A motorhome is where the heart is - we check out the new Swift Escape 684
PUBLISHED: 16:49 10 May 2019 | UPDATED: 10:42 14 May 2019
You don't need to leave the country to enjoy a motorhome holiday as Nick Richards found out driving a swanky Swift model around Suffolk and Essex
There's something slightly daunting about being handed the keys to a £50,000+ brand new six metre-long motorhome and being told that it only has 60 miles on the clock.
I had three initial worries - scraping it along another car as I turned a corner, working out how to use all the controls and, lastly, how to deal with the waste from the toilet.
All of these concerns were unfounded as within 10 minutes of driving the 2019 version of the Swift Escape 684, I felt totally at ease (and the toilet bit was all very simple and hygienic).
It made up for the last time I'd driven a similar vehicle. In 2007 I spent three weeks in New Zealand's North Island cruising around with my wife in a bashed up old Toyota van we'd hired based on a thumbnail picture online while still in England. It had a large piece of foam in the back to sleep on and nothing else. We arrived at Auckland's airport and soon saw the massive array of white, modern Maui motorhomes that everyone else was driving and felt like a couple of prize plonkers.
Twelve years on, I finally felt like the king of the road.
Mastering the controls of the Swift really is second nature. It's built on a Fiat chassis and is pretty much the same size as a standard car width-wise. The only thing to remember is that it has six gears, no rear view mirror and the handbrake is by the right pocket of the driver.
Oh and it's long. Very long. Although driving it for three days there really is no awareness of how long it is when you're driving it along a big road like the A12. It's only when you go into a really built up area that you find yourself constantly staring in the side mirrors hoping that you don't hit a pole or a post when turning a corner.
I picked up the beautiful new motorhome from the very friendly Colin at Escape Hire just outside Tiptree. He gave me a full briefing of how to control everything inside, which features a small oven, sink, toilet/shower, fridge, two spacious single beds plus a neat table behind the rotating driver and passenger seats which turns into a small double bed.
It had that lovely smell that comes with a brand new vehicle and sparkling clean upholstery. It made a nice change from the glitter and yoghurt stains on the back seats of my 10-year old hatchback.
There are also cupboards everywhere and more storage that you could imagine, especially as there is a large 'garage' at the back which is large enough for two people to get into - it stored a camping table and four chairs and was the place we told the kids they'd be put if they were naughty.
Even better for me it had a digital radio so I locked on BBC 6 Music and left Colin with a friendly wave.
Getting used to the vehicle I drove it the 30 minutes or so to Homestead Lake Country Park in Weeley, which is a great centre for this industry in East Anglia. Once on site, just plug in the power cable and you've got access to electricity, hot running water and heating.
It's home to Homestead Caravans where you can buy the latest caravan, top up on camping and caravan supplies.
It is also the location of a beautiful camping site (pitches are around £40 a night for a family of four) and has a lovely onsite cafe that does a strapping breakfast - a tasty fry-up is a bargain at £6.95 and is set in a sprawling country park that also has a fishing lake (£5 a day to fish).
I soon got into the camping life and the more we mixed with other campers and heard their tales of driving on the narrow lanes of Cornwall or the Scottish Highlands, the more confidence I had.
I told them in our second location, White House Beach Caravan Club site at Kessingland, that the last half a mile or so had been a bit hairy with a narrow road. They laughed at me and said the more I drove the van, the easier it would be, and it's true. I took it up and down the A12 without any real worry.
The Kessingland site was great (pitches around £45) with lovely clean facilities and the option to literally park the motorhome facing the beach.
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I know the village reasonably well and it's really well set up for children with the intrigue of a wild beach that doesn't have miles of sand and shops, but dunes, rocks, shingle and plenty of options for kicking a ball around, throwing stones, flying kites and just spending quality family time together.
It's the perfect location for nearby Africa Alive, Pleasurewood Hills, RSPB sites at Berny Marshes, Breydon Water and Minsmere and great for walking.
We left the van behind and had fun exploring Southwold on the bus. It's great for the family - fish and chips from The Little Fish and Chip Shop and a luxury ice cream from Harris & James plus the old-fashioned arcade and funny mirrors on Southwold Pier.
Motorhoming gives great freedom and is enormous fun. Driving around small seaside towns in any vehicle can be a bit tricky which is why a bike rack fitted to the back of a motorhome is a good feature.
Young children, like my boys aged six and three, will find it a massive novelty. And it's a novelty that just doesn't wear off.
For the motorhome becomes the central feature of the holiday and although we had some great days out, I sensed they couldn't wait to get back in the van and play.
Older children will love the adventure and for grown-ups, it's that beautiful feeling of being able to arrive on a strange site and having your familiar home with you.
Why not give it a go?
Escape Hire - Escape Hire is based at Tiptree near Colchester. For a week's hire of a Swift Escape motorhome, prices start at £578. Visit www.escapehire.co.uk or call 07563 590436.
Homestead Lake Park - is open until October 31 and has 50 full-service pitches for caravans and motorhomes, from £24 per night in shoulder season based on two adults. Visit www.homesteadlake.co.uk
Caravan and Motorhome Club - The Club has over 200 club sites and 2,500 privately owned places to stay in the UK and over 300 sites across Europe www.caravanclub.co.uk/membership
Homestead Caravan Centre at Weeley is now an authorised dealership for Swift's Escape and Select motorhomes, some of the most popular models in the UK. Visit www.homesteadcaravans.co.uk or call 01255-830229 for more information.
Swift Go - to hire a motorhome from its depot in Stockport, Greater Manchester, visit www.swiftgo.co.uk. For a week's hire of a family-sized motorhome, sleeping up to five, prices start around £700 in low season rising to £1,225 in high season. Motorhomes can be hired for 3 or more nights. Swift Go customers receive temporary membership of the Caravan and Motorhome Club which entitles them to a range of discounted products from site fees to ferry crossings.