Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The Old Oak’s Touring Park Glastonbury

 10th – 13th September 2012 

We had made a decision to have one last outing before returning the van to our front drive for the winter. Having enjoyed a trouble free very wet summer experience of hitching and unhitching at the storage site, I was having sleepless nights at the thought of having to unhitch in the street and place on our difficult to access drive, for its storage for winter. Friends visited us at Old Oaks when we first went there in 2007 and asked us if it was the best site we had stayed, and at the time my response was that it certainly was one of the best. Having stayed for a second time, we now have to say that in both our opinion’s it is the best site visited in our 6 years of touring. Wifey had decided to modernise our kitchen just prior to visiting Glastonbury, and the work hadn’t been completed at the time of our departure i.e. the sink “couldn’t” be connected to the waste pipe because an electrical switch had to be moved. This prevented us from tipping waste water down the sink, which is quite a difficult action to stop when you have been doing it all your life! A very enjoyable few days away was followed by problem one on our departure, a lorry straddling the junction at which I wished to turn right. The lorry was blocking half the road at the junction, making a right turn an extremely difficult manoeuvre, especially for one so inexperienced. I was happy to wait for the vehicle to move but it became clear that wasn’t going to happen for a while, so I HAD to make the turn, and a very harrowing experience it was too!! Arriving home, my son had “thankfully” and as planned parked his car preventing others from blocking our drive. We unhitched, connected motor mover and pressed forward, NOTHING! The battery was knackered and had been drained of power and water, so re charging wasn’t an option! We tried everything, even connecting power from our home to the van, but nothing worked. The last remaining option was to re-connect the car to the van and reverse it on to the drive!!! Reversing a van is the most challenging of manoeuvres on a site, but in a road with restricted turning it was ten times worse. But with a lot of arm waving directions from my son I achieved the same after a mere two attempts. Winning gold at the Olympics is nothing compared to the satisfaction I felt after achieving what I believed to be the impossible! A few overhanging plants were flattened in the process but no damage was sustained to either car or van!!!

Hidden Valley Ilfracombe

21st – 28th July 2012

No, it's not in here.
The journey was trouble free and we had chosen one of the best weeks for weather of the whole year! We had booked a “large” pitch and were somewhat surprised when escorted to a pitch that could have been described as anything but large! We were offered a larger pitch on the lower site, reserved mostly for tents, and which more than compensated for our initial disappointment. A horsefly bite on my arm caused me some discomfort whilst putting up the awning and generally setting up. The staff were very friendly & helpful and the site beautifully landscaped. Large pot holes caused by the very wet summer were problematic but were being repaired whilst on site. The van behaved very satisfactory and an enjoyable week was experienced. Wise words offered by our son as to disconnecting the battery whilst the van was kept in storage throughout the summer were not heeded, and his predictions were about to come true on our last outing to Glastonbury in September.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Broadway 26th May 2012

We awoke to glorious sunshine, and what a difference it made to our previous outing to Winchester and Yetheridge in the wet, wind and mud up to the caravan door! Our journey was "almost" uneventful other than what appeared to be a gaping hole in the side of the van when pitching on site. It transpired that one of the two fridge vents on the side of the van had disappeared in transit. We phoned a very helpful man at Cotswold Edge Leisure on the Evesham Road who informed us he had a replacement in stock. The first thing he enquired was "had we had the caravan serviced recently?" to which we confirmed that we had. Then he said "I suspect that when they removed the vent to access the fridge they forgot to lock it back in place with the two little black clips that have to be unlocked before it can be removed"! Trying to prove that to Davans might be difficult, but as with all new devices nowadays we had to purchase the whole unit (£35.95) when all we wanted was the front vent part. It didnt spoil our week with visits to Stratford (lunch outside Willies house!)  Bourton on Water (picnic on the green by the water) Tewkesbury Evesham etc. Sudely Castle, Broadway Tower and other sites of interest, in between the wonderful spell of weather, with everyone complaining that it was too hot! Temperatures did reach 29c. An overturned HGV on the M5 blocking lane 1 on our return did add 30minutes to our journey, but all in all a great week away.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

New to Flickr!

Click on the Flickr logo to take a look at a few caravan pictures here

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Purchase of our first van in 2006 Part One

Fleetwood Clochester/Honda CRV
I had started to record events from the purchase of our first van back in 2006 and now record them to my blog ...

