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WHY WE'RE NOW A NATION OF CARA FANS.

Byline: By DAVID EDWARDS

THEY conjure up rainy holidays in muddy fields, have been the butt of thousands of jokes but suddenly the caravan is cool - ask Kate Moss!

She is on a list of celeb caravanners that includes Robbie Williams, Jamie Oliver and Jay Kay. Sales are soaring and at least a million of us will hitch up and holiday under a tin roof on wheels this year.

The industry is worth pounds 16billion a year and more and more Brits are pooh-poohing package holidays and flocking to the UK's 3,000 caravan sites.

Nikki Nichol, of the Caravan Club, gushes: "It's the ideal holiday and you don't even need to plan it. Just pack your things on a Friday night, drive off and have the most fantastic break, discovering the countryside along the way.

"I've been a caravanner for many years and I've never got bored of it."

Online classified site Freeads this week revealed the number of caravans on sale at the site has doubled in the past six weeks, with secondhand models available from around pounds 2,000.

Site spokesman Duncan Horton admits: "Some probably won't be happy with this news as caravans are often considered the scourge of motorists everywhere, but the reality is they offer a great value way of getting away from it all.

"When the weather is good here, there is no better place to go on holiday. And at the moment the notion of keeping things simple, and returning to modest pleasures such as caravanning is very appealing for a lot of people."

And the caravan has green cred too. News of its rehabilitation was welcomed by Friends Of The Earth, which says carbon emissions from aircraft are a major contributor to global warming. Campaigner Tony Bosworth says: "Increasing awareness of climate change might be encouraging people to holiday at home. This is welcome."

It's all a far cry from a few years ago when caravanning was seen as a throwback to postwar Britain.

Now the Caravan Club, which celebrates its centenary this year, has a million members with other caravanners including Jennifer Ellison, Lorraine Kelly and Nell Me Andrew.

When the first caravan rolled off the production line in the Victorian age, nobody could have predicted quite how popular it would become.

But the public quickly latched on to its possibilities. The Club formed in 1907 with the group's annual general meeting in Ipswich making the front page of the Daily Mirror six years later.

As the outdoor movement became more and more popular, Britain's maverick caravanners risked jail with mass trespasses against landowners blocked paths to moorlands and uplands.

Today, the Sussex-based club has nearly 360,000 member households, with today's caravan offering every imaginable convenience.

In February, the club unveiled the winner of its Caravan Of The Future, designed by Paul Burchill and Herve Delaby from Bristol. The Cargo S won plaudits for its aerodynamic design, plentiful headroom, which made it feel much larger, a lightweight aluminium body and a rear that slid out into a fabric-topped veranda.

"The image that some people have, that there's something a bit sad about it, is a very long way from the reality," insists Ms Nichol.

"Caravanning is a great leveller. You meet people of all ages and from all parts of society and nobody cares who you are of what you do."

THE first purpose built touring caravan, The Wanderer, was built by the Bristol Wagon Company in 1885.

IT was not until 1919 that a caravan was hitched to a car. Before then they'd been horsedrawn.

BETWEEN 1971 and 1974, a Notts firm sold Caraboats that could be used as, yes, floating holiday homes.

Caravan derives from the Persian word caravanserai or karwansiray meaning a home or shelter for caravans.

THE most expensive motorhome is the Teschner XLII Prevost Ultimate Class which costs pounds 1.16million and has a granite floor.

THE Squidget is thought to be the smallest, and cosiest, commercial caravan at just 5ft wide and 12ft long.

david.edwards@mirror.co.uk

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 15, 2007
Words:680
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