SITTING in the middle of the Kent countryside, sipping a fresh cup of tea, comic Paul Merton prepared himself for pleasantries when he spotted a couple of campers approaching.
But instead of the usual autograph and selfie requests, the holidaymakers had something far more pressing to find out.
“The first question they asked me was, ‘What size fridge have you got in there?’” laughs the Have I Got News For You star.
“They couldn’t care less who I was. All they were interested in was the motorhome behind me.”
Even before the pandemic spawned a staycation frenzy, motorhoming had become trendy.
Now travel-hungry Brits are more desperate than ever for a change of scenery, but still reluctant to risk going abroad, the industry has boomed.
That’s why an estimated two million of us are heading off for a UK holiday on wheels this year, including comedy duo Paul Merton and his wife Suki Webster.
They have been filming their two-month journey on the roads for new Channel 5 show Motorhoming With Merton & Webster. The six-part series sees the pair tour the country’s best beauty spots, while getting to grips with life on four wheels.
“The motorhome is really the star,” Paul confesses.
“Yeah, other campers didn’t really take much notice of him,” adds Suki. “They were more interested in what kind of shower and oven we had.”
It was a slightly different experience for the couple, who would normally jet off in search of exotic sunshine, like a luxury holiday in Thailand or sight- seeing in Cuban capital Havana.
“It had never really occurred to us to do a holiday like this,” says Paul. “But it just made sense. You don’t have the palaver of going through an airport or changing your currency — and everyone speaks your language.
“If we gave up the idea that we need sun to make an ideal holiday, which of course we can’t guarantee in this country, I think more people might actually explore where we live.
“There are some stunning landscapes and some incredible places to go.”
Motorhome newbies Paul and Suki felt somewhat deflated when they first clapped eyes on their home for the next two months — a four-berth Roller Team Pegaso 740.
“It looks big on the outside and then, when you get inside, you do wonder how you’re going to manage,” chuckles Paul.
“Then we realised, after chatting to other people, that ours was actually pretty luxurious.”
You don’t have the palaver of going through an airport or changing your currency — and everyone speaks your language.
The modern £66,000 motorhome can sleep a family of four with one double bedroom, a bed that pulls down from above the driving seats and a compact kitchen and bathroom.
Paul explains: “You have to tidy up after yourself almost immediately because it can become crowded if you leave everything everywhere.”
Their first foray into life on the road wasn’t without its mishaps.
Within the first few weeks they clipped their wing mirrors on narrow country roads, managed to lock themselves in their bathroom and Suki nearly ran over Paul when navigating a slim tunnel in the Lake District.
“That was the only moment when I felt slightly stressed,” she says.
The pair had been exploring the rolling hills of Cumbria’s countryside when confronted by a bridge.
Suki said: “Paul was walking so close to the van and couldn’t hear what I was saying through the window. At one point I really thought I might squish him.”
It wasn’t just tight tunnels and narrow roads that made life behind the wheel an interesting adventure.
“It seems that as soon as anyone gets stuck behind a motorhome they’re instantly unhappy,” laughs Paul, who recalls tales of road-raged drivers whizzing past the trundling motorhome.
“Maybe they’re a bit jealous because they know we’re not working.”
Their perseverance was rewarded, though. The series shows the couple hiking in Snowdonia’s stunning mountains, tasting cider in Somerset and wild-swimming in the Lake District.
Paul says: “I really enjoyed the freedom of it, the fact you could pull up somewhere and if you didn’t fancy it, just move on.”
So would they be tempted to buy their own motorhome?
Go midweek, take towels and watch parking
By Lisa Minot
WITH millions holidaying here this summer due to Covid, motorhome holidays have never been more popular.
A host of companies are offering the chance to try out the Instagrammer’s dream #VanLife without the cost of buying a vehicle.
But newcomers might not think of everything when they book a trip.
As an experienced caravanner, I took to the road this summer in a brand-new, sparkling Atlas 5 motorhome through Indie Campers.
We took the beast on a four-day tour of Devon and Cornwall and loved every second. The van was in tip-top condition, slept five with ease and had a kitchen and bathroom on board.
But there were a few top tips we realised those with less experience might benefit from knowing before they book.
Here are my tips:
CHECK THE KIT LIST: Depending on which firm you book with, your motorhome or campervan might not come equipped with everything you need. Check what is included carefully and make a note of anything you need to bring. Our van didn’t have any kitchen utensils, a cutting knife, glasses or mugs. We also didn’t get a hose to refill the van’s water tanks or chocks to level the van on uneven terrain.
ROAM FROM HOME: If possible, bring the van back to your house before setting off – that way you can check exactly what there is and pack the rest. Generally, linen and towels are not included. Check the kitchen kit and think about outside furniture or barbecues. Some hire companies will charge a fee to leave your car at their yard while you are using the motorhome.
PARK AND RIDE: As we discovered, trying to park a huge motorhome in the picturesque villages of Devon and Dorset is a challenge. There are websites that indicate where you can park larger vehicles but the easiest option, if you have space, is to take a bike or electric bike so you can leave the vehicle on-site and explore on two wheels.
MIDWEEK MARVELS: We chose to travel from Monday to Friday in June and although it was easy to find places to stay, everywhere we went said weekends were much busier. If possible, travel midweek to have greater choice and if you want to travel over a weekend, book campsites in advance.
ENSURE YOU INSURE: Check what cover is included. Extra insurance to cover your excess or provide greater cover might add to the price significantly. And ensure you have a credit card to cover a security deposit, as these can be as much as £2,000.
- INDIE Campers has bases in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and across Europe. It hires out basic campervans, campervans with toilets and full-spec motorhomes. Prices start from £39pn. See indiecampers.co.uk.
“I don’t know if we’d use it enough to justify the expense,” admits Suki. “We would still want to do our foreign holidays when the world opens up,”
Paul agrees. “But I would like to rent one again.
“There’s something quite enticing about being able to wake up next to the sea one day or a mountain the next.”
- Motorhoming With Merton & Webster airs on Fridays at 8pm on Channel 5.
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