Why should you tour the East of England in a motorhome? Aside from the fact you’ll hardly ever need to perform a hill start (but for the Lincolnshire Wolds, you’ll be lucky to see one) you’ll find a landscape with characteristics that, because of its very flatness, will fascinate. A land that was once swallowed up by sea, then drained to provide a rich and fertile soil, which feeds not only us but also a varied natural world.
Take the Fens for example, a vast wetland habitat that covers parts of Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk and an ecological gem that’s worth exploring on foot, by bike or, indeed, by boat.
And of course, let’s not forget the Norfolk Broads, where 125 miles of lock-free waterways mingle amongst reeds and marshes. You might think that means this National Park is off-limits for touring with a motorhome. Not a bit of it. There are many campsites within the area and boats are available for day hire. Or you might prefer to canoe along the waterways with many hire centres in the area.
It goes without saying that many visit Eastern England for its coastline. With bracing North Sea walks in autumn and winter, there are miles of clean, golden and sheltered beaches for summer fun. The Lincolnshire coast has long been a firm favourite with campers, with traditional seaside holidays at Skegness and Cleethorpes. But head further south along the coast for notable stretches of sand on the north and northeast coasts of Norfolk, including popular resorts such as Hunstanton and Great Yarmouth.
The Suffolk coast offers long expanses of sand around Lowestoft and Southwold, but for something a little different, the Suffolk Heritage Coast and Hollesley Bay provides wonderfully dramatic shingle beaches and heather-carpeted heathland.
Essex has its own answer to seaside holidays with an impressive sandy beach that stretches from The Naze to Colne Point. But head to Essex’s Dengie Peninsula and you’ll find wonderful walking territory among the salt marshes and the opportunity to try out a Thames Barge, a traditional cargo sailing vessel.
And what of those hills? Well, the Lincolnshire Wolds are right up in the north of the region, dividing the county from Yorkshire. Gentle and unassuming, they provide very attractive, scenic walking with views over the coastline. They’re the perfect antidote to the rest of the region and a fitting end to a tour of Eastern England.
Things to do in East England
1.Lincolnshire has long been associated with aviation so why not explore the county’s aviation heritage? There are many heritage centres and museums to visit with some of the finest including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre and RAF Scampton, from where The Dambusters set off.
2.Visit Cambridge and join an official guided walking tour of the city, treating yourself to an architectural spectacle of university college buildings. You’ll be guided through archways and hallways that you otherwise might not dare to explore.
3.Keep yourself entertained on Great Yarmouth‘s Golden Mile with rides and attractions stretching alongside the vast sandy beach. Then take a tour of the North Norfolk coast as it extends right up to Cromer and Sheringham.
4.Stop off at Lavenham, one of Suffolk’s wool towns and considered one of England’s best-preserved medieval towns. You’ll find thatched cottages and incredible timber-framed buildings as you wander the narrow streets. The Guildhall is a must.
5.If your idea of heaven is adrenalin-fuelled, take on the wild rapids at the Lee Valley White Water Centre. They’re the very same as were used by the world’s best athletes during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
When to visit
There’s always something going on throughout the year in East Anglia, whether it’s witnessing new drifts of snowdrops, beach carnivals or Christmas tree festivals. Of the major events however, is in April, when the flat racing season begins at Newmarket, Suffolk, while in May you can get your boots on for the Suffolk Walking Festival. May also welcomes the now annual 1000 years of Traditional Crafts Festival, held at Lincoln Castle.
The summer months showcase musical talents in various forms: the Aldeburgh Festival, one of the world’s most iconic celebrations of classical music, in June; Latitude at Southwold in July; and the Cambridge Folk Festival, deemed one of the most prestigious folk festivals in the world, in July and August.
Then in September, it’s the turn of the performing arts in Great Yarmouth when the five-day Out There International Festival of Circus and Street Arts brings a riot of colour to public venues across the town.
Cheap overnight stops in East England
Eastern England is well represented by the Practical Motorhome Nightstops Scheme, particularly in Norfolk but with new places to stay being added all the time. Most are pub or hotel car parks, where you can stay for a minimal amount or even free of charge when you’re dining in. A great stopover with kids is the Banham Community Centre in Norfolk. It has a children’s play area on site and is very close to Banham Zoo.
Motorhomes may also stay overnight at Ram Meadow Car Park in Bury St Edmunds, where there are five dedicated motorhome spaces.
The M11, off the M25, will get you to Cambridge and parts of Suffolk, with the A12 heading to Colchester and Ipswich. Access to Lincolnshire via the M1 and then cross-country through Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire or South Yorkshire is possible, alternatively the A1(M)/A1 reaches Grantham and the A15 to Lincoln.
From the Midlands, use the A14, which travels west-east through Cambridgeshire and on through Suffolk to Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. The entire route is riddled with speed cameras every few miles. You can peel off the A14 at Newmarket onto the A11 for Norwich and the Norfolk Broads.
Cycling and Transport Links
National Cycle Network Route One runs north from London through Essex and East Anglia, with several stretches providing traffic-free cycling. You’ll find plenty of opportunities for off-road cycling to reach the centres of Cambridge, Peterborough, Norwich, Ipswich and Lincoln.
For rail travel, visit Greater Anglia.
Motorhome access in East England
Parking for motorhomes, much like most other areas of the UK, vary significantly, from no-go height restrictions to allowing a motorhome to use two car bays or specific motorhome parking spaces.
Motorhomes are precluded from using off-street car parks in Cambridge and Norwich. For Cambridge, it’s necessary to use the Trumpington Park & Ride (using the entrance off Hauxton Road, and intercom; there is a 2.1m height barrier at the main entrance) while motorhomes visiting Norwich should use one of the six P&R offered, with Costessey, Harford and Sprowston providing the most space but note, vehicles not parked within the marked bays (taking up more than one bay) may be fined.
When visiting Ipswich, motorhomes should use the London Road Park & Ride, not the Martlesham Site. One of the best areas of East Anglia however for motorhome parking is the coastal area of Suffolk where many beach car parks and picnic sites specifically allow campervans and motorhomes. Motorhomes may use two bays in Lincoln car parks (providing two tickets are purchased) although it’s recommended that ‘vans use Tentercroft Street and The Lawn car parks, which have grass verges where ‘vans may overhang at the rear. Our recommendation is actually to stay at the convenient city centre Hartsholme Country Park campsite.
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In coastal areas of Suffolk, many beach car parks and picnic sites specifically allow campervans and motorhomes