My wife had talked me into some silly and extravagant purchases in my life, but never one that was less thought out than buying our very first caravan. We had been "looking" around for some time and were eventually drawn to a Fleetwood Colchester, mostly because it had fixed twin beds. We actually proceeded with the purchase though neither car we owned had tow bars fitted AND we had nowhere to keep it! Amazingly, on regaling this story to a colleague at work, he stated that he had done exactly the same thing two years previously, so that made me feel a tad better. To say that the following week nearly sent me over the top with cold sweats and sleepless nights would be no exageration. The prospect of towing filled me with dread, Part exchanging my then current car to a Honda CRV proved a wise decision, as it was the right car for the job. And so we entered blissfully into the world of caravaning & one that would bring with it just about every imaganable positive and negative emotion that anyone would wish to experience!!!

Part Two from 2006

Part Two
August 20th 2006

We found a storage facility and arranged for them to tow our new pride and joy to their site. I couldn’t believe how many van’s there were in storage. One can only hope that the owners never inadvertently make a decision to put them all on the road at the same time! My wife then set about purchasing vast quantities of (apparently) absolutely vital accessories and equipment that roughly cost about the same price of the van in ensuring it became her pristine new second home on wheels. You name it, she bought it, bedding, kitchen equipment including cups mugs plates etc just about everything other than what I considered to be top of a must have list, a TV. We took advantage of the storage owner special offer in moving our van to a touring pitch on site in order that we could ensure everything was in working order before setting off on our first great adventure. Both of our cars (neither with a tow bar) were loaded and resembled something akin to an African Safari. My wife set off from home with our loveable pooch Holly, arrived safely on site, and began to unload her car.  I left as early as I could and rapidly found myself stationary on the M5 in a 5 mile tailback. My wife’s first call was “did I have any idea how to connect the cable from the power point to the van”, this question to a man with no experience! It transpired that she was trying to fit the end of the cable to either of the plugs (that connect to the car) on the van. And so began an afternoon of utter chaos and frustration. If there was a right and wrong option, we inevitably chose the wrong one.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Part Three 2006

 The Caravan came with a plethora of literature on how everything in the van functioned through the provision of the various manufactures handbook’s i.e. from the hot water tank, to oven, heater etc, but with the frustrating exception of a manual on the actual working and switches of the caravan itself. It is readily accepted by both of us that we are well past our prime, and therefore neither of us possessing an instant recall of the salesman explanations of where and what to push, pull, or switch up or down for the desired gadget to work. So we diligently set about our tasks of filling the water container, immersing the “pump thingy” into the container on its return & connecting the same to the side of the van. We thought we had remembered where the switch was for this part of the operation to engage the pump and recalled that the tap in the van had to be on to indicate that the on board tank had been filled. We waited patiently for 10 minutes with nothing happening. The water level in the barrel outside remained full. Heated discussions took place followed by accusations as to why the other hadn’t paid more attention when being told how it worked! The discovery of a switch marked “pump” located in the most unlikeliest of places was discovered, and when pressed the whole thing burst into life, a truly eureka moment! I went outside to press my ear against the barrel to confirm the pump was working and awaited another eureka moment of the tap producing water by a cry of delight from wifey, which duly followed confirming the same! The temperature dial was set and we had both hot & cold running water after a short space of time. Since that fateful day we have often been caught out when filling the on board tank through this process for the first outing of the year by not having remembered to turn off the drainage switch. This results in all the pumped in water rapidly disappearing straight out again through the drainage hole! A lesson learnt!!!

Part Four 2006

The importance of a level van was stressed to us when the salesman was running through a list of “what to do” and “what not to do”, which as it happens was a complete waste of his time given that we had forgotten about most of it when it came to setting up! Apparently, a level van was priority number one before attempting any of the other arduous task’s in order that electrical equipment functioned as intended and water flowed freely in the direction it was designed to do. I of course was assigned to the job of raising and lowering steadies whilst wifey shouted instruction from inside the van having made herself foreman by virtue of knowing where the spirit level was kept. I have since learnt (blindingly obvious) that stage one should be to raise and lower the jockey wheel (not the blasted steadies) in order to achieve our objective, a fact which had completely escaped me! To be honest very few other problems presented themselves other than the appearance of a strange coloured liquid swilling around the shower tray, which we thankfully later discovered was from our washing up bowl having taken the wrong direction when vanishing down the plug hole i.e. instead of going out of the van into our waste container it had taken a wrong turn and ended up swilling around at the bottom of the shower. Clearly we hadn’t got it as level as we had believed!!  

