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YourLife: Have caravan - well travel; HOLIDAYS: Couple have last laugh as hitting the open road becomes fashionable way to take a break.

Byline: KAREN HAMBRIDGE

APPARENTLY caravanning has become cool. New research reveals that lucky caravanners get away for one-sixth of every year - that is a whole two months away from home.

While Bank Holidays may mean a trip to the garden centre for the bulk of the population, caravanners and campers are off enjoying the great outdoors.

So just what is the attraction?

KAREN HAMBRIDGE speaks to an avid caravanner to find out.

WHILE much of the population dithers over what to do every Bank Holiday there is a group of people who know exactly what their long weekend will entail.

They are a growing club of campers and caravanners who snap up every chance to get out and about.

David Wilkes is a prime example. He and his wife Marlene are seasoned caravanners. Almost every weekend when the weather is fair (which surprisingly is pretty often) the couple, from Welford on Avon, just outside Stratford, prepare their van and pack off to pastures new.

David, aged 57, a mechanic who owns a garage in Birmingham, is an active member of the Coventry-based Camping and Caravanning Club and holds the post of National Youth chairthree other Coventry priman.

It means that as well as jaunts away with 60-year-old Marlene, he has official responsibilities to think about.

Regular meets with young camping and caravanning enthusiasts are all part of his vacationing routine.

And encouraging new blood into the fold is a cause dear to David's heart.

"To see all the youngsters enjoying themselves is fantastic," said David. "They play volleyball, football, they're smashing kids, they all get on and have a great time."

In their time, David and Marlene have witnessed everything from pagan well-dressing ceremonies to small village festivals to the natural beauty of waterfalls and woods.

"I had been a keen camper since I was 16," explained David. "I just enjoyed the outdoor life.

"Then as I got older, work took over and I was working seven days a week.

"Marlene complained that I wasn't spending much time with our two daughters so we decided to go off camping for a weekend.

"We had a terrific time. Then we swapped to caravanning. It was easier for Marlene to get everything ready in the van so we could just drive off after I finished work on Friday.

"Our younger daughter Amanda still goes camping with her boyfriend and the girls are always reminiscing about the places we went to.

"It's such a great thing for children' they see and experience places and events they wouldn't normally. It helps them grow and expands their knowledge."

Of course, David is aware that some people scoff at what they consider a down market kind of vacation. But he is undeterred.

"Obviously you are tight on space so you do have to be tidy, but when you are actually in the caravan it doesn't feel that small. You adapt.

"Our bed is 6ft by 6ft, quite large by any standards, although we do have to make it up each night out of the daytime seats.

"Admittedly the bathroom is cosy, but there is a shower, washbasin, toilet and hot and cold running water.

"After all, you are only there for a few days at a stretch.

"And what could be better than being out in the countryside, in the company of like-minded people, enjoying a drink as the sun sets?

"You get to see beautiful locations and watch all manner of wildlife and witness all manner of events and natural wonders. It's marvellous.

"We have had other holidays than in the van. I like scuba diving and so we have been to the Maldives, but most of our holidays are in the tent or in the caravan.

"We simply pack up and shoot off. What could be better?"

CAPTION(S):

ENJOYING THE GREAT OUTDOORS... David and Marlene Wilkes outside their caravan.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:May 22, 2006
Words:646
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