Campervanning in Suffolk: The best way to explore the county?
PUBLISHED: 10:46 10 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:46 10 July 2018
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Camper vans are fast becoming the preferred way to get away from it all... and Suffolk’s a perfect place to try it | Words: Nick Cottam
We are heading west from Beccles, first to the pretty, aptly named village of Long Melford and then back east to the eroded hamlet of Dunwich, once a great port and a harbour for the King’s Men o’ War and now a pebbly enclave between the nuclear power station at Sizewell and upmarket Southwold.
Our mode of transport and accommodation for two nights is a T6 4-berth VW Camper Van, ‘glamping’, you could say, on four wheels, and a chance for one novice, middle-aged couple to try out life on the road in Suffolk.
In preparation for our foray into the world of camping on wheels we have made contact with Alan and Lynne Strong who, for the past 10 years, have run Waveney Campers which sells and converts to order VW and other types of high spec camper vans.
When the couple are not promoting the delights of a peripatetic camper van lifestyle to the likes of us, they’re doing it themselves, taking off in the winter months for another Oz Adventure and blogging about the experience in a chatty engaging style via the WC (that’s Waveney Campers) website.
“The business has grown generically,” says Alan, a retired farmer who is now living out and financing his wanderlust from a very rural four acres just north of Beccles.
“We sold nearly 40 vans last year. We can do a conversion either to our own spec, which is similar to that of the VW and other camper vans, or to a customer’s particular requirements.”
Suffolk, like the couple’s beloved Oz is well placed to support this latter day knights of the road passion.
Big purpose built sites like those at Aldeburgh, Southwold and Dunwich, contrast sharply with our first-night stay, a peaceful field at Clockhouse Farm Camping and Caravan Site, Glemsford, about four miles north west of Long Melford.
What a delight – a green, secluded pitch for our vehicle with spectacular views over the rolling farmland of West Suffolk. Whatever we may feel about oil seed rape as a crop, it has something of the Van Gogh impact.
On arrival we busy ourselves settling in and setting up, getting used to using the space efficiently in our well appointed, but limited room home for two days.
As Alan and Lynne Strong reminded us, before setting out, we were trying out a camper van not a motorhome. No shower and loo in this vehicle but a fridge, hob, fold-down table, ample cupboard space and a pull-out double bed for the grown-ups.
An extendable roof when the vehicle is parked up provides space for an upper level sleeping area, but the first floor is really only big enough for two smallish children in this writer’s view.
Even in a small campsite like Clockhouse Farm, each pitch has a hook up to the power supply and, while our particular pitch meant having to grope around in the hedge a bit, it was all perfectly manageable, leaving us plenty of time to stroll off across the fields to Long Melford for an early evening bite to eat.
‘Long’ indeed, with the village’s beautiful ornate wool church rising up behind us and the main street seeming to stretch on forever, with its pubs, restaurants and independent shops.
A word of warning if you’re thinking of trying out one of these delightful vehicles for the first time – sort out your sleeping arrangements before venturing out for your evening meal.
Yes, there’s light and power when you return after dark but pulling out the bed and raising up the roof is a physical task. Easy when you know how but a bit of a challenge for first timers fresh from the hospitality of Long Melford.
No matter, we cracked it after only the smallest of cross words and were soon curled up with a good book and a freshly brewed cuppa.
Camping on wheels, it seems, is a growth industry in Suffolk and beyond. According to the Centre for Economic and Business Research, the number of caravans and motorhomes is set to soar by 50,000 over the next five years. The Camping and Caravan Club now has more than a million members.
Waveney Campers has customers ranging from single women wanting to escape, to retired couples and even businessmen looking for an alternative to their bog standard hotel room, all getting smitten with the bug, believes Alan Strong.
“We sold a camper van to a female customer last autumn and she’s been everywhere. In the UK we’ve traditionally not been that good at encouraging camping but things are changing.
“There are good campsites all over Suffolk which cater for everything from the largest motorhome to a two-person tent.” Indeed.
After our field in Glemsford we motored very comfortably via Ipswich and Woodbridge to the Cliff House Holiday Park at Dunwich, a larger scale operation with a small supermarket, restaurant, bar and shower block all on site.
Feeling like old stagers already, we were hooked up to power, booked into the restaurant for supper and walking up the beach towards Dunwich in not much more than an hour.
In this case we had our bags arranged and our bed ready for its evening unfolding long before that sleep thing came calling.
Our pitch was one of 120 for vehicles and tents on the site, but even though it was a bank holiday weekend,and the site was pretty well full, we still felt fairly private in a well-screened woodland setting.
Having the sea so close was a bonus.
Whatever your stage of life or bank balance, investing in a camper van is a big decision. If you buy a low mileage VW conversion from Alan and Lynne Strong you will pay upwards of £30,000, but for that you get a high spec vehicle with all mod cons – even a very handy attachable awning if you want one and are planning to spend time on the road.
Freedom, you could say, comes at a price, but for a growing number of undoubtedly happy campers it’s a price worth paying.
For more information about Waveney Campers go to waveneycampers.co.uk
Two great sites for seeing Suffolk
Clock House Farm caravan and camping park is a quiet, rural, family-run caravan park and camping site set in the beautiful meadows of Glemsford. It caters for touring caravans, motor homes and tents, and is a perfect venue for a relaxing holiday in the countryside.
There are nine acres with plenty space for children to play, and dogs are welcome as there are excellent local walks. Good for cycling around quiet country lanes. Also available locally are horse riding, swimming, tennis and fishing.
Cliff House Holiday Park at Dunwich makes a great base for touring and enjoying the Suffolk coast. The site has 120 high quality camping and touring caravan pitches available by the night, with seasonal pitches available from March to October.
It’s ideal for a family holiday, with a bar and restaurant, shop, children’s playground, family game room with a TV and pool table, and cycle hire available (book before you go).