Is that a boat or a caravan park bobbing down the Thames? Actually, it’s a mix of both.
While it might look like the aftermath of a flash flood ripping through the capital, the reality is it’s the dream staycation for TV presenter and former Countryfile host Julia Bradbury, who also happens to be the president of the Camping and Caravanning Club.
This year is the modest caravan’s centenary year, and the TV star decided the best way to mark the occasion was to host a party on the UK’s first ever floating campsite before spending a night alone on one in the middle of the river just yards from Tower Bridge.
Castaway camper: TV presenter and former Countryfile host Julia Bradbury prepares for her night alone staying on the first ever floating campsite on the River Thames
It’s far from your usual view while out sightseeing at one of London’s most visited landmarks, but commuters and tourists crossing the famous bridge have been getting a first-hand look at what a campsite island looks like.
This is Money’s Rob Hull visited Julia and her boat-bound home away from home for the night and discovered it has all the comforts you’d expect from a traditional British campsite.
Rob Hull caught up with Julia Bradbury ahead of her unusual camping excursion. She sounded a little concerned about other boats through the night
The boat-bound campsite has everything you’d expect to find on land – a caravan, trees, a tent and a barbecue
Julia hosted evening drinks on the floating caravan site on Tuesday evening, which was attended by fellow TV presenters Eamonn Holmes and Jenni Falconer
Her accommodation for a slightly choppy – and very loud when you consider the number of boats on the Thames – night is the latest in camping luxury: an Eccles 560 caravan kitted out with a large double bed, ensuite shower and fully-equipped kitchen.
Not only that, if you download a smartphone app you can control its interior lights, hot water and heating. Who said camping was behind the times?
It’s certainly far from the first car-towed caravan that was ever produced back in 1919 – which was also manufactured by Eccles.
Outside, there’s trees, a barbecue, deck chairs, lighting, bunting and a Field Candy tent, which is said to ‘feature the World’s Smallest Pub design’. We wouldn’t recommend trying to prop up the bar.
On Tuesday eveningm Julia hosted drinks with a selection of the camping club’s members, her family and a few close friends, including celebrities such as fellow presenters Eamonn Holmes and Jenni Falconer.
However, they were all ushered to dry land at around 8pm, leaving the outdoors ambassador to spend the night alone on the castaway campsite in the middle of the Thames.
The floating caravan looks slightly out of place bobbing up and down on the Thames among the raft of working and tourist boats
Julia Bradbury told This is Money and Mail Online that she was looking forward to waking up to the beautiful view of Tower Bridge on Wednesday morning
Ahead of her river staycation, Julia told This is Money: ‘I’m really excited for it. There’s a freedom with camping and caravanning that, in theory, means you can go anywhere, including lots of usual places. And this highlights it.’
Not that we would recommend bedding down for the night in a caravan on the Thames, of course.
‘There are a few large boats around, but I should be fine,’ Julia tells us apprehensively.
The stunt (a word rarely combined with camping) signaled the launch of the club’s National Camping and Caravanning Week – an annual event designed to showcase the benefits of enjoying the great outdoors.
‘National Camping and Caravanning Week is all about inspiring the nation to get outdoors whether that’s through caravanning, motorhoming or traditional tent camping,’ she said.
‘And we’re all more aware than ever that getting into the great outdoors is good for our mental health and well as being great fun.’
Julia added: ‘Caravanning is easier than you might think and offers the freedom to tour and enjoy our wonderful countryside.
‘Today’s caravans have all your modern home comforts and luxuries – they have come a very long way since those early pioneering caravans – and today represent a great British success story.’
Breakfast with a view: At least the commute into London will be fairly easy for Julia Bradbury on Wednesday morning
The floating campsite not only celebrated 100 years of the first caravan but also marked the beginning of Camping and Caravanning Week 2019
Plenty of Britons are getting onboard, with the club’s membership growing by a whopping 76 per cent in the last decade.
Julia Bradbury’s 3 top tips for camping virgins
1. Go with someone who has done it before
It really helps if you have a mate or a family member who has been and done it so they can show you the ropes, even if it’s a caravan and not a tent.
The great thing about camping is the comradery and teamwork. There’s a lot of planning that goes with it, so it helps to learn from someone with a little experience.
2. Be willing to go somewhere new
There are so many incredible locations across the UK that you simply might not have thought about going to.
Think outside of the box, get a map out and find somewhere that takes your fancy.
3. Take these much-needed provisions
Definitely take hand sanitiser, as you never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll touch. And never travel without biodegradable wet wipes, too – though they’re not really biodegradable and can’t be flushed, so take them home and dispose of them correctly.
In total there are 720,000 club members to date – a fairly staggering number, much to the frustration of impatient motorists who get stuck behind them and their caravans on the road.
And it also means the outdoor industry is no small economy – and is one sector that’s likely to benefit greatly from Brexit.
In fact, it’s a £9.3billion sector that supports 171,448 full-time jobs in the UK, according the the latest figures.
And now it’s ripe for acceleration, says Julia.
‘Brexit has already had an impact. Travel companies in the last few weeks have been saying bookings are down and are getting themselves into financial trouble, simply because people are afraid to book trips away.
‘Holidaymakers have genuine concerns about their passports, airport queues, where they’re allowed to travel, currency and the expense of going abroad as a whole.
‘That’s made people think: you know what, the New Forest is gorgeous, the Highlands are beautiful, the Lake District is stunning, the Thames is lovely. Well, maybe not so much the Thames.’
It’s not the first time Julia has gone to the extreme to celebrate the start of Camping and Caravanning Week (which takes place from 27th May to 2nd June this year) during her six-year tenure as president of the club.
To mark the beginning of the 2016 event she camped in a tent at the top of the O2 Arena – a move she’s not prepared to repeat any time soon.
Julia Bradbury said more people should consider camping holidays because the great outdoors is good for our mental health
Julia Bradbury enjoying a spot of yoga on the boat. Plenty of commuters and tourists will get to witness her morning routine on Wednesday
‘I got about two hour’s sleep that night,’ she explained.
‘It was freezing cold and the wind was whipping under the tent, which was latched down to the top of the building, and buffeting away throughout.’
This time around Julia said she hoped for a slightly more comfortable night, and reckons she’ll be up first thing in the morning for a yoga session out on the lawn – which will come with a fairly substantial audience of Londoners (and those living in the flats overlooking the river).
‘It’s going to be lovely waking up seeing that early morning buzz of London,’ she told us. ‘I can’t wait for it.’
Fancy winning a free caravan worth £26,500?
To celebrate 100 years of the caravan, the Camping and Caravanning Club is giving away a new Eccles 560 caravan (the same as what Julia Bradbury slept in on the floating campsite) and Vango awning, worth £26,500.
The club is also asking caravanners to share photos of why they love caravanning on social media using #lovemycaravan to be in with a chance of winning an Outwell awning.
Visit www.nccw.co.uk for competition details and offers.
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