In 2008 we headed off to France in our trusty Compass Suntor. Being our first foray into Europe there were many things we didn’t get right about that trip, but one of the things we did was purchasing a copy of France Passion. The scheme allows Motorhomes (or ‘Camping Cars’ en francais) to stay at vineyards and farms across France free of charge. The hope is, of course, that in exchange for a stop over guests will spend a little money with the owner and in our case we literally had to chase the owner down to sell us some wine!
|A France Passion |
(in France, surprisingly)
The scheme should be no surprise to anyone who has ever been to France as the humble Camping car is deeply ingrained in the French culture. When was the last time you saw a sign with a motorhome on in the UK? Anyone attempting to get such a scheme up and running back in blighty surely had their work cut out for them. You see, something about our culture seems to dictate that motorhomes belong on campsites along with caravans and tents and forget that the majority are totally independent in terms of water, waste and electricity. Buying and running a motorhome is expensive enough already in our view, without having to shell out £25+ a night for a site likely miles away from anywhere.
|The brute of a book, you'll hear that|
drop through your letterbox!
Enter Steve and Mandy from Brit Stops
. After embarking on a similar trip to France they set about getting a British motorhome stopover scheme off the ground. Unperturbed by the lack of understanding of the concept in the UK by potential hosts or motorhome owners alike, they began the arduous task of educating and compiling a list of willing hosts and formatting the information in an easy to navigate book for the benefit of their members. We've been using this book with great success, hindered only by our lack of free time due to work commitments.
Now entering its fourth year the book, still with a cover price of £25, now contains over 350 locations where you can stay for free with no obligation.
|Farm Shop Stopover|
While it was perhaps inevitable that many of the locations are pubs and restaurants, as many farm shops, British vineyards and quirky locations have been included along the way. In the spirit of France Passion the hosts agree not to make guests feel in any way obliged to spend with them, this is obviously the hope and many visitors do just that. We arrive at such a stop feeling ‘up’ on the day and so even if its a few beers in the bar of an evening, a hearty breakfast from a farm shop or some fresh local produce to stock up the vans pantry we may spend a little or a lot depending on how the mood takes us.
Services aren't always available, however some hosts are able to offer water or waste and some even electric (occasionally for a small charge) and so if that is a consideration there will likely be a host that can accommodate you. Each entry in the book clearly details what is available, their location, a description of the stopover, directions and any special information such as a tight entrance. Sometimes it is required that you call ahead and if you were travelling far perhaps that might be advisable anyway.
So, what’s stopping you from Googling for a pub yourself and phoning ahead asking if you can stay?
Nothing, of course, but if like us you've tried that approach in the past you’ll no doubt find yourself having to explain your intentions to a baffled shop assistant or drive 200 miles to find the owner failed to mention the carpark slopes 45 degrees and he’s already put you down for three courses in the restaurant- we've been there. However, should you find a hidden gem, Brit Stops actively encourages you to submit locations you have found for the benefit of other members and if they make it into the book you are rewarded with a free copy next year. Win-Win!
You could say that one nights free stopover pays for the book,
however I prefer to think of it as having the freedom to be able to spend some of the money we would have used on site fees (after all, if you close your blinds you could be anywhere!) to being able to enjoy a drink, meal or even just a loaf of fresh bread without starting the day out of pocket. For many it won’t replace sites, but its an excellent way to break up a journey or enjoy a couple of impromptu days away.
With the 2014 edition published in February, now is the perfect time to purchase a copy and put it to good use over the summer.
For more information and to buy online, visit www.britstops.com