A LOT of things have suffered during the pandemic – but not motorhome holidays.
Travel bans led to a huge surge in people keen to explore the UK on four wheels with a kitchen, beds and the ability to go wherever the roads take you.
Booking platform Pitchup.com saw demand rise 142 per cent at the start of the year compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Last summer, I was lucky enough to get hold of a four-berth beauty of a motorhome and join the rush for the great outdoors with my two boys, Fynn, 11, and Mack, nine.
Rolling through empty lanes, with the British countryside laid out ahead, we felt a new sense of freedom.
We were high up and with loads of space — “like the Millennium Falcon”, the boys claimed — and there was a working fridge full of their favourite drinks.
Our first pit stop was on the M4 services to grab some supplies. When I say “supplies”, I mean fast food.
There is something very rock’n’roll about bringing burgers back to your van and eating on a fold-down dining table.
I had picked up our home for the next few days, a manual Swift Escape 694, from SwiftGo near Heathrow.
The team there said they had never known a summer like it for vans, but despite the rush and Covid protocols, the place was running like a dream.
Handover and instructions were dead simple, which meant we could load up our gear and were away in no time.
With the 11-year-old navigating and the nine-year-old stopping everything from clattering around in the back, we set off for the lush Cotswolds. What could go wrong?
Weaving through narrow lanes broken up by chocolate- box villages looked like it would be a big challenge.
But luckily my fishmonger dad had a huge van when I was younger, so I was pretty confident chucking her around the country lanes that took us to Winchcombe, a Camping and Caravanning Club site.
This peaceful spot, near Tewkesbury, puts you in the heart of Gloucestershire’s countryside and has all the important facilities including pitches with electricity hook-ups and friendly staff who will lend a helping hand.
Our pitch was right next to a tranquil fishing lake with views across the Cotswolds.
Everything was remote and idyllic, but the best thing about it was that, unlike camping, we had the benefit of all the mod cons that a van can provide, including a TV with DVD player, plugs for devices and a bathroom with a shower.
VERY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
We could even rustle up feasts in our mini kitchen that had an oven, microwave and, most importantly, a big fridge freezer.
The campsite itself had the most immaculate facilities I’ve ever seen, so much so that we rarely used the onboard bathroom and toilet.
Although, when we did, flushing it out at the site was dead easy, as was taking on board more fresh water for the sink.
From Winchcombe, you will find plenty of scenic walks in almost every direction.
Rambling through small villages and along windy footpaths, we discovered cosy pubs and picnic spots galore.
If heritage sights are on your agenda, then the ruins of the 14th-century Hailes Abbey are less than a ten- minute drive away. Or there’s Sudeley Castle, which has ten magnificent gardens, including the Queen’s Garden that has more than 80 varieties of roses.
Kids will love the Royal Mail model railway at Winchcombe Station, which has a Thomas & Friends train track as well as a small cafe that serves toasted tea cakes, filled rolls and locally made ice cream.
In just a few days, I’d fully adapted to our new routine and it felt as if the three of us could have lived in our four-bed motorhome for weeks, taking on each area of the country at our leisure.
The UK has so many beautiful areas to explore and in my opinion there’s no better way to soak it all up than under your own steam in a motorhome.
STAYING THERE/GETTING THERE: An Escape 694 motorhome costs from £950 a week off-peak and up to £1,400 in peak season to hire. See swiftgo.co.uk or call 0333 247 2222.
Winchcombe Camping and Caravanning Club charges from £40 per night for a pitch which includes electricity, water and other facilities.
Camping and Caravanning Club members receive a discount. See campaingandcaravanningclub.co.uk or call 01242 620259.