It’s 3pm and Marisa Cashill’s options are wide open.
Should she go for a dip in the pool, or perhaps a paddle at the nearby beach? She could go for a walk and soak up some of the incredible local scenery?
Or perhaps she should stay right here, on her sun lounger, gin and tonic in hand and fire up the barbecue.
“I’m at my happiest when I’m in my motorhome,” smiles Marisa, aged 38.
“From the moment that van door clicks shut I start to relax and all the stresses of work and the bustle of the city seem very far away.”
Marisa is one of millions nationwide who escape their lives at weekends by hopping in a caravan or motorhome and hitting the road.
“I bought my van three-and-a-half years ago,” says Marisa, a photographer from Sheffield.
“I’ve travelled all over the UK - and there are still so many places I want to visit. From around March, I’m away as regularly as I can manage, whether it’s for a couple of days or a couple of weeks. I’ve stayed at sites right on my own doorstep - just to get a little break - and toured entire regions in a 10-day stint. I love the freedom and discovering places I’d never normally see.”
And it’s this freedom that leads most people to caravanning - according to Nick Lomas, director general of The Caravan Club. Now in its 109th year, the UK touring organisation has more than one million members and 30,000 pitches available each night across throughout the UK and Europe. Interestingly, the Sheffield postcode alone has 25,000 members – more than any other region.
“When we talk to our members about their passion for caravanning, ‘freedom’ is the word we hear most often,” says Nick, who was born and raised in South Yorkshire, and still spends a lot of time with his family in the Peak District.
“They love that their holiday isn’t tied to a hotel or airport. It’s their escape, transporting them from everyday life to somewhere they can do things on their terms, with no schedule and no boss to answer to.
“Caravanning became a popular way for people to get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. A lot of things about caravanning, and the way its done, have changed over the years, but that ethos hasn’t. People still crave the opportunity to step away from the errands and chores of home life and enjoy family time, fresh air, the feeling of grass between their toes. There’s been quite a lot of scientific research done on the subject that has proven this sort of escape to nature can have a really positive impact on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.”
And Nick reveals the economy does indeed affect caravanning’s popularity - but perhaps not in the way you might think.
“It’s true we see an influx of people turn to caravan holidays when times are financially tough. But when money is good, we see a wealth of people treating themselves to that motorhome they’ve always wanted. Plus, around £400,000,000 is spent by our members off site each year in local economies - eating out, visiting local attractions, on fuel and at local shops.
Hazel and Adrian Brear, of Barnsley, started camping when their three children were young and graduated to caravanning two years ago.
“We love the lifestyle,” says Hazel, aged 60, and a Caravan Club member.
“We’re away as often as we can manage in the warmer months, and we’ve even stayed within a few miles of our own house during the week and travelled in to work each morning, just to spend our evenings relaxing in the countryside, reading books and barbecuing. I always come back from a few days away feeling restored.”
Marisa, also a Caravan Club member, adds: “A decent site costs about £25 a night. I’ve paid up to £40 on bank holiday weekends, but I’ve also been as happy as anything on a site I’ve paid £7.50 for, so there’s a really good mix.”
South Yorkshire mum-of-two Carly Benson says she and her husband get away with the kids every weekend throughout the summer.
“My children love it,” says Carly, aged 29.
“We love getting away after a long week at work. It’s nice to feel like you’re on a mini holiday.”
As for the weather, The Caravan Club’s Nick says he thinks most Brits are happy to take it as it comes.
“If it’s raining, maybe you spend the day chilling outwith the kettle on and a good book. Either way, it sounds pretty good to me.”