It was all the waving that was so distracting as we crossed the border into Dorset. Having left Guildford an hour earlier, I was just getting comfortable with driving the 6.7m Swift Lifestyle 664.
It had been a breeze on the M3 eating the miles very comfortably, but as we hit the A31 it seemed as if we had crossed into motorhome country, and in each one we passed, its occupants were waving at us. It seemed impolite not to wave back, so over the course of the next two hours I adopted a new way of driving – mirrors, change gear, wave, smile, change gear, indicate, wave, smile, and so it went on and on. During August bank holiday weekend there are a lot of motorhomes on the road in Dorset and this was my first time out in one. It was a steep, one-handed learning experience.
Over the last few years, my family has been away caravanning several times, and my wife Penny spent much of her summers caravanning in France, so when we got the opportunity to experience a motorhome we jumped at it. Destination was west Dorset, a bit of a stomping ground for us. Our two daughters Annabel (6) and Georgina (4) could hardly contain their excitement when we picked them up from school on the Friday afternoon, although I wasn’t terribly popular in the school car park.
After a reasonable bank holiday drive, we arrived early evening at The Camping & Caravanning Club site in Charmouth. The very friendly staff directed us to their easy-to-use motorhome bay to fill up with fresh water and then to a lovely pitch surrounded by a very well-maintained hedge.
The first difference I noticed with motorcaravanning was the lack of fuss. I levelled it in seconds, swivelled the driver’s seat, rolled out the awning, lit the barbecue and opened a bottle of wine. The caravanners next to us were very impressed and came over to take a look at the 664.
The campsite was full of friendly families with children having a great time, but at the same time there was the feeling of being private and quite quiet, the best of both worlds. A walk around the site took us to an excellent natural playground with slides, basketball hoops and a climbing frame. Annabel and Georgina soon made friends and charged around having a wonderful time. It was a challenge to encourage them to come back for tea and bed, but after all that fresh air they soon settled down in the Swift’s front bed, which was quick and easy to make up.
A cooked breakfast for all the next morning was effortless in the 664’s kitchen and it was a pleasure using the big rear washroom and shower. I was surprised that the Swift’s tank held more than enough water for us all to enjoy a shower. No dreaded caravanning Aquarolls, it was easy to fill and empty the water tanks at the motorhome bay, another surprising bonus.
Caravanners often point out the inconvenience of a motorhome once you’ve arrived at a destination, saying that whenever you want to go anywhere you need to pack up. I think this misses the point. The motorhome is the camp. Put the toaster and kettle in the cupboard under the sink, the bikes in the garage, roll up the awning and off you go, take the camp to the next location, which in our case was the Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock.
The Hive Beach sits between Weymouth and Lyme Regis on the Jurassic coast. It is incredibly unspoiled with rolling hills that descend to a wonderful National Trust beach. We parked in the field just behind the beach and the famous Hive Beach café, which has won numerous awards for its fresh fish and seafood. It was nothing short of wonderful to be able to set up deck chairs and put the kettle on for a cuppa, overlooking the sea.
It didn’t last long as the children were keen for a swim. We got changed in the ‘van and raced down to the sea, which was surprisingly warm. After a couple of hours on the beach it was great to be able to dry off in our ‘van and get changed into warm, dry clothes for lunch at the Hive Beach Café.
Motorcaravanning is just like having your hotel room on the beach or wherever you are. If you need anything, it’s there. If you are hungry you just cook lunch. Shower after a swim? No problem. If you fancy a nap, your bed is right there, with you, on the beach. It’s luxurious and affords a great sense of freedom.
So this is how we spent our weekend, driving from beach to beach setting up our barbecue and deck chairs, playing with our buckets and spades, bikes and scooters and everything else we had packed in that you wouldn’t normally be able to get in a car.
On the bank holiday Monday it rained and rained. We drove down to West Bay, where ITV’s Broadchurch is filmed, to meet some friends for a spot of crabbing. The rain was relentless and we all got completely soaked. After a couple of hours of successful fishing, our friends suggested that we have lunch at the seafront café, and this was when the motorhome really came into its own. While they wandered off in their wet clothes to get a table, we walked the 10 yards back to the motorhome, dried off, got changed and then enjoyed a warm, dry lunch. Happy children, happy mum and dad, wet friends (we did offer them a towel!).
In the afternoon, our friends went home to dry off while we took the motorhome up to a well known viewpoint. While the children watched a film, Penny and I relaxed on our bed, watching the waves batter Chesil Beach, a hotel room with another spectacular view, all of us motorhome converts.
So if you pass me on the A31 in your motorhome next bank holiday you’ll know it’s me. I’ll be the one waving at you with a big smile on my face – do please wave back.
It was nothing short of wonderful to be able to set up deck chairs and put the kettle on for a cuppa, overlooking the sea