little more tolerant to think about all those happy Brits in their caravans in front of you, excited to park up, get a brew on and start sipping with a majestic view before them.
Amanda van Mulligen is a Brit who is slowly learning how to be Dutch. She has lived in the Netherlands since 2000 and finds that raising three little Dutch boys with her Dutch husband results in daily cultural conundrums and linguistic lapses – but she wouldn’t change a thing. You can find out more about her adventures parenting abroad at Expat Life With a Double Buggy. (http://lifewithadoublebuggy.blogspot.nl)