One third of Kent is classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Things To Do
Look for bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover. Take your cue from that old wartime song and spot seagulls, larks, swallows and planes during a bracing stroll along the 20 miles of these chalky icons. Owned by the National Trust, the White Cliffs Visitor Centre is a great place to begin your walk. You’ll discover the military history of the cliffs and look out for the best views of the French coast.
Visit a famous garden. The flagship garden of the Royal Horticultural Society, spreading over 240 acres, RHS Wisley near Woking demonstrates the best in British gardening practices. With plant ‘trials’ fields, rose gardens and a temperate glasshouse, RHS Wisley also houses the Wisley Library, a massive collection of gardening books.
Top up your knowledge of British history. Take a tour of key Sussex sites, such as the 1066 Battlefield and Abbey at Battle and Michelham Priory, with its replica Iron Age Centre. Pop along to Charleston Farmhouse, rural retreat of the Bloomsbury Group writers, which included Virginia Woolf, and head to Brighton to see the architectural wonders of the Indian-inspired Royal Pavilion.
New Forest attractions. The National Motor Museum at Beaulieu should be on anyone’s ‘must-see’ list. Major showcases here include the Top Gear Collection of battered and modified vehicles (such as the show’s homemade motorhomes and ‘Caravan Airship’) and famous cars. Plus there’s the Caravan Club Collection, where you can view a wealth of exhibits and see how caravan holidays have changed since 1885 to the present day.
The Isle of Wight has many delights. The island is considered one of the best locations in the UK to search for evidence of a pre-historic world, so why not go on a dinosaur hunt here? You can join a guided fossil walk with one of the island’s dinosaur experts or take a Footprint Tour. Download the free Dinosaur Island Trail app onto your smartphone and follow a self-guided tour to various dinosaur-linked locations across the island.
When To Visit
Some of England’s most prestigious and world famous sporting and arts events take place in South East England.
Horseracing is a winner and you’ll find Surrey’s Epsom Derby, classed as the ‘world’s greatest flat race’, in June, while Hampshire’s Goodwood mixes the racing of horses with cars during a summer season of events – first the Festival of Speed in June, then Glorious Goodwood for a festival of horseracing in August, rounded off with the Goodwood Revival celebrating all things vintage in September.
Sussex is noted for the arts, with the Festival of Chichester, showcasing major West End productions and fringe performances from April to September while nearby Glyndebourne‘s opera season runs from May to August. Plus, Sussex Day is celebrated annually on the 16 June, putting the county’s rich heritage on the map.
The South East of England is one of the most accessible areas in the UK, although with that, roads can be notoriously congested particularly at peak times of travel such as weekday rush hours, and Friday and Sunday evenings.
Caravans towed by cars/MPVs are not affected by Greater London’s Low Emission Zone, although they are affected by Central London’s Congestion Charge if driving within the zone between 7am and 6pm Monday to Friday. It goes without saying, of course, that towing a caravan through the centre of London is not an especially relaxing experience and should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
The M25 around London, one of those notoriously congested roads, is the natural feeder along with its arteries to access, in particular, Kent and Sussex. Most of Kent is accessible from the M20 and the M2, including Folkestone and Dover for cross-Channel services. Occasionally, when there are delays on these routes, ‘Operation Stack’ is put into place on the M20 with cars and caravans having to use the A20 instead.
There is a toll (though no weight restriction affecting caravans) on the Dartford Crossing, between Kent and Essex to the east of London, during the hours of 6am to 10pm daily. As from October 2014, you can no longer stop at the barriers to pay the charge. Instead payment will be made online, via text, on the phone or at retail outlets, or using the pre-paid DART-Tag scheme.
The M23/A23 artery off the M25 takes you to Sussex. A direct route from London to Brighton, this road can become heavily congested at weekends and at the start of major holidays, because it also serves Gatwick Airport.
Hampshire is served by the M3 off the M25, but can also be accessed using the A35 from the west and the A34 from the north. A collection of A-roads run along the south coast, notably the A259 from Dover to Pevensey (east of Eastbourne), followed by the A27 to Portsmouth and the M27 to Southampton and the New Forest. The route, crossing through the South Downs National Park, is picturesque and much of it uses dual-carriageways, but there are numerous roundabouts and twisting single-carriageway sections too, particularly between Folkestone and Rye.
The A272 between Hampshire and Sussex also runs through the South Downs National Park. This single-carriageway route provides great views of the Downs, but is twisty. Minor roads in Surrey, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire are all perfectly accessible, providing your speed is appropriate to the width of the road.
Access to the Isle of Wight is via Lymington and Portsmouth using Wightlink or Southampton using Red Funnel Ferries when towing a caravan. Both companies often provide ‘ferry and campsite’, ‘caravan goes free’ or other special offers, so it is worth checking. For those pitched on campsites on the mainland wishing to take a day trip to the island, fast speed foot passenger services operate from Southampton, Portsmouth and Southsea.
Roads on the Isle of Wight are fine for towing – but watch out for a narrow and twisty section of A-road between Ventnor and Shanklin on the southeast coast. For one of the best coastal views, follow the Old Military Road (A3055) from Freshwater to Ventnor, hugging Compton and Brighstone Bays (and Isle of Wight Pearl).