Tuesday, 30 August 2011


The day had arrived (Saturday 20th) for our last planned outing of the season, to sunny Cornwall, or wet and very windy Cornwall as we have experienced in past August’s of yester years! Steadies raised, motor mover engaged, no cars blocking our way, and we were off. It was an uneventful journey other than a very busy M5 (in both directions) around the Exeter area. Our chosen destination was the CC site at Trewethett Farm located between Boscastle and Tintagel. Our first challenge was to locate a pitch with one of the spectacular views overlooking the sea and cliffs, but of course they had all been taken, so we had to settle for second best. Next challenge, to put up the awning in strong winds or wait 24 hours until someone moved from a prime spot which we could move to without having to dismantle and re-erect  again, we opted to stay put, wrong! The next morning one of our neighbours departed from a perfect spot, just 20 yards away. Should we, shouldn’t we, a half hour heated discussion took place but we agreed with the assistance of our trusty motor mover it would be a piece of cake to move the short distance from pitch 8 to pitch 6, wrong! With Wifey supporting the still attached (minus pegs and strengthening bars) awning and motor mover engaged, we commenced our simple manoeuvre, we got stuck half way between the two pitches as the motor mover couldn’t cope with the slight incline and wet ground. Plan B, re connect the car and tow it up. That worked but then we couldn’t disconnect the van from the car, and again when we re- engaged the motor mover, it wouldn’t move it the short distance. With the jockey wheel now driven 6 inches into the soft ground, we decided it was going to have to be good enough. The weather improved and we both agreed our now aching limbs were a small price to pay for the great views.  BBQ’s were enjoyed, a tipple or two partaken, and relaxing in the sun made it all worthwhile. We have an electrical connectivity problem with the van road lights “flickering” on our return journey which we suspect is as a result of the wires connecting car to van being unceremoniously separated with some force when the two parted company when not properly hitched on our recent trip to Devon! Some of the more annoying aspects of the van over 2011 has been the blind in the door which has broken again, a shower that has a drain that doesn’t take away the water unless “perfectly” level (why not have a sloping type wet room floor with a central drain!!!??) and the fridge that goes into numerous modes other than those selected every time I help out with the dishes at the sink! Boscastle, Tintagel, Padstow, Newquay and Bude all visited. The appearance of a rescue helicopter demonstrating very challenging flying skill to enter a near by bay to effect a rescue in high winds was a very rewarding experience to view. All types of weather experienced during the week, sun, torrential downpours, high winds (yet again!), but mostly sun, certainly in sufficient quantities to have made our stay very enjoyable.    

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Jockey Wheel

I dont know why, but this one piece of vital caravan equipment frightens the life out of me! From the very first time I towed to the very latest effort, it still fills me with dread. There is a small groove into which the wheel is located once having connected the van to the car. I never knew that until it was pointed out to me! On arrival and reversing the process, do you looosen the the mechanism first that holds the wheel in place, or do you unwind the wheel so far before loosening the tightening devise, and if so how far? This of course becomes obvious over time, but having said that, the main metal retractable thingy which has the wheel situated in at  the bottom, can still be lowered too far completely cocking up the process. On one departing journey, I lowered the van to the car hitch but couldnt move the wheel to aline with the little groove in which it has to go because it wouldnt move. Always lift the retractable thingy & wheel as far as it will go and tighten thoroughly when travelling, as my worst fears were realised travelling back from Hereford, thats the main one not the "Little" one, I hit a pot hole ney more like a b....y crater, which loosened the jockey wheel and started making a dreadful noise. A short stop temporarily resolved the problem, but when arriving home (thankfully son Paul was there armed with a screw driver and lump hammer) I couldnt release the jockey wheel holder without his help and when did, it nearly dropped out! I still dont believe it has been corrected but will have it checked out  when serviced in the winter. So how far to unwind the wheel, how far to drop the retractable thingy in which the wheel is house, will always be a challen ge for me!    

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Little Hereford

Our journey was thankfully uneventful, taking us up the M5 and then across to the Bestparks site of Westbrook Park at Little Hereford just outside of Ludlow, one of five sites in the group. I was impressed. Its the little things that impress me the most such as a flexible pipe connected to the waste water drain that could be moved around to the correct position under the van to capture both outlets. This was a fully serviced pitch at its best. A level concrete pitch for the van next to chippings for the awning and then grass, situated behind a babbling brook. It cost £20 per night plus a £1 a night for woofer, very good value for money. We left the first Saturday of school holidays and the site was filling rapidly on our departure, and with only 3 toilets in he mens block I would have thought it might have struggled to cope with demand. There was a charge for the showers which is the first time we had come across such event. On a fully serviced pitch we use the shower in the van, which is a feature that has moved up my list of priorities in a van layout, probably now behind my number 1 of two fixed beds. Weather was indifferent all week neither one or the other with rain on the Friday, just after we had packed away the awning, thankfully. Places visited Shrewsbury, Wroxeter, Ludlow, Bridgnorth, and plenty of walking. Next trip our last one planned for the season and the only visit to a CC site in Tintagel with spectacular views. The only reason that we havent stayed on a CC site thus far is because of our (my) preference for fully serviced pitches, which I am more than happy to pay extra for. More please Caravan Club sites!  

