Living the stream: glamping in an American Airstream caravan… in Somerset | Glamping
“They changed my life,” says Nick Monckton, proudly inspecting his restored Airstream trailers.
There is no doubt that the vintage caravans look great in the Somerset landscape, with barbecue, lounge chairs and fire pits, and a few horses grazing nearby. But Nick doesn’t just have a pleasurable glamping experience – he really turned his life around for these brilliant trailers.
Five years ago Nick was an IT manager in London who had spent decades working in software. Then he went to a festival and fell in love.
“I got to the age where I didn’t want to be on the ground anymore when I was camping – I needed to elevate myself and have some comfort,” he says. “But I didn’t want a crappy trailer with plastic trim and flimsy planks. Then I saw one at a festival and had a revelation. An Airstream was exactly what I wanted – a sleek and beautiful design, an aluminum chassis and that cool 1950s Americana. ”
The problem was, a new Airstream comes in for a not-so-cool price of $ 100,000 and up. So Nick went to Florida to find some old ones that he could ship and restore instead.
“It was easy for me because my dad, Ken, has lived there for years, near Fort Lauderdale, where they were doing Airstreams. So I went to visit him and borrowed his vintage green convertible Jaguar to take a boondock tour to see if there were any old Airstreams for sale. The Florida sun is very effective in preserving them, although I bought one that had bullet holes.
However, it was not always easy to start negotiations: “I felt a little embarrassed to lead up to an old boy on a porch in a green Jag and with my English accent -” Damn, you talk funny , my boy ”- so it took a moment to put them at ease.
Nick, a beefy and jovial giant himself, clearly managed to exert his charm and ended up with a fleet of Airstreams, which he sent back to England. “They were too big for a container so I had to pay for the ‘roll on / roll off’ in Southampton – but at least because they don’t have an engine there was very little duty. ‘import.”
Then he rolled up his sleeves and got to work restoring them. “I quit my IT job and started renting the Airstreams for festivals.” Due to their aerodynamic shape and lightweight aluminum body, they are particularly suitable for towing.
When the pandemic hit, however, the festival market’s fund fell. Nick decided to move to Somerset and set up two Airstreams more permanently at Brookover Farm near Frome as a glamping experience – calling it, inevitably, GlamStreams.
I’m in a nine-yard rookie called Beth, after Florida woman Nick bought it when he saw it abandoned in her field. The feel of the riveted blue aluminum reminds me of a small airplane. Inside, the Airstream immediately feels more spacious than an average caravan, with a lot more headroom. With the oval shape, it avoids that boxy feeling I remember from my experiences of a British caravan in Suffolk – as well as those strips of laminated plastic that always peeled off interior walls.
Nick installed solar panels and low voltage electricity and followed strict green principles. Its goal has been to produce vans that can be off-grid to minimize their impact. All Airstreams have waterless compost toilets so you can take them to remote places (or, for that matter, festivals).
When restoring them, it only used original parts recycled from other Airstreams – such as the instantly recognizable aluminum panels – rather than new parts. All wood products, such as countertops, come from FSC-certified suppliers, and he has paid for appliances built to last on the grounds that “built-in obsolescence is immoral.” Even the frying pans have plant-based coatings and are recyclable. The furniture is all second-hand, with a 50’s and 60’s vibe.
Nick also set up workshops to restore and maintain the trailers, choosing to use abandoned farm buildings that did not need a new building. Every few years, Airstreams need a polish, like silverware, to restore their patina.
It’s a pretty nice camping experience – I certainly don’t feel like a trailer trash, more royalty on a trailer. There is the Little River Mells nearby, with pleasant walks and swimming spots, while the Orchardleigh Estate and Lake are nearby, as are the Macmillan Way, Bath, Glastonbury and Wells.
But while there is plenty to do during the day, nothing beats returning at night to a field of twinkling Airstreams beside the night lights, as if a bit of Texas had suddenly come to Somerset. Nick has carefully outfitted the trailers with cocktail shakers and a bluetooth system, so you can mix up a dry martini and toast both the sunset and Wally Byam, the man who designed these ‘land sailboats and trailers. travel ‘in the 1930s (as the brass plaque next to the door tells you). Maybe with Elvis humming I can’t help but believe in stereo.