I was watching Countryfile a few weeks back, and up popped John Craven in an Ace motorhome. I remember coming across an interview John did with the Independent a number of years ago: “I don’t have a particular Sunday paper,” he said. “I do get the BBC Country Magazine, and sometimes on a whim I’ll buy something at random – like Motorhomes Weekly. I like the nerdy details.”
I’ve never heard of Motorhomes Weekly, so naturally assumed he must have meant Practical Motorhome: we’re good at the nerdy details.
Anyway, I digress. John joined a team of seasoned apple pickers, mostly retirees, at the Co-operative Farms’ Tillington Estate in Herefordshire. The gang, it seemed, return to the farm each year for the late summer and early autumn apple picking. They were all great friends who stay on site in their ’vans over a two-month period.
The apple harvest is a big operation: some 3500 tonnes of cider apples, 500 tonnes of juicing apples and 3000 tonnes of dessert apples each year. “We need to be able to trust the apple pickers to get on with the job with minimal supervision,” said the Estate manager William Barnett. “The older, seasoned apple pickers are reliable, hard-working and have a really good picking technique, honed through years of practice. This means that we reduce the number of apples lost through them becoming bruised or falling on the floor.”
I’d guess that many of those skilled fruit pickers go on to spend their winter months in their ’vans somewhere warm in the south of Spain or Portugal, and have probably done this for a few years now. That spells quality of life in my book.
It got me wondering, at this time of year, as I hear tales from sunbirds planning, or setting off on, their annual winter trip to south Spain or Portugal: how do other long-term tourers and full-timers fund their travels?
I’ve chatted to plenty (I spent a few weeks in southern Spain last winter, visiting several ‘winter rally’ campsites), and I’ve found that some are campsite wardens, who work the UK season then head off. Some are clearly fruit pickers. I’ve also met a few who earn a quid or two working for companies such as Houseguards, in which they keep an eye on posh properties by staying on the grounds in their own motorhome for a spell. They said it made them feel like the lord of the manor.
If you’re a full-timer, I’d love to hear how you make ends meet on your tours, and if you’re setting off soon, safe travels and enjoy the sun!
Finally, one common theme that emerged with those I chatted to during my winter sun adventure: although many loved the magazine, they didn’t subscribe because they didn’t want the issues piling up on the doormat at home. Well, now we’ve launched our new website, here’s your chance to keep in touch with all things motorcaravanning, and chat to other like-minded people while on your travels.
Rob Ganley, editor