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LIVING: CARAVANS: Anchors aweigh at big show.

Byline: MERCURY REPORTER

IT WAS all plain sailing as thousands of people who dream of life on the ocean wave flocked inland to Birmingham.

Record numbers of visitors are expected at the National Boat, Caravan and Outdoor Leisure Show which was launched at the NEC yesterday.

Daredevil SAS man Peter Bray, who kayaked across the Atlantic, and Royal Marine Dom Mee, who is planning to circumnavigate the world via the North and South Poles, officially opened the show. Mr Bray's 24 foot-long rowing boat, which was cut in half by a trawler 800 miles off America's west coast during his first attempt in June 2000, is also on display at the eight-day show, backed by the Sunday Mercury. The 44-year-old adventurer put his narrow escape behind him and became the first man to cross the Atlantic in a kayak on a second attempt last year.

Alongside hundreds of luxury yachts and mobile homes, a purpose-built pint-sized caravan drew lots of attention from younger visitors at the show, which runs until February 24.

Nathan Lyons used to dream of one day owning a luxury caravan, but for now he can enjoy his own quarter-sized model.

It was built by his granddad Terry Clark - one of two he created for his grandchildren.

Mr Clark, of Brough, near Hull - a caravan repairman - decided to build the two 'deluxe' mini caravans after the youngsters joked that they wanted their own.

Last year 116,000 people visited the event, which narrowly escaped the clutches of the foot-and-mouth crisis, but organisers believe attendance figures will hit record levels this year. A wide array of caravans, motor homes, barges and boats are on display to encourage people to think about travelling around the British countryside.

John Dawson, spokesman for the show, said many people were forced to rethink their holiday plans as many mobile homes were grounded during the crisis.

'Last year holiday parks and camp sites were virtually empty as people cancelled trips following the foot-and-mouth outbreak,' he said. 'I think everyone is keen to get back out into the countryside and onto the waterways this year, judging by our early attendance figures.

'But this isn't just about caravans - barges are becoming increasingly popular as people like the idea of cruising along the canals.

'They may be popular but the stars of the show are always the boats, especially the luxury cruisers.'

The show runs to February 24 and is open from 10am to 6pm (7pm at weekend). Tickets are pounds 10 for adults, pounds 6.50 for under 16s and over 60s, and a family ticket costs pounds 30.

CAPTION(S):

THINKING SMALL... Nathan Lyons with his own size caravan, built for him by his grandfather
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 17, 2002
Words:451
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