History, Infrastructure and Caravan Club Rallies

Andrew Ditton on the Caravan Club National Rally

I’m still reeling over the shock announcement that the Caravan Club National Rally has sadly been cancelled. The National is the biggest event in the Caravan Club’s diary, and to make the agonising decision to cancel it is the caravan equivalent of Hell freezing over.

The sodden, wet spell we endured during April and May is no doubt fresh in many people’s minds. Owing to the exceptionally wet and soggy conditions, the Club was unable to install the infrastructure demanded by such an event.

Some infrastructure is necessary due to the high volume of traffic and visitors expected at such a massive gathering.

But what got me thinking was the fact that at least part of the infrastructure demanded by many modern rally-goers is the provision of electric hook-ups. I recently read a magazine article stating that a mere 8.5 per cent of caravanners use their caravan ‘off grid’, i.e. away from the trappings of the electric hook-up. And that makes me a little sad. Is our reliance on ‘all mod cons’ curtailing our freedom? Possibly.

Not for one minute do I suggest that we go back to the simple days of my childhood caravanning in the ‘70s. The loo was a ‘bucket-and-chuck-it’, and personal hygiene was reliant on site facilities or an occasional strip-wash out of the kitchen bowl, with the water heated by the gas kettle. Lighting was by gaslight; warm and romantic, but what a pain to have to keep replacing those fragile mantles. No, give me my running hot water, cassette loo, ensuite shower, and LED lighting thank you very much.

None of these essentials require a mains hook-up though. The central heating and hot water function quite happily on gas. LED lighting and the water pump take a miniscule amount of current from the battery, which is easily topped up either from the towcar when touring, or from a solar panel when on site.

Right now I am blogging from an amazing campsite on the Hebridean island of Mull. Hook-ups are not available here, and as such trailer caravans are in a tiny minority compared to tents and motor caravans. I’m paying £6 per night, yet the absolutely stunning view out of my caravan window is priceless. Similarly, one of my favourite Certificated Sites in Kent is £7, with no hook-up, but in return you get absolute peace and tranquillity and a sweeping view of the Romney Marsh.

Many Caravan Club Local Centres will no doubt now be making their own arrangements for the Jubilee Weekend, hastily organising impromptu gatherings where a suitable venue is found. Other caravanners, faced with fully booked sites at this late stage, will have no option than to go ‘off-grid’ and book in at a quiet CL or CS.

The cancellation of the National Rally is disappointing and regrettable. But let’s concentrate on the positives. Maybe, just maybe, it will encourage (or force) a few caravanners to get ‘back to basics’ over the Bank Holiday.

Try it. You might just like it.

– Andrew Ditton has eight years’ experience as Chief Caravan Tester for Caravan Magazine. Click here to view his full profile.