‘No groups,’ declared the booking page of our favourite and otherwise very friendly touring caravan park. I quizzed Tony, the owner, on our next visit. “That’s a bit anti-social isn’t it?” I suggested. “Not to mention financially damaging, I would have thought.”
“Actually, quite the opposite,” he explained. “When we allowed multiple numbers of friends or extended families to come to the site, we found that they kept themselves to themselves. The children didn’t mix with those from other families and the adults kept to their little niche. So the site became strangely disjointed.
“With these new rules, kids make new friends, adults barbecue with their neighbours and the whole place feels a lot friendlier.”
He was clearly missing his calling as a sociologist. Had Tony stumbled across the secret to one of the great joys of caravanning – camaraderie? Or was he being a party pooper?
Throwing ourselves into a two-week stay, we set up and surveyed our new immediate neighbours. A good selection of well-used and obviously much-loved tourers, bulging with the flotsam and jetsam of a proper family holiday. Things boded well for Scott and Megan, our eight- and six-year-olds.
Within about 15 seconds, seven-year-old Harry from the adjacent van had bounced over and introduced himself with a beaming smile. Twelve seconds later, his two cousins arrived on their bikes. Nine seconds later, a new ‘gang’ – consisting of these previous strangers and our two – was off to the woods and building dens.
The unpacking of our three guinea pigs and the rabbit into their travel hutches signalled the unofficial opening of the site’s zoo, and the new gang soon grew to around 10 kids. Over the following fortnight, they played together perfectly and would sit in our awning while playing ‘pass the [guinea] pig’ and singing songs. It was magical.
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life became a camp anthem and filled most of our waking hours – and all of this despite the regular downpours of the summer.
There were real tears when the kids said their goodbyes at the end of the two weeks. All the parents agreed that the children’s new friendships had made this the best caravan holiday ever. So much so, that we’ve all agreed to meet in the same place on the same pitches at the same time next year… Just don’t tell Tony!
Visit Martin’s website for information about him, his books and his property training weekends, and follow his adventures on Twitter.
The unpacking of our three guinea pigs and the rabbit into their travel hutches signalled the unofficial opening of the site’s zoo