I spent the weekend, along with our columnist Nick Harding, on the Practical Motorhome stand at the Manchester Central Caravan and Motorhome Show, chatting to visitors, including plenty of Practical Motorhome readers. It’s always great to meet fans of our hobby and of our magazine. I love to hear what you’re up to and what you’ve got planned for the touring year ahead, and of course, your thoughts on our magazine and website, both good and bad.
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I met the Milwards from Bury, a couple of teachers who’re planning a grand summer tour in their Swift Sundance. They’re monitoring the exchange rate every day to get the best price for their pound: “We’re convinced it will hit €1.20 any day now”, they said. I said I’d keep my fingers crossed for them. A surprising number of people were making plans to go full-timing; others still were after advice for self-build models, or full of tips on where best to wild camp abroad.
Practical Motorhome’s motto is ‘Tour smarter. Go further. Live your dreams.’ You lot certainly do just that. I’m constantly amazed by your spirit of adventure, and you fill me with ideas of where to go next.
The show was a lot busier than I expected, having gone along in previous years (up 25 per cent on last year, say the show organisers). The Saturday and Sunday in particular were buzzing with fans of the great outdoors, and even with the addition of a third hall this year, it felt crowded (in a good way).
As well as fans of our magazine, there seemed to be a higher than usual proportion of first timers and novices there, who’ve thought long and hard over the winter and are finally ready to take the plunge and buy their first motorhome. To them, soaring fuel prices were a bigger concern on finances than the recently introduced 20% VAT rate. And for those who already own an outfit, there was still plenty of eagerness to snap up cut-price accessories. A ‘facelift’ for the ’van is often just as good as buying something entirely new.
When it comes to new motorhomes, the show doesn’t command the manufacturers or dealers of, say, the NEC shows, but there was plenty of great kit to see. EmmBee of Bury exhibited their Bürstner and Elddis Autoquest motorhomes, Motor Plus Motorhomes of Derby showed off their Elddis Aspire and Auto-Sleepers models, and Richard Baldwin Motorhomes of Halifax had a range of Autocruise van conversions on show.
Most eye catching, though, was the all-new Escape 696 from Swift, which took its public bow on the Glossop stand. The six-berth coachbuilt model with transverse rear bunk beds is an absolute must-see, and surely an early contender for our own Motorhome of the Year awards. If you’re going to the Boat and Caravan Show at the NEC next month, be sure to take a peek.
Elsewhere, bespoke London-based converter Freedom campervans had a tiny Fiat Doblo conversion on show, which they auctioned on the final day. The highest bid hovered at around £12,000 the last time I checked, late on the Sunday afternoon.
By 5pm on Sunday 23 January, when the show closed, I was tired but excited, my head bursting with ideas for the year ahead. Thanks again to everyone who dropped by to say hello, ask advice or buy a subscription to the magazine. Come and see us on our stand at the Boat and Caravan Show next month – I’d love to hear from you.
Rob Ganley, editor