Ian Weightman

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Carry on campers

Nothing says “retro” more than a holiday near the seaside, climbing trees, touring in a VW Campervan or staying in a 1950s caravan - while enjoying “lashings of ginger beer”.

Well, “Mercy me!”, if you’re looking for some “jolly japes”, pack your copy of Five go to Treasure Island, and set sail for the Isle of Wight now…the home (amongst other things) of Campervan Holidays, Vintage Vacations and Goodleaf Treeclimbing.

Now in its 10th season, Vintage Vacations is the brainchild of Helen and Frazer Cunningham, who turned their passion for American Airstream caravans and their professional skills as a stylist and a photographer (not to mention a farmer’s field to the south of Ryde) into a fabulous Fifties “bubble”.

Having bought their first Airstream caravan on American eBay “after too many glasses of red wine”, they now own 13 of the streamlined, silver beauties - along with one 1950s British caravan (“Doris”), and a couple of vintage fold-ups.  Elsewhere on the Island, meanwhile, they also offer “The Mission”, “The Shack” and “The Scout Hall” to visitors in search of a full-on retro experience.

But if it’s the first glimpse of the glimmering caravans in the farmer’s field that captures the imagination, then it’s the finishing touches which make it all so truly special: the home-made cakes and Babycham on arrival; the table mats you grew up with in the Sixties; the kettle whistling on the stove; the snakes & ladders left for you to play while you forget what it was like to once watch television!

A few miles further south, just as you leave Shanklin, there’s a bend in the A3055 which causes you to slow down and a flash of colour to the right, which makes you turn your head for your first sight of the fabulous fleet of VW Campervans assembled on the Island by Sarah and Paul Guy.

Based here since 2007, they first got the idea during a holiday nine years earlier to Australia.  “We thought if we could do it here, it would work well.  And we’ve been jolly lucky”.

An amazing business model, it’s also a fantastic holiday experience - attracting visitors to the Island from all parts of the globe.  Visit the Isle of Wight these days and you’re likely to spot ‘Ermintrude’, ‘Sunny’ and ‘Compton’ (the green, yellow and orange VW Campervans) out on the road filled with smiling, happy faces…

Full instructions on how to cope with their tricky gearboxes (tricky in comparison with current-day gearboxes, that is), and delicious home-made cakes, are passed-on to VW Campervan guests on arrival!

And as if that isn’t enough, Goodleaf Treeclimbing can teach anyone aged 8-to-80 how to clamber up trees in a number of safe and secluded locations in the north-eastern corner of the Island.  Dubbed the UK’s recreational tree climbing specialists, they’ve even been featured on the BBC.

Whether you’re keen to drink pop, enjoy a home-made honey-and-ginger ice cream, tuck into a bag of boiled sweets, or visit a vintage craft fair, it’s hard to think of a better place to keep calm, carry-on and read an Enid Blyton novel.

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