With the Olympic Games commencing in just six days’ time, England and its charismatic capital are in the world’s spotlight. Lucky winner of the recent campaign to find England’s biggest fan, Rachel Kershaw, is now nearing the end of her dream trip around England in a classic campervan, (‘Rosie’). We caught up with her as she continues to follow the route of the Olympic flame and found out a little about what she has discovered and enjoyed most on her travels…
You are well over half way through your epic tour of England, has it been all that you expected so far? “It’s been everything I hoped it would be and more! I expected to see a lot of England and enjoy some great day trips but some of the experiences have been dreams come true!”
What have been the highlights? “There have been so many highlights: bungee jumping off the Transporter bridge in Middlesborough, taking a gyrocopter flight over lake Ullswater, spending a sunny afternoon on a canal boat in Essex, sailing on Rutland Water, Surfing in Tynemouth and Bournemouth, eating lots of wonderful English food, unearthing hidden gems like Southwold Pier and the Norwich Lanes… the list is endless! I’ve also met lots of wonderful, welcoming people and of course, spending time in my new home, Rosie the camper van, that’s a highlight in itself!”
Are there any destinations that have particularly surprised you? “There are lots of places that have surprised me as I would never have had them down as tourist destinations, places like Stoke on Trent but of course with the potteries and the fantastic Trentham Estate, it really is a great place to visit. I was also surprised by the number of small market towns that are full of history and interest like Bradford on Avon, places like this often get overlooked by tourists because of bigger more well-known destinations nearby but it’s really worth looking beyond the obvious destinations and discovering hidden gems on the outskirts”.
Are you travelling light? What are the most useful things you are carrying with you? “I tried to travel light, arriving in London with just one case, a hold all and a hand bag. However, my luggage has more than trebled in size! Visit England provided me with several cameras, a laptop, hard drives and a tripod, then when I picked up the camper van there was all the camping gear to go with it like chairs, bedding, kettle and so on. Plus I’ve had to buy new clothes along the way because there’s no time for washing and drying, then there’s all the lovely gifts I’ve received from some of the wonderful people I’ve met. So no, I can’t claim to be travelling light but without a doubt I couldn’t have survived without my trusty sat nav and phone, oh and the kettle, I need a brew in the morning to get going!”
Not everyone knows just how good food in England can be – what’s the best meal you’ve had on the road so far? “I love English food! We’ve got some amazing chefs in this country. I really enjoyed The Fusion Brasserie in Worcertershire, Terrea Terre in Brighton, L’Enclume in the Lake District, Roger Hickman’s in Norwich and Rocksalt in Folkestone, but I think my favourite meal has to be the BBQ I cooked myself at the camp site in Worcerstershire – all the meat was sourced locally from an award-winning village butcher, I had delicious Evesham asparagus and even used English Rapeseed oil on my locally grown salad. The sun was shining too, it was perfect!”
Could you choose a favourite: English coast, towns or countryside? “Argh, that’s a really difficult one but I think I’m happiest by the coast. I especially love the Northumberland coastline and always feel very peaceful there”.
Where are you headed next? “London, baby! I’m going to check out Camden and Hampstead in the North of the city and enjoy some of the well known attractions in the city centre”.
What are you most looking forward to out of the remaining destinations? “I think Hampstead Heath will be nice, I’ve never been there before but I like the idea of losing myself in an idyllic park while urban London goes about its usual routine just beyond the park gates”.
Have you got any top tips for others planning to camp or campervan around England? “Go off the beaten track, discover your own hidden gems! Try things you wouldn’t normally, whether that be food, sport, museums or attractions – you might just find a new passion in life. Talk to people, England is such a friendly country and everyone has a tale to tell! Leave your vanity at home (I’m actually wearing socks with sandals as I write this!!) and be an early bird, I am not naturally a morning person but you can cram more in to the day if you ditch the lie in. Have fun and enjoy!”
You can follow Rachel’s adventure at www.visitenglandblog.com/faninavan/ Rosie has been provided by O’Connors Campers, and Rachel has been staying in the Camping and Caravanning Club’s sites across England. www.visitengland.com and www.visitlondon.com will come in useful for those planning a trip themselves.