Travel: Campervanning in the Waveney Valley is a blast
- Credit: getapic.co.uk / Mark Handley
I’ve made my way across land, air and sea in many different vessels – backpacking Europe, hitch-hiking North America, riding the Trans-Siberian Express across Russia and the bullet train through Japan. I’ve taken red-eye flights and long-haul coaches and continental ferries – even a hot air balloon – but I had never hit the tarmac in a campervan before.
So, on a bright Friday afternoon I was excited to visit the Waveney Campers rental office at Norwich Camping and Leisure in Blofield to meet husband and wife team James and Zeena Hodds.
Established in 2003, Waveney Campers is a family-run business specialising in camper van sales and rentals, including the Volkswagen Transporter, Ford Transit Custom and Toyota Proace, which can be hired for £89 per day. The vans are brand-new, top-specification models converted with solar panels, onboard water tanks, diesel heaters, indoor and outdoor cooking equipment and portable loos.
Their Road Drifter Rentals service offers holiday packages with 7, 10 and 14-day itineraries to the Scottish Highlands, the New Forest in Hampshire, the Glamorgan Heritage Coast in Wales or even across the Channel to the Black Forest in Germany. Itineraries are created in partnership with travel bloggers The Gap Decaders – who quit their jobs and have been on the road in their motorhome ever since.
The tours, which can be downloaded onto your smartphone and paired with the monitor screen on the dashboard, feature scenic roads, hidden gems, walking and cycling trails, wild swimming spots, beautiful panoramas, photo opportunities and recommended pubs, cafés and campsites.
“There’s so much to discover in the UK – and with a campervan it is so much fun,” James says. “You don't know until you try it, so why not give it a go?”
Zeena introduces my wheels for the weekend: a Volkswagen T6.1 campervan. It’s a gorgeous machine – stylish and spacious with everything necessary for a comfortable and self-sufficient adventure, including a fridge-freezer, sink, kitchenware, gas hob, heating, lights, electrical sockets and USB outlets. There’s even a wardrobe at the back to hang up my jacket.
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I am briefed on how to use the swivel chairs, expanding roof, foldaway table and bike rack, as well as safety equipment including the fuse board, fire extinguisher, fire alarm, carbon monoxide detector and first aid kit. James gives me his business card and assures me that I can call him anytime if I run into trouble, though I am reminded that tours also come with full insurance and breakdown cover.
Rather than follow itineraries, I decide to explore the Norfolk coast with no particular destination in mind. Tarmac hums beneath the wheels as I stream through a canvas of blue sky punctuated by white windmill vanes on the A47 towards Great Yarmouth. The driver’s seat enjoys an elevated vantage of the road that instils a sense of security. It is more difficult to see out of the back window, however, as it is obscured by the bike rack. I purchase some groceries and hit the Golden Mile, where Friday night revellers head for a funfair as screams filled with pleasure wash over the sky like waves.
I drive out to The Smokehouse in Caister-on-Sea, where despite my premium campervan I experience vehicle envy: a DeLorean is parked outside, alongside a monster truck emblazoned with yellow and red flames. After tucking in to the Smokehouse sliders with French fries and coleslaw, I head to the campsite at dusk as the skies curdle into purple above the River Yare. It is a picture-perfect evening for a drive.
At Rose Farm Touring Park in Belton, I realise I don’t have any bedding. That’s one thing you’ll need to provide for yourself. Sliding the backseat down and grabbing the self-inflating mattress, I fold up my jacket for a pillow and use a towel as cover while a punishing coastal wind rocks the van. Just as I’m dozing off, a siren pierces my eardrums. I scramble for the keys and mute the racket with the push of a button, but a few minutes later I hear the automatic lock engage and whenever I move, the alarm goes off again. It is not a good night’s sleep.
Saturday morning glows with rapeseed so luminous it looks radioactive as the wheels spin towards rough seas in California, Mundesley and Scratby. I follow an art trail in Cromer before moving onto my next campsite, Woodhill Park in East Runton, where I cook lunch in the van: salmon, poached eggs, rainbow salad with roasted peanuts and avocado. It is always difficult to eat healthily on the road – but the T6.1 makes it easy. After a whistlestop tour of the Deep History Coast in West Runton, I witness a showstopping sunset in Sheringham.
As I’m getting ready to leave the campsite on Sunday morning, a married couple in the pitch opposite compliments me on the van. They had considered buying a camper, before deciding on a caravan. With the way they look at the VW, I wonder if they are regretting their decision.
Outside Sheringham, I pass a classic car show and join the coastal road to Salthouse where an irrigation system sprinkles the Norfolk fields with rainbows. Wells-next-the-Sea beckons but bumper-to-bumper traffic convinces me to redirect the van towards Holt for breakfast before reluctantly heading back to Blofield. Above all the campervan instils a sense of the simple, meditative joy of shooting through space drenched in sunlight, as your own backyard reveals itself as a sightseeing wonderland.
As I return to Norfolk Camping and Leisure and hand James the keys, I can think of one major criticism of the campervan. If only it was endowed with the powers of the DeLorean time machine so that I could travel back to Friday afternoon and do it all again.
For more information, visit waveneycampers.co.uk