Caravan of love
PUBLISHED: 16:16 15 May 2013 | UPDATED: 16:16 15 May 2013
There was a time when caravanning was not the most trendy of pastimes.
But it has undergone a huge surge in popularity, with more and more people opting to either buy their own caravan or rent one in situ for a week’s holiday.
Not only does it offer the flexibility to get away at a moment’s notice, it is an affordable way to stay in some of the most beautiful settings in Norfolk.
Many of the on-site facilities have also had make-overs and now lots of campsites have fantastic showers, inviting bars and restaurants, swimming pools, children’s farms and some even have their own spas.
Many parks also boast excellent environmental credentials, making the most of the surrounding nature and wildlife on their doorstep.
Norfolk has hundreds of camping and caravan sites, ranging from lively parks to peaceful idylls nestled in the countryside.
Some are so close to the beach you can hear the roar of the sea, others are hidden among trees or can be discovered up bumpy tracks overlooking Norfolk’s beautiful open countryside.
If you are a regular caravan user, it might be worth joining the Caravan Club. In Norfolk, the organisation has seven sites and a further 173 certificated locations - small, five-vehicle sites.
Lyn and Ken Clark are wardens at the Sandringham Estate Caravan Club site.
“We have definitely seen changes, with more families now caravanning,” says Lyn. “You can have an amazing holiday if you have a caravan and most importantly it is affordable. You can sit outside having a barbecue and a glass of wine, or if you want you can eat out, it gives you the choice.”
She says there are many benefits to owning your own touring caravan and it is a great way to make the most of family life.
“It is like being home from home and you are not restricted by anything - you can eat when you want, go where you want. The Caravan Club sites are all run to the same standards and are wonderful safe places for families to be outdoors and have fun.”
Not just caravans?
If you think holidaying in the great outdoors is limited to traditional caravans, think again. So many sites now offer the chance to stay in an array of inventive accommodation, from yurts and tepees to traditional wooden shepherd huts.
Shane Ingham runs a traditional carpentry and joinery company in the Fens and has recently launched Heritage Huts.
“We make wooden shepherd huts and two sites in Norfolk are already renting them out as alternative holiday lets. Over the past few years these sorts of alternatives to the traditional caravans have become more popular.
“I think when times are tough financially, people turn to more traditional, old fashioned ways of life. The huts, which are on wheels, were originally used in the 1800s. They can be made any size and are sturdy and lined and have a log burner, so they are really cosy and homely.”
To own or rent?
Mark Durrant is operations manager at Kelling Heath Holiday Park, near Holt, and he says an increasing number of people are caravanning.
He says there are many things to consider if you are thinking of buying a holiday home at a specific park.
“First of all think carefully where you want to be. We find people start by renting holiday homes to get to know areas and parks and then move towards wanting to own one.
“Here a second-hand holiday home can go from £10,000 upwards, but there are also additional annual fees which you must consider, to pay for site costs and facilities.
“You need to look at all the benefits. What facilities does a park have? Are there extra benefits for owners? What is the length of the season?
“We work very closely with our customers to learn from them the best ways to improve our facilities and the park, it is especially important for those that own holiday homes on a site to feel they are listened to.”
The expert says
Julian Garrood is a director of the family-owned Drayton Caravans and owner of Norfolk Caravan Hire, at Heigham Street, Norwich. He has been caravanning for 15 years - and all of them at sites in Norfolk and Suffolk.
“There are so many fantastic sites in the county, you really don’t need to go any further!” he laughs. “My personal favourite it Woodlands at Sheringham - a glass of wine, a book, and I am totally relaxed there.”
As well as selling caravans, Julian’s business offers a try before you buy service to enable customers to find out what they really want from the caravan of their dreams, from size to spec.
“It happens so often that people say they want a four berth but then find it is too big, or a two berth and realise it’s too small. Then there is the lay-out - do they want a big bathroom or do they only ever go to sites with great facilities anyway?
“But once you have made your choice and bought your caravan it really is a case of where will you go today. You can decide to go away in the morning and be on site later that day - you can really have as much holiday as you want from your caravan.
“I think the social side of it is fantastic. People chat to each other on the sites, you meet friends, and as a family you find you talk and play games together.”
With a price range to suit every pocket - from £4000 to £25,000, or hiring fees from £200 a week - Julian adds: “If you are looking to buy a caravan, the best thing is to talk to a dealer to get some advice about what’s right for you.”
Tell us about some of your favourite spots in Norfolk for caravanning? Have you been caravanning for years and have a story to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org