Life in slow lane with Gaz’s caravan

It’s only one horsepower and the top speed is around 15 mph but Gaz Needham’s latest vehicle really turns heads.

But then his gypsy caravan evokes memories of a calmer era and the clip-clop of his horse’s hoofs brings out passers-by in the streets.

Motorists stop to admire the 8ft tall caravan built by gamekeeper Mr Needham with the help of 15-year-old son Zack at their Ripley home. Many drivers take photos as it passes with red-and-white cob Gypsy Fred providing the power.

“If there are kiddies who look like they are interested, we stop and show them it. They ask questions but usually it’s ‘what is the horse’s name?’

“These caravans are known as bow tops and are a really old design,” said Mr Needham, who bought its base several years ago. This consists of four wheels on two axles and wooden frame - a modest dray which was perfect for a day trip.

In May, he decided to build a caravan on top, making a wooden frame to hold the canvas roof and sides. He painted it in traditional gypsy colours of red, gold and cream. It has long seats inside which easily convert into beds.

Mr Needham has just returned from his first night out under canvas and a starry sky, with wife Kerry and Zack enjoying the trip to a farmer’s field in Denby.

“It took about an hour and a half to get there. Then we had bacon and sausages cooked on the stove before spending the night inside the caravan. We didn’t need a heater as the bow top is lined with carpet. It is lovely and warm,” said Mr Needham. The horse enjoyed his oats and brought the family home the next day after they enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.

When the family has no time for a weekend away, they often take the caravan to a country pub where they enjoy a shandy before heading home.

“He loves his work pulling the caravan. Horses are like dogs - they enjoy having something to do,” added Mr Needham.