“Daddy, when can we go away again in the motorhome, please?”
I knew it was only a matter of time before our son, Harrison, asked this question; although having just been on the road for almost a month for a trip from John O’Groats to Land’s End I hadn’t expected to hear it quite so soon.
Not that I was complaining – my wife, Kim, and I have never needed a second invitation to start planning our next trip, and it confirmed that Harrison and his little sister Dorothy loved being away just as much as we did.
And so, barely two weeks after emptying and cleaning the motorhome after our previous trip, we were sitting down to discuss where we should go next. It was a unanimous decision that, despite having all loved our rolling journey down the length of the UK, we wanted to go somewhere that was fairly close to home and didn’t require us to drive anywhere once parked up.
We also had tighter time constraints now, with the prospect of Harrison returning to school after six months off during the lockdown.
A quick search on the Caravan and Motorhome website gave us five viable campsite options, all of which appealed and matched our criteria. In the end, the decision to head to Broadway, in the Cotswolds, was made for us, it being the only site available for the weekend we wanted..
The classic English villages of the Cotswolds are no more than an hour from our front door, and yet we’ve never really explored the area. But having sampled the beauty of this lovely region, it’s certainly somewhere we will be returning to sooner rather than later.
In the past, we have rented motorhomes for individual trips, which always require a great deal of packing and unpacking of everything we needed for life on the move. These days, we have a vehicle of our own, so we’ve been able to kit it out; apart from clothes and some food supplies, we can be ready to go with minimal fuss.
That is, apart from Dorothy and Harrison deciding which audiobook they want to listen to, currently a toss-up between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Zog – not that this really matters, because they are both usually asleep within five minutes of hitting the road.
Crossing the border
True to form, they were both fast asleep before we’d even made it across the border into England, all of four miles from our house, allowing Kim and I to enjoy a rare moment of peace. Much as we love being parents and sharing our adventures as a family, there is something to be said for pottering along in the ‘van, both kids blissfully asleep, able to enjoy our surroundings and not be bombarded with questions about everything that can be seen out of the windows.
Our peace was eventually broken as we passed through one of the many honey-coloured villages that the Cotswolds are famous for. ‘Daddy, why are the houses the same colour?” It was a good question, and one that I have to admit neither of use knew the answer to, other than to state the obvious that they are all built from the same stone.
However, thanks to the age of technology, the answer wasn’t far away. It transpires that many of the villages in the area date back to a time when limestone, composed of calcium carbonate derived from the skeletal remains of long-buried marine organisms, was the building material of choice. Cotswold limestone, as it is known, was formed during the Jurassic period, and can be found in vast quantities under the region’s hills.
‘Daddy, what was the Jurassic period?’ This equally pertinent question came just as we arrived at our site in Broadway, so I left Kim to provide the answer while I went to check in! We’ve been to enough sites post-lockdown to be familiar with checking in through large Perspex screens and in slightly muffled conversations, so much so that these days, face masks and hand sanitiser are just as essential as our Caravan and Motorhome Club membership card when getting out of the ‘van. And while it still seems a bit odd, if that’s what it takes for us to be able to travel, then we have no problems with it at all.
No sooner had we plugged in at our pitch, Harrison was ready to go and explore the rest of the site on his bike. In our haste to book, we’d not read too much detail about the campsite, so it was with great excitement that Harrison came back, having discovered an old railway track running along the perimeter, as well as a large building that looked, in all honesty, a little out of place.
‘Daddy, what’s in that building?’ Given the proximity to the tracks I figured the building must, once upon a time, have been in some way related to trains, and was now defunct.
To be sure, we thought it best to check with one of the wardens; which was just as well, because the answer was not what we were expecting.
It turns out that the building actually houses The Wanderer, the world’s first purpose-built leisure touring caravan, which, more than 130 years ago, was the catalyst for the caravan and motorhome industry, and the lifestyle we all know and love today.
Of far greater importance to Harrison, though, was that we would be allowed to go in and view it the following day.
Sitting in the sunshine
It would have been very easy to spend Saturday at the site – after all, what more do two small children need than a park, the sight of a vintage steam train and the chance to see the world’s first caravan? Admittedly the latter might have been more appealing to Harrison, Kim and me than to Dorothy, who at two and dog-obsessed was far happier sitting in the sun being fussed over by an excitable Labrador puppy. But when a village is referred to as ‘Jewel of the Cotswolds’, it would be foolish not to go and stroll its streets and soak up the atmosphere.
Broadway’s tree-lined high street is a short walk from the site, and from the moment you reach the village green, it’s easy to see why so many people visit. With its golden-hued buildings and picturesque streets, it is quintessential Cotswolds. Just as I was thinking it couldn’t be more postcard perfect, six riders ambled up the street. Dorothy’s delight at this sight only lasted until she realised that she wouldn’t be able to ride one of the horses.
Sweets and sandwiches
Our first port of call was Hamiltons of Broadway, a traditional sweet shop tucked away in an arcade off the high street. Harrison found a £1 coin during our walk, which instantly conjured up images of a certain Charlie Bucket from his favourite Roald Dahl book. Much like his fictional counterpart, Harrison stood at the shop window in awe of the sheer variety of sweets and chocolates on offer.
After much deliberation, he came to a decision and in he went, returning a little while later with a huge grin and a paper bag full of edible snakes.
We’d been told the Broadway Deli did the best sandwiches in town, so rather than join one of the many queues for a coveted outside dining table, we opted for a picnic on the village green, under the shade of a gnarled old chestnut tree.
Not only does the Deli do great sandwiches, it’s an Aladdin’s cave of food – but for two energetic children chasing each other around, Kim and I could happily have spent the afternoon exploring its three floors of culinary delights.
Back at the campsite, it was time to see The Wanderer, and Harrison was clearly impressed: ‘Wow, she’s a real beauty, isn’t she, Daddy?’ Which she was and still is, although you don’t tend to see too many leisure vehicles built with mahogany and maple these days. But I was most impressed by the journeys embarked on by her owner, author and former naval surgeon Dr William Gordon Stables. His maiden voyage, for which he was ably assisted by two heavy horses to pull his ‘land yacht’, and accompanied by his own valet and coachman, took him from Berkshire to Scotland. Having just made a similar trip ourselves, in the luxury of our Bailey Autograph 74-4, we could only admire his fortitude!
Sunday morning saw me back on the bike, exploring some of the bridleways that criss-cross the Cotswolds. Although the ride was tough in places, it afforded spectacular views of the rolling countryside, and confirmed my desire to return and see more of this lovely region. Two days isn’t long for a visit, but it’s long enough to discover what gives a place its character.
Duration Three days
Why? Gorgeous scenery, picturesque villages, excellent food – and steam trains!
WHEN TO GO
So long as you check the weather, this is a weekend trip that you could enjoy all year roun; although we’d say it’s best in late summer, when the weather is glorious but not too hot. Broadway is also, by all accounts, truly magical at Christmas, with fabulous lights.
WHERE WE STAYED
FIND OUT MORE
- Fuel £40
- Pitch (2 nights + hook-up) £60
- Food (inc lunch from Broadway Deli) £60
- Total £160
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Broadway's tree-lined high street is a short walk from the site, and from the moment you reach the village green, it's easy to see why so many people visit