NEW ROSS STANDARD NEWSPAPER...Wednesday August 15 2007 Driving motorhomers around the bend YOU would want to be blind not to have noticed the explosion in the number of motorhomes on our roads in the last few years. What was once a slightly eccentric and somewhat hippy-ish way of seeing the world has now become very much mainstream and this explosion in popularity is bringing to light some major shortcomings in our little country's attitude to those for whom this is the chosen mode of holidaying. Having been a motorhomer' myself for quite a while now, I have first-hand experience of these shortcomings so I feel justified in a little rant on behalf of myself and my fellow travellers/sufferers. Céad Míle Fáilte' just does not apply if you're a motorhomer trying to make your way around Ireland a hundred-thousand unwelcomes would be more apt. And Wexford is probably one of the first places that those attempting to holiday in Ireland in a motorhome find out just how unwelcome they are. The needs of the motorhomer are few. The vehicles themselves are pretty much self-sufficient - most modern motorhomes have fridge, toilet, shower; some even have their own generator, satellite TV and other creature-comforts. What they do need, first and foremost, is someplace safe and secure to pull-in, either for a short meal/shopping break or an overnight stay. Unlike a caravan, which can be unhitched from the car and left, the motorhome is your only means of getting around so ease of access is crucial. And this is where they immediately run into problems. All lay-bys on our national primary routes have height restrictors, as do most carparks in towns and at beaches, beauty-spots, etc. If we don't have height restrictors, Travellers will move in and set up camp. And so we get an Irish solution to an Irish problem. Instead of dealing directly with those who are refusing to abide by laws or bye-laws, the solution is to make the innocent suffer and drive away money-spending tourists. So the motorhomers arrive in Rosslare Harbour on the ferry from either Britain or France. They take the N11 and they immediately encounter lay-bys with height restrictors. Not welcome here. They might make a detour into Wexford town, as the first town they encounter along their way. If they arrive after six o'clock in the evening the one carpark that they might be able to use along the quayfront will have a barrier down because it closes for the night. If they arrive during the day its more than likely full anyway. If they're very lucky they'll find a space on the outskirts. The more intrepid motor-homer will venture deeper into the town and maybe find a place in a residential area. Often as not, they'll just give up and move on. This is not a problem unique to Wexford. Im just back from two weeks motorhoming around Ireland and the experience is the same in pretty much every town we tried to stop in. We spent about twenty minutes following blue 'P' signs in Cavan town only to find we were being directed to a multi-storey carpark. If it hadn't been for a spacious Lidl carpark we would have given up altogether. And so the Germans got our money! In Kells we wanted to stop but ended up just giving up on it, although in fairness the town seemed to be nothing more than a long traffic jam flanked by shops on either side. Navan is obviously a go-ahead town. A shopping centre on the scale of an American mall has just opened with parking spaces for seemingly zillions of cars but not one of them accessible to a motorhome. I pulled into a bus bay to allow my better half pop into a chemists but was quickly moved along, despite my protestations that there was just nowhere else to park. Driving from Donegal to Cavan we passed through Co. Fermanagh, part of the UK, and it was extraordinary to see immaculately-kept lay-bys with picnic tables and litter bins all along the banks of Lough Erne and not a height-restrictor in sight! So what should we be doing to accommodate this new breed of tourist? How about taking a leaf out of the book of our nearest European mainland neighbours. The French know the value of motorhomers and every little town worth its salt has an aire'. This is a municipal area close to or in the town where motorhomes can park overnight on their way to wherever. Most of these have running water and sanitation facilities; some even have free electricity hook-ups. It's amazing to witness them filling up with motorhomes as the evening goes on. By morning they've all gone with not so much as a scrap of litter left behind. In St. Malo, the main town carpark does not allow motorhomes during the day, but from 5 p.m. onwards they are permitted to park there, provided they are gone by 9 a.m. the following morning. This model could be applied perfectly to the aforementioned carpark on Wexford quays. This carpark closes at 6 p.m. and doesn't open until 8 a.m. the following morning. Wouldn't it be a great idea to make it available to motor-homers during the hours that it's closed? The Americans also have it all down pat. We motorhomed in California a few years ago and, with carparks as big as football stadiums, parking of course was never a problem. But Walmart supermarkets allowed you to stay overnight in their carparks for free. Tesco please take note! What the powers that be in these countries and no doubt countries throughout the rest of Europe appreciate is that motorhomers spend money. Besides you can fit a lot more into a motorhome than you can into a suitcase, so they're not restricted on what they can take home with them. Ireland is also very poorly served by camping parks. There are only four listed for the whole of county Wexford. It stands to reason that our small population and relatively small amount of tourists cannot sustain parks on the scale that one sees in the likes of France. But, as I said earlier, all that's really required is someplace safe and secure to park overnight. So here's a thought for our many struggling rural publicans. Most rural pubs have huge carparks attached. Why not develop part of the carpark into the equivalent of a French aire'. All that's required is running water and maybe some power points. They then have a captive audience who will more than likely spend some time and money in their pub. Somebody soon has got to wake up to the fact that if we start to make things a bit easier for this new breed of tourist, it could prove a boon to our tourism industry. Ireland has all the great scenery and beauty spots, we just need to make it easier for people to visit them.