England's Campsites Compared to US RV Parks
As I am writing this we are staying at our 24th different overnight location in England in our new motorhome. After nearly three months on the road we are still definitely newbies to this whole European motorhoming thing. Before we set off to other different countries I thought it would be interesting to share our first impressions from our English travels. Warning: Opinions may change in the future.
(Our recent post describes some of the different terms used in the UK versus the US. )
First, let me say I am talking exclusively about England. The options are different in Scotland where wild camping is allowed and there are way less people competing for the available space. So far we have no experience there, or in Wales or Northern Ireland for that matter. We have however stayed in several types of locations in England which fall into a few groups:
- Regular Campsite: Could be independent or operated by one of the two main clubs here in the UK, The Caravan and Motorhome Club (CAMC), or the Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC). They have varied facilities but usually include toilets, showers etc.
- CL or CS site: These are small, privately run camping locations listed by the CAMC (CL) or the CCC (CS). These are typically limited to five camping pitches and have varying degrees of facilities.
- Parking/Wild Camping/Pub Stop: Many British people use the term "wild camping" referring to parking in a lay-by / pull-out or a car park / parking lot for free. We have stayed at a few pubs that allow stop-overs while we are in relocation mode but generally, asphalt parking doesn't have appeal for us here in the UK. I am not going to cover this kind of camping as wild camping in England versus in the US seems to be completely different other than the fact that they are both free of charge.
In this post I am going to give my impressions about regular campsites and compare them to their closest equivalents in the USA; the RV Park or developed campsites.
Things that I like about UK Campsites:
The facilities in almost all the campsites we have stayed at have been immaculate. It seems to be the expectation in the UK as most people don't shower in their rigs. In the US I would not normally use the on site facilities. Most locations we stayed didn't have them and even if they did I would rarely consider using them. I showered 95% of the time while touring the US inside the Airstream. These last few months I have been showering in the campsite facilities most of the time. They are clean, modern and spacious with plenty of hot water - what's not to like? In addition to showers most facilities also have private stalls with sinks. If you just want to clean your teeth or have a proper wash you can do it in private. Many have hairdryers available and electrical outlets if you prefer to use your own. My curly, wild hair dries in its own sweet time so I don't use them but good to know they are there.
In addition to showers and toilets most campgrounds have a dishwashing area. This is sometimes covered or even enclosed so you don't have to be out in the cold when you do the dishes in the off season. This is not a feature I have seen in US sites. Again,we have used these a lot as it saves us using water or filling up our waste tank.
A service I really like here that again isn't in the US, because waste water is treated differently, is drive over drains. They are not in all sites, but some have a huge drainage channel that you just drive over, stop then pull your waste water valve and hey presto, it all dissappears. You don't even have to get out of the van. No faffing about with a grey water hose and looking for a specific dump station.
One other thing that I love about campsites in England are the size of the pitches. Because most of the campsites were designed for caravans the pitches are superwide. They often have to accommodate a caravan, the car that towed it, and an awning that is the same width as the caravan; it's like a triple wide pitch. Also there are strict fire regulations here about how close rigs can be parked next to each other so you are never jammed up next to someone like you might be in the US.
Finally, we have found so many features of campsites here that are fun like pubs on site or food trucks selling pizza or fish & chips depending on the day. One site had a herb garden where I picked some basil for our dinner. There are a lot of things to like.
Things I don't like about English Campsites
Actually there's not much I don't like about them compared to US RV Parks; we rarely ever used RV parks in the US partly because they are not great. People in the UK sometimes complain about the campsites here (well we're British and complaining is kinda one of our things). But I would suggest the complainers spend a night or two and some of the skanky RV parks we have stayed at out in the depths of Asshat, Nevada or Shithole, Arizona. They might realize they are on to a good thing.
But the one thing not to like is that it's tough to truly get out in the wilds here. The US is vast, and we parked in rural locations and out in the boonies all the time. England is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe. While we have some spectacular scenery here and plenty of wide open spaces and opportunities to get out in nature, it's not easy to park a motorhome up for a week in the middle of nowhere with no-one else around. We'll need to head to Scotland for truly wild camping in the UK.
Still, despite my native tendencies, I am not complaining. There will be plenty of time for more wild camping in the future. For now I am content with long warm showers and a massive drain to dump my water in, what else does a girl need.