Various camping stories,in caravans and tents.
The lure of the great outdoors has always gone hand in hand with Land Rover ownership and in these times of limited disposable income camping has undergone a great resurgence this summer. Some of the big supermarkets offer complete kits for less than the cost of one night in a bed and breakfast and these are fine for a spot of leisure camping in fine weather. Others favour a caravan hitched to the back of their Land Rover, all mod cons available and the advantage that if the weather turns sour there’s always the option to play endless games of Monopoly in comfort as the rain lashes down outside.
My own experience of caravanning goes back to the early seventies. As an art student trying to support a young family on virtually no income, we lived a fairly nomadic life in a 22 foot caravan, bought for £100 and dragged around behind my first Land Rover, a 1954 86 inch, that the previous owner had upgraded with a Series 2 engine. During term time we lived behind a lorry yard just outside Salisbury, where I was at college, but for the summer we dragged it over to Borth, in Wales. I had spent a few family holidays there as a child and liked the place. That first year we pitched up very late at night after a drive that had caused traffic chaos throughout central Wales and drove straight onto the beach for the night. It is difficult to hide a 22 foot caravan and in the morning we had a telling off from a warden and were told to leave promptly. Hitching up the Land Rover, I soon realised that this was easier said than done as the old 86 inch tried as hard as it could to dislodge a ton of caravan from the sand. The planks of wood in the picture were found from somewhere and acted as sand ladders to aid traction and with a helpful push from the gathering crowd we escaped. It was suggested that if we wanted somewhere cheap to camp, we could try a site on the edge of town, situated roughly between a landfill waste site and the sewage works! From memory it was far more attractive than it sounds.
A meagre income was earned on the nearby Ynyslas sands. The beach doubled as a car park on the hard sand, but this became progressively softer as you drove around the headland. We would park the Land Rover several hundred yards into the soft stuff as a decoy, then sit back and watch tourist cars head our way in the hope of finding their own parking spot far from the madding crowd. At regular intervals throughout the day cars would fall into our trap and get hopelessly stuck. We would watch them dig themselves in deeper by spinning the wheels. The whole family would be ejected to push, but by then Dad had got it so stuck it would have to be towed out. Cue the convenient arrival of a Land Rover full of hippies and a long rope. A fee was negotiated in advance, cash changed hands and the Land Rover plucked the car from its sandy prison. With a final push the Dad would drive back to the car park. A lesson learnt, a fiver earned. On a good day we could make fifty quid and that would cover the cost of petrol, beer and food, in that order of priority.
A few of years later, and with a decent job, we returned for a holiday in the long hot summer of ‘76. By then I had the 1948 80 inch that I still own today and a smaller caravan. It was the rig I used for weekend trials with the Peak & Dukeries Club. The Land Rover had a rudimentary roll over bar and with it’s Rover 60 engine the pace, with a lighter ‘van, was less glacial. We returned to the same camp site and I could not resist the lure of making a few quid pulling stranded cars out of the sand, though by then it was icing on the cake money, rather than an existence.
These days I have a choice. I can either take my Carawagon away and enjoy reasonable speed on the road and a modicum of comfort, or I can sling a tent in the 80 inch and go back to nature. It is reassuring just how easy it is to escape the rigours of daily life and within an hour be in wild countryside with just the birds for company and views of green fields and trees. The weather is the governing factor, of course, as the novelty of a wet weekend under canvas wore off long ago.
An 86 inch Land Rover bought for £125 and a caravan for a further £100 was all that was required for a whole summer in Wales.
Fast forward two years and the 86 inch had been replaced by Toby’s 1948 Land Rover and a smaller caravan.
Few pleasures beat the simplicity of an 80 inch Land Rover and a simple tent tucked away in a remote spot of woodland.