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Retired Morston carpenter builds Gypsy caravan

09:14 27 January 2014

Richard Newton and his gipsy caravan that he made from scratch. 
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Richard Newton and his gipsy caravan that he made from scratch. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

For some people, retirement is a time for sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the simpler things in life.

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But at 75, retired Richard Newton shows no sign of stopping or taking a back seat.

The former carpenter and joiner has hand-built a bow-top Gypsy caravan from scratch – weighing a tonne.

And with help from his friend, 81-year-old John Ratcliffe, he has begun work on an even bigger project – a houseboat.

Mr Newton, who lives at Langham, near Holt, with his wife Alison, 54, and 14-year-old son Finlay, said keeping active was the only way to stay young.

He said: “When I retired I thought, shall I sit at home and stare at the wall or shall I get on with something?”

It was a trip to Gressenhall that gave the grandfather of two the idea to begin the year-long project. “I saw it as a challenge and just got on with it,” he said.

A horse-dealer friend provided a tumbledown cart with rusted iron fittings and Mr Newton began building a frame to fit. “I bought a couple of books on Gypsy life and how they lived and did it from there – one bit at a time,” he said.

He has kept the caravan’s design traditional, with the stove by the door and the bed at the back.

Step-daughter Sarah-Jane, 31, painted the cockerel and horse decoration after Mr Newton applied seven coats of paint. But £12,000 and 12 months later, Mr Newton has no plans to use the caravan, and it is parked at a boatyard in Morston.

“I have made it and that’s satisfaction enough for me but now I have no idea what to do with it,” he said.

“My main interest was seeing if I could make one, and it won’t be going anywhere because I don’t know anything about horses.”

Although the caravan could fetch up to £30,000, Mr Newton has no plans to part ways with his new project, and it is used as a den by his teenage son and friends.

He said: “Finlay is an outdoors boy – he won’t let me sell it, but he’ll have to if I get hard up enough.”

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