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Woodovis Devon

Journey No 4 Saturday 18th of June, sees us heading south to Woodovis near Tavistock in Devon. It doesn’t start well as the caravan curse strikes again!! The toilet in our home is blocked, there is a car parked in the road directly opposite my drive where I have to get the van off ( the only car parked on the street as it happens) and wifey is having kittens (metaphorically speaking of course) as she hasn’t heard from our daughter who is holidaying in Cancun, oh yes and there is a torrential downpour like it has never rained before. But there was far worse to come!

Off we eventually set making it to the top of our road a “T” junction to turn right on to a main road, giving way to a bus (fortunately) before commencing the turn. As we began to make the right turn there is a very loud BANG and we looked around to see our van separated from our car nose down all on its own in the middle of the road!! Various senses that I never knew I possessed surfaced but mostly a feeling of desperation and a need to throw up! Apart from any damage how on earth was I going to re connect to move it and what on earth had I done wrong for it to happen!!?? In short, two very kindly neighbours arrived to assist us in the lifting and reconnection, a quick check to ensure this time it was properly connected and we were off. An article in Practical Caravan August 2011 issue response to Al-ko drawbar quoted”you can’t lower the stabiliser lever until the ball is fully engaged in the hitch head. People hitch up with AKS model and drive off thinking the van is secure only to have it fall off. This happens because the lever can be lowered despite the fact that the ball is not properly engaged.”   AND THAT LADIES & GENTLEMEN IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED TO ME! Always check that the pop up button is green when locking the hitch to the car and avoid that problem.... another lesson learnt. Our journey was then uneventful, although both in a recovering state of shock with every pot hole driven over causing a deep intake of breathe fearing another disaster only this time on the M5. Woodovis proved to be a good choice with mostly statics but an area for tourers and tents and with an indoor heated swimming pool and sauna which sadly we didn’t get to use. A fully serviced pitch allowed us to use the van shower a definite bonus. We contacted a mobile van repair man, Ian Gibbons  who came and checked over the van replacing the broken breakaway cable which was very affective when called upon to do its job, along with a quick lesson in “dos and donts” of hitch connection which was also appreciated. We visited the usual places such as Looe, and Polperro, and ventured out on a 3 mile round trip of NT Lydford Gorge which whilst spectacular with its waterfall, is not a journey to undertake for the light hearted! Very narrow wet and a slippery path in places quite high from the water below with an over enthusiastic dog pulling eagerly at its lead ahead of you proved quite harrowing at times, but we did it. Another must is Morwhellham Quay, “a fun filled historical adventure for everyone”  www.morwellham-quay.co.uk  quite close to Woodovis, which appeared in a BBC programme on Edwardian living, well worth a visit. Our next trip is to Ludlow in Shropshire in July and I just hope I will have regained some of my lost confidence by then!!!!        

Friday, 17 June 2011

TV Syndrome!

Lets take the fitted TV first. Unlike friends and family that we know who had purchased similar models direct from Swift whilst attending a show, & who had a free fitted TV provided as part of their purchase, we didn’t! When taking our old van to the dealers (part exchange deal) from whom we had purchased our new Swift, I requested they fitted our old TV into our new van, along with the change over of our motor mover etc. Ironically (sadly some would say) one of the features I liked most in our new Swift was a special housing for a TV that when not in use would be retracted majestically into an especially built space above the fire, brilliant. They couldn’t carry out our request for the TV because there were no “original fittings or screws” that apparently would have come with the TV when originally purchased, yeah right like we would have kept them! Not to worry we would fit it ourselves, and purchased numerous assorted screws to ensure we had the correct ones.. Our TV had a built in DVD that prevented it from fitting into its intended area, no matter what screw or other brilliant idea we came up with. So we took all kinds of measurement and purchased a new one. Despite our best efforts and spending an hour or so in the shop measuring exactly where the “locating plate” was to ensure it would be compatible for the fitting in our van, surprise surprise, that too wouldn’t fit, even though it was the correct size. We gave up after a lot of discussion and “blame culture” on the subject between the two of us! In despair we had the TV replaced yet again by a larger one this time, which we knew wouldn’t  fit into the space in which it was intended, and now have to store it away when not in use and travelling. It’s a real shame that Swift doesn’t provide a TV already fitted, even at an additional price as an option.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Windy Dorset

