Not Like the Savoy - but It's Cheap and Good Fun
* (the Savoy - a luxury hotel in London, in the Strand.)
Crash! Down collapses the table. The sugar slides gracefully into your wife's lap, and with squeals of delight from the little so-and-so who has caused it all, chaos comes again in the kitchen.
Ah caravanning! The joys of the open air, the independent life and one's own cosy, tidy little home. If only the blasted folding table would anchor more firmly and the available space were just a little bigger and the child were not such a bouncy, heaving menace...
The family who persuaded us to try caravanning have, like ourselves, three children, none of them exactly delicate little fauns. They enjoy it vastly every year, and would no more dream of going to a boarding house or a hotel than fly in the air.
Firstly, it is a relatively cheap holiday. Earlier in the year we put down £ 5 deposit. We had a caravan with five berths for £ 10 a week, and as two of the older children opted out at the last minute, we were really well off for space. We went there by car, so at no stage was there really any enormous laying out of cash.
The site, in South Devon, was in a lovely spot, overlooking gentle hills and wooded valleys and lying just above a farm. There were nine other caravans round the edge of the field, so we were far from being cramped in.
Nearby was another camping site. Water was 100 yards away and the toilet facilities were quite ample, though in a period of drought the tank, which fed the tap and the toilets, was often emply during certain parts of the day and we had to walk down to the farm for water supplies. But this was no hardship.
The nearest beach was, about a mile away, and within half an hour's car journey there were four other beaches. The modern holiday caravans used on these semi-permanent sites are different from the larger, permanent home type of caravans. But they are still a small miracle of organization with a large number of cupboards and drawers. Theoretically, I suppose, the beds fold in and out smoothly, but we had a certain amount of struggling with ours. Comfortable? Well, not like home, nor the Savoy, of course, and rather a tight fit, but not too bad. Most caravans divide into three, with a small back bedroom, a large room in the centre and a smallish kitchen, also holding a bed.
We were about a mile from the nearest village and four miles from the town. A hygienic-looking self-service store had just opened in the village and here we bought nearly all our food, including meat and vegetables.
The weather was sunny and this naturally made a vast difference. I would say it turned out an ideal holiday except for one snag, which wouldn't, however, apply to everyone. In a boarding house or a hotel you generally feel quite happy about leaving a six-year-old sleeping for an hour or so by himself, knowing that if he cries someone will hear and pay attention. But on a caravan site this is not usually possible. So after getting him to bed at a reasonable hour one tends to be at a loss what to do or where to go. I found gas lighting tiring on the eyes and reading for any length of time was not practical. So the lights of the distant inn wink alluringly, but in vain, and the evening walk as the sun goes down is out.
Thousands of people have holidays in their own caravan, hitching it on to their car like a trailer and moving from place to place. These mobile caravans are much smaller than the static-holiday ones. You can generally buy second-hand caravans but you should do this through a reputable dealer and have someone who knows about them give it a good looking over. Many families using these will sleep extra people under an awning attached to the caravan or in separate tents.
In 1960, the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act made it necessary to obtain a site licence to accommodate them, but exceptions allow touring caravans to use land that is not licensed. A touring caravan can use a site which is unlicensed only under certain conditions. If it is less than five acres, for instance, a single caravan can remain there for two nights, so long as the land is not used in this way for more than 28 days in any year. In fact, the touring caravanner really needs to join one of the very useful organizations. This allows him to enjoy considerable benefits through exceptions from the Act.
The Caravan Club of Britain has a Code of Conduct, one of which is that on the road the caravanner causes as little inconvenience as possible by looking out for, and giving way to, faster traffic. Having suffered in long crawling queues behind travelling caravans I can only assume that the drivers had hardly ever heard of this suggestion. On an organized site "he keeps his dog under proper control, drives very slowly through the caravan lines, and avoids singing, loud radio, electric generator or other noises at an hour when it would reasonably annoy others." He is also asked to hang his laundry outside his van "discreetly". You may think at times the caravan site is an eyesore in the countryside, and occasionally it is. But for lots of people it means a great deal in terms of a holiday at a reasonable cost.
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