Part Five 2006

One vital piece of security equipment (allegedly) is apparently a wheel clamp. This turned out to be my biggest challenge so far, as I wrestled for what seemed an eternity to try and fit the same to one of the van’s wheel. I sustained various cuts and bruises to both my hands and feet as a consequence and never got it to lock properly. I have since invested in a hitch lock, and to be honest have experienced similar problems with that piece of kit also. In my opinion a land mine (converted from an explosive devise to an alarmed one) buried in front and behind the wheel would be far more affective. We enjoyed what little sunshine was left of the day after dining el fresco fashion in the true spirit of what outdoor living was all about, having also polished off a few G&T’s  in the process. It was a fairly trouble free night although the unnerving sound of bits of tree falling on to the top of the van in the night along with the arrival of numerous winged creatures as dawn approached ensured it wasn’t as deep a sleep as what I had hoped it might be. Bleary eyed, I arose and armed with appropriate bags set off to take the pooch on her first of numerous necessary walks for the day. That set me thinking during the walk of a television programme that once suggested that any hesitant “wannabe” Caravaner could simulate the experience of caravan living by moving their bed along with a chemical toilet into the kitchen where they could then spend the evening to see if they might enjoy the experience. The other analogy being to try and ballroom dance in your broom cupboard at home. Wholly inaccurate & exaggerated of course, but certainly struck a cord with me as regards to how I found my first night in the cramped confines available. My opinion has since changed for the better.  Today would also be the first day that I would attempt to learn the art of “towing” along with hitching and unhitching, and again I was full of dread!

Monday, 7 May 2012


The plan was to visit Morn Hill CC Winchester for 5 nights and then on to the Avon rally at Yeatheridge farm for 4 nights, near Witheridge in Devon. The weather forecast for the whole period made depressing viewing with heavy and persistent rain forecast, and their prediction was spot on! This was our first trip since August, so the nerves kicked in early. No problems were anticipated as we now kept our van in storage, but when we tried to connect our new single pin socket connection from van to car, it wouldnt fit! We huffed and puffed for some time (15 minutes) but in the end had to request the assistance of the guy on duty, who informed us that he had come across this problem before (the inner pins of the socket on the van had rotated out of alignment) and was out of sync making it impossible to connect to the car, great start. His comment that he had seen people struggle for hours trying to resolve the same didnt help one little bit! Eventually with the aid of a chisel, we managed to rotate the pins to match with the van and made a successful connection, and we were off. An uneventful journey of 2 hours passed by quickly and we arrived we believed just in time, ahead of a downpour, so we could set up in the dry, only to find the site closed for lunch from 1230 to 1330!! We had never come across a CC site that closed for lunch, given this was the usual time encouraged for both departures and arrivals! We therefore had to spend an hour awaiting their return before we could do anything, with dark clouds gathering rapidly. Despite the site being sparcely occupied, the past and predicted rainfall restricted available pitches as they were all grass. Just as we set up on the pitch allocated to us, a far more protected pitch directly opposite was vacated. Having received permission to move we once again set about reversing the process we had just gone through and moved across the way, and set up again! And then it rained and didnt let up for 24 hours! Winchester was a great City to visit and we spent some good times exploring. We set off one day to visit Highclere Castle (where Dowton Abbey was filmed) only to find it well and truly closed, only opening on the rare occassion to visitors, so beware perspective visitors. A few opportunities to enjoy brief moment's of sunshine presented themselfs which we took full advantage of, and then we were off to Witheridge. Another unevenful journey, was thankfully experienced. A good time was had despite the awful weather, and the rain sodden pitches proved quite a challenge to set up and depart from, with sloshy mud everywhere. It resembled scenes from a Glastonbury Festival! Not being able to put up the awning greatly restricted our space available on both sites, so much so that I informed wifey that if the same weather is predicted for out next outing (Broadway) then I would seriously consider cancelling!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Winters Over!

Sping has sprung and both wifey and myself are looking forward to another summer and autumn of trips away. The van has had its service with a damp problem having been identified in the storage locker under the bed at the rear of the van, but otherwise all OK. A replacement has been ordered, under the warranty. I have had the two socket connection on my car change to the single socket and that appears to be working OK. We have taken the decision to store our van for the summer with a storage company very close to the M5, as I dont think I could face manouvering around park cars blocking our entrance when departing and returning home from trips. Our first planned journey away is to the CC site at Morn Hill in Winchester for 5 nights departing on the Thursday and then on to our annual pilgrimage to Yetheridge for the weekend rally. We had a non caravaning weekend away in the Peak District a fortnight ago with friends in glorious hot weather. Last week the very same area around Buxton and Bakewell was snowbound with people trapped in their cars for up to 7 hours!! Weird weather indeed!!!!