The nerves started early with the "will it" "wont it" motor mover work. It did, and I am now convinced that the problem was, and still is I suspect, with the plastic red key that enables power to the mover from the van battery. So perhaps a trouble free start for a change, WRONG. A flotilla of Electricity vans (thats the company not the power of the vehicles) arrived at the top of the road and commenced digging it up, wonderful, as I now had yet another problem to overcome and test my ability of towing the van through an even more challenging obstacle course. On top of this we had a power cut (the action by the workers in their electricity vans)  and suffice to say that last time this occured whilst we were away we had to have several items replaced, namely our new digital radio for one. So "eventually"  we were off to Lytchett Manor, not suprisingly in Lytchett Minster just outside of Poole, an award winning Camping and Caravan site. The journey was uneventful other than trying to avoid passing kamikaze driving heavy goods vehilce driven at speed through numerous small villages. The advantages of having a fully serviced pitch (once again proving I like the outdoor living but still with lifes little luxuries included) meant we could use the shower in our van which was an absolute joy! Pitch was very good but glad to make our escape on the Saturday preceeding Bank Holiday Monday as hoards of tenters arrived in a previously empty field with children in tow to, in my estimates, treble the number on site. One can only imgaine what the waiting time for toilets and shower use would be over that weekend. A problem, or more a mystery, we had experienced with the fridge in the van on both previous occassions continued, in that every time I got near the sink area the fridge switched from mains power to battery. I believe it to be an over sensitive button that with myself being on the XL size every time I "brushed" against it, the setting changed. Talking with another Swift owner, they had experienced the same "sensitive button" issue. Places visited, Poole Quay not over exciting, New Forest which was terrific, Exbury Gardens, one of the few dog friendly places around, Dorchester, Wareham, Burton Bradstock beach (OK for dogs on beach up to June 1st) and Swanage where we purchased a print from a local artist featuring one of several comical colourful caravan scenes, and intend to purchase more on their web site. Thats it for now next adventure booked for Woodovis near Tavistock next month...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Yeatheridge Devon

Journey number two was a rally organised by wifeys cousin Kim (CC Avon Centre) our fourth visit, and arrived safely after negotiating some very narrow country lanes! Greeted on arrival with "William & Kate" union jack bunting, a commemorative bottle of  beer and sparkling wine to celebrate the occasion. The Royal wedding turned out to be very watchable and great fun was had by all. Spent Saturday driving across Dartmoor from Mortenhampstead to Tavistock via Two Bridges and Princetown, famous for its historic prison, dating back to the very earl 1800's. Lunched in the Warren Inn right in the middle of Dartmoor. ordered a veggie meal only because it came with "spicy wedges" but sadly it turned out to be chips. I didnt like to complain as our host was very pleasant and amiable. We experienced some rain during our stay, with one downpour torrential, so bad we had we nearly had to pull over when returning from Dartmoor.  Motor mover on van refused to function on departure which I now believe to be the fault of the switch which operates the battery connection, but I will keep readers (none to date!) informed through the season. The window blind in the door also broke, and despite my sons and wifes patience in trying to fix it looks as though it will have to be replaced. Journey number three is to South Lytchett Manor in Dorset art the end of May.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

First Trip

Four years of "vanning" hadn't done either wifey or myself any good at all, when it came to our first outing in our recently purchased Swift Challenger 565. Everything was ready for the off, but no matter what we tried the motor mover would not work, meaning we couldnt get the van off our drive! It had of course worked when we picked up the van only a couple of weeks earlier. A word of warning for those that might face this problem, check that when the mains electric is disconnected that the "charger" switch inside the van is switched off first as I am convinced that was the problem, but being a Bank Holiday weekend and with myself being a hopeless DIY person, we were going no where, until our son arrived and some how got it going. But it still remains a mystery to me as to what button he pushed pulled or switched differently to what we had tried for the previous hour!! The journey was uneventful, the site (Lucksall near Hereford) situated on The River Wye (canoes on site available to hire) was delightful, the weather unbelievably hot (thats hot not warm mind you) for April, and our paranoid rescue dog Molly was for the most part, on her best behaviour! Places of interest visited.... Hereford obviously, How Caple Court (gardens), Skenfrfth Castle (great home made cakes purchased in church)  Monmouth (follow the cider signs to purchase Ty Gwyn award winning cider at Whitehouse Farm) from Skenfrifth, & Ludlow. All dog friendly by the way. We are off again tomorrow for a rally at Yeatheridge, organised by wifeys cousin Kim & Brian ably supported by their good friends Jenny & Derek. So its bunting at the ready (although not a big royalist fan myself, more of a Cromwell man!!) to adorn the van for the big event Friday, & fingers crossed that everything will go according to plan. We are very pleased with the van, so far!  Signing off for now and hopefully pictures to accompany next blog.....