Planning the perfect city break
Our Club sites can allow you to enjoy a city break on a budget. Here Sammy Faircloth stays at Abbey Wood in London and lists some top tips for visiting the capital and other UK cities.
You would never guess that the leafy Abbey Wood Club site is so close to central London
You don’t have to spend lots of money on a posh hotel to enjoy a city break – you can take your caravan, motorhome or campervan! For some people, the thought of navigating busy roads with a larger outfit can seem daunting, but with a bit of planning there’s no reason why you can’t pitch up close to the action.
To prove this point we paid a visit to Abbey Wood Club site in south-east London. This charming, wooded location offers peace and tranquillity yet is just a short walk and train ride from the big city. Relaxing on a beautiful spring afternoon, we were even entertained by wild ring-necked parakeets flying overhead!
Here are my tips for planning a break in – or within reach of – our larger cities.
Emission zones have been introduced in some of our cities with the aim of improving air quality. London introduced the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in 2008 and this was followed by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019. Depending on whether your vehicle meets certain emissions and safety standards (this includes motorhomes), daily charges apply if you drive into these areas. The Abbey Wood site is currently in a Low Emission Zone, and luckily we did not have to pay a daily charge for our towcar.
Check where emission zones apply and the potential charges before planning your route
It is important to note that, from October 2021, the ULEZ is being widened to cover the area up to the North and South Circular Roads. While there are no Club sites within this expanded ULEZ, make sure you check before you travel through it whether daily charges apply to your vehicle. This can be done on the Transport for London (TfL) website at tfl.gov.uk.
For other cities, check with local councils before travelling. Birmingham, for example, has introduced a daily charge for high-polluting private cars (£8 per day) in its Clean Air Zone, while Leeds has suspended plans to introduce a similar zone. To check the details for the CAZs in Birmingham and Bath (with one in Portsmouth due to begin in late 2021) go to gov.uk/clean-air-zones.
Some satnavs allow you to input the details of your outfit before plotting suitable routes
Make sure you plan your route properly before setting off. We use the Avtex Tourer Two Sat Nav, (available to buy from Club Shop, with a saving for members – see shop.camc.com), which allows you to input the details of your outfit before plotting suitable routes. One word of warning: we found that it tried to take us through London rather than via the M25. Although this was the quickest route at the time, and an acceptable journey for a car and caravan, when the ULEZ changes in October 2021, you might incur a charge.
To reach Abbey Wood Club site, our journey took us over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge over the Thames (aka the Dartford Crossing). Tolls are required for this and its neighbour, the Dartford Tunnel, between 6am and 10pm daily – you need to pay online by midnight the day after you cross (there are no toll booths). Visit gov.uk/pay-dartford-crossing-charge for information on charges and how to pay.
Abbey Wood station is a short walk from the Club site and takes you straight into central London
From Abbey Wood Club site, it was an easy walk to Abbey Wood train station, from which the journey to central London took less than 30 minutes.
Alternatively, you can take the train to Woolwich Arsenal, then walk for 10 minutes to Woolwich (Royal Arsenal) Pier and catch the Uber Boat into central London. You’ll pass under the iconic Tower Bridge on your way into the city, before other famous landmarks come into view. The kids loved it! Visit thames clipper.com for information on payment options.
For those who enjoy a leisurely stroll, the Thames Path is easily accessible and weaves its way along the river into central London. Visit the National Trail website (nationaltrail.co.uk) for more information. Cycling fans may prefer to negotiate National Route 4 from the Cutty Sark at Greenwich to Tower Bridge. It’s just under five miles and, should you prefer a more relaxing return to site, the Uber Boat from Tower Pier back to Woolwich (Royal Arsenal) is a great option as bikes are permitted on board at no extra charge.
Have the dimensions of your outfit close to hand in case you come across a low bridge or barrier
Ideally you want to use a sat-nav that takes into account the length, width and height of your vehicle, and will avoid routes with applicable height restrictions. However, it is always a good idea to keep the measurements of your outfit to hand to prevent any embarrassing meetings with low-level bridges or barriers.
The Club offers locations close to city centres all over the UK. These little havens of green space are perfect for a rest following a busy day’s exploration. Do your research beforehand and there is no reason you cannot enjoy a relaxing – and exhilarating – break.
For a full list of city-based Club sites, visit caravanclub.co.uk/whats-on/caravan-club-news/UK-city-breaks.