The soggy weekend

This weekend didn’t quite go as planned…….

We’d been itching to get away since we bought our new awning at the manchester caravan show in early February; this weekend coincided nicely with me having to use up some excess hours from work and a weekend. Given Deb would be at work Friday and Leah at school, we decided to stay close to home and to save a few pennies we picked a CL site just north of Ashbourne in the glorious Peak District. We plumped for Washbrook farm which is located right on the Tissington trail and over the bridge from the large commercial site, Ashbourne Heights, at £11 a night including EHU, the weekend was the price of a couple of rounds in the local.

The forecast for the weekend was for rain Friday and dry Saturday so (somewhat ambitiously) i planned to do the shopping first thing, head over to the storage yard and drive up to the site to arrive at around lunchtime. In my head I’d planned to get set up, do a time-lapse of me putting the awning up and a short review, leaving a couple of hours for some odd jobs in the van and a chill out before the rabble arrived; best laid plans……

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It absolutely wazzed it down in the morning, i got soaked hooking the van up then spent what seemed like an age trying to get the van level before the heavens really opened; the grass next to the hard standing was quite boggy and covered in molehills – awning video out of the window then.

The devil makes work for idle hands but fortunately I’d already measured and pre-cut some foam board to improve the storage situation in the drinks cupboard and in the bathroom. The former had a ridiculous perspex shelf in to supposedly hold a bottle and wine glasses, it was no use to us to hold Bourbon, Gin and Amaretto bottles so i made this. I’m undecided as to whether to finish the front with another piece of board but as it is, it works well.

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I can’t lay claim to this idea, i stole it from caravan blog star Mr Dan Trudgian over at  the trudgians. The second storage issue was the long cupboard in the washroom; bags of storage but every time you open it after arriving on site, it dumped the contents on the toilet lid; annoying and only a matter of time before damage was caused. Foam board and glue gun et voilà!

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Friday night came and went, a few other hardy souls had arrived on site in the dark, including this dinky beaut

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After a lazy breakfast we stuck our boots on and toddled off down the Tissington Trail towards Dovedale. The Tissington Trail follows the long disused Ashbourne to Buxton railway line from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay where it joins the High Peak trail; traffic free and largely flat, you can walk/cycle between various points along it. We opted to alight at Thorpe and along to Dovedale and the famous stepping stones; given the amount of rain and how boggy it was on the farmland footpaths i was surprised at how busy it was. It’s a gorgeous place but it really does get rammed when it’s warmer.

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We were in need of refreshments and opted for Ice cream before heading back from whence we came.

dsc_1198.jpg A very, very muddy walk of about 6 miles before a hotdog lunch (has to be done in the caravan) before a drive to Ashbourne for a wander and a drink.

I was questioning my sanity when packing away this morning (Gore-tex is a wonderful invention) and glad we didn’t bother with the awning but after getting Paddy back to the yard and giving him a quick wash over, I’m glad we did.

No such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes!

Why a caravan??

It’s something I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, usually in the same breath as being called and old fart…

It’s basically come full circle for me at least and a natural progression for Debbie and Leah. As a nipper, we caravanned as a family; me , my younger brother and parents. To me it was just an alternative to my grandparents static caravan albeit smaller, but we could go where we liked within reason. The last caravan was sold when i was about 8 or 9 years old but we continued going to the Lakes in the static, between foreign holidays up until about 1997 when it was sold.  I picked up a tent again in the early ’00s doing festivals before shelling out for a 1975 bay window camper in 2006; i was very much wearing rose tinted specs at the time as i would soon find out.

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“Egg”

Good old Egg as he was later named by Leah turned out to be a bit of a money pit; breaking down on the M1 on the way home from buying it should have been a warning really. After laying it up for the winter i set about fixing it up ready for use, little did i know how much fixing up I’d be doing. The above was taken after I’d spent many evenings and weekends cutting out rot and welding fresh in as the numerous shades of yellow show. After tarting up the inside, by the summer it was ready for a week away (that was about the only use it got that year due to a change in jobs). In the Autumn of 2007, i met Debbie and Leah who was just turning 3 at the time. Debbie had some horrific memories of camping at school and the suggestion of a trip away in a rusty old VW didn’t go down that well!! Our first trip away in it was Easter 2008 when we met with a handful of friends from a Volkswagen online forum I’d joined. It was cold, wet and it snowed and all we had was a tiny oil radiator to keep us warm but the rest is history and both Deb and Leah were thankfully hooked.

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At Cannock Chase C&CC site

Through ’08, we had plenty of adventures in Egg (the photo above was taken at Cannock when Deb and I went to see The Zutons play in the forest) but i was spending more time fixing it than using it. Following an epic trip from the midlands to Newquay, then up to the Forest of Dean and back, the engine gave in, thankfully not too far from home. This took weeks to diagnose; finally, after a stroke of luck it was repaired at a mechanical weekend camp in Leicestershire by legendary engine builder Laurie Pettit. Even though it breathed again, Egg was sucking my bank account dry and I’d lost heart; late in 2008, Egg went off to a new home.

Early in 2009 I scraped together the funds from the sale of Egg, my normal car and some extra and splashed out on a refrigeration engineers van with the intention of converting it into a fully blown 4 berth camper….. Oh, and i had less than 3 months to finish it before we went away at Easter.

I did finish it in time and anyone that’s interested, i documented it here http://www.vwt4forum.co.uk/showthread.php?s=3e4b943db7dd65fb8066e0d62bb6afa9&t=28311

It went from an empty van to this

I did finish it in time and anyone that’s interested, i documented it here http://www.vwt4forum.co.uk/showthread.php?s=3e4b943db7dd65fb8066e0d62bb6afa9&t=28311

It went from an empty van to this

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The final straw for me came in 2014 in Cheddar. This was the first time we’d taken Mason camping after adopting him in early April; he spent both nights bed hopping between the cab seats, the floor and our bed. I mooted the idea of a caravan to Debbie (our good friends Helen and Rob were away with us in their caravan) but was slightly shot down with “we’re NOT getting a caravan”, however the seed was sown for me……

At the end of 2014, we gave in; i sold the van, bought a Mondeo (The ST, so as not to be too sensible) and a 4 berth 2002 Avondale Dart which was light enough to stay under 3500kg

 

I can honestly say, it wasn’t a mistake by any stretch. The extra room, comfort and flexibility has seen us go away more than ever. The first time we used it was Christmas, sleeping on my parents drive. We did a week in the lakes in 2015, decided it wasn’t long enough (previously we’d be yearning for a comfy bed after 5 days) and camped in the snow at Buxton….

Fast forward to now, we’ve decided that a caravan is for us long term. In October last year i took and passed my B+E test so we could tow a heavier van, we sold the Avondale and regrettably the Mondeo (man i loved the ST) and we now have a Ford S Max and a lovey 2011 Bailey Unicorn with a fixed bed.

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So far we’ve only properly been away for 2 nights in November for Leah’s birthday and the annual stop over on my parents driveway at Christmas but the double bed is fantastic, as is the better insulation and Alde heating.

So why do we caravan?

  • Practical? Yes
  • Boring? Depends how you look at it
  • Expensive? depends how you look at it
  • Enjoy it? Bloody right we do!