Thursday, 18 October 2012

Billie "Struts" His Stuff!

You kind of know in your heart when things are not going to go well! This weekend was just one of those times. We sort of planned not to go away because Den was in crisis at work and thought we may get the "phone calls", he was right. We decided to go anyway and try the Caravan Club Site, Cirencester Park and explore Cirencester a bit more.

So , we left in a bit of a rush, without the usual preparations  and I forgot to pick up the left over curry we were going to have for tea. Fortunately, as it was a CC site, the sign by the toilet block said "Fish & Chips, from 5.30!"  Nothing for it then, fish and chips. Our luck was in briefly, as we got the last two fishes from the van, they were obviously also having a bad day! The rest of the queue had to make do with anything that wasn't least the chips were still on the menu. Disaster number 1, averted, for us!

The site was excellent, quiet and really well laid out with loads of hard standings. It was busier than we were expecting but we still had a good choice of pitches. A third of the site which were the grass pitches, were closed for re-seeding and the second toilet block was being up dated. Time for the bunnies to have a ball, but beware the bunny holes, health and safety elves at work. The existing loo block was excellent and up to the usual CC standards ( when and if,you can get a pitch on one of their sites of course.) Even the telly picked up a signal, although the phone was an issue, but more of that later.

 Billie at Cirencester Park.

 The walk into town takes about 20 minutes, via the scenic route through the Bath Hurst Estate Park. We put on our walking boots but there were lots of paths so shoes would have been fine.

Beware, the gates shut at 5.30pm. I wonder how many people they lock in every year?

 Next time we will walk up to the monument!

Check out the park

Saturday morning dawned as a bright dryish day. The van was really cosy as we had used the silver screens overnight. To be on the safe side, we had run the heating on low to take the chill off. The overall heating system in Billie is great and it can be used on gas or electric, 1 is fine for overnight.  We decided to walk through the park into town. As we lifted the bed to get out our rucksacks, the strut  holding the bed up stuck and before we realised what had happened, it damaged the laminate panel under the bed as we tried to close it. Den removed the mattress to check what had happened and climbed under the bed. Just as all this was going on the phones started ringing, it was a work problem. Getting to a phone with a sprung mattress propped up in the middle of the van was entertaining. It was then we realised that the phone signal here was very iffy, three mobiles and a signal that kept dropping out on all of them. Eventually, we had to go and use the actual "phone box", fortunately being a CC site they still had one that worked. Miracles of modern technology!!!   NOT.

Finally, after a very stressful hour or so, all was calm. The work problems were solved until Monday and the bed was useable. Den removed the strut and would repair the damage when we got home. We did have a lovely walk through the park into town, lunch at a very nice pub and a stroll around the shops. We just made it back to the van before the rain came down. The X Factor on the telly and a bottle of wine, another exciting evening.

The drive home through the Cotswold was lovely with the Autumn colours just starting, an hour and we would be home. Not likely, M4 closed for an accident and an hours drive became two. Just another one of those weekends! The good news was Den repaired the strut damage and a new one is on it's way! Advantages of having a local dealer, a quick call to Chipping Sodbury Caravans and  Billie will be back to normal, very soon.

Next weekend the Motor Caravan Show at the NEC Birmingham. Time to look at more extras. Tickets have been bought, the work phone can stay at home. Billie can have a weekend off, we'll take the car this time.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Billie Goes On A Roman Weekend

Of course we left it to the last moment to book! Needless to say, "there was no room at the inn. " I tried about 6 sites on a Friday morning looking for a hardstanding and had almost given up when I stumbled on Mayfield Park. With great trepidation I phoned and while waiting for rejection, was most surprised to hear they had spaces and on a hardstanding! Even more cheering was the price, £32 for the weekend!!!

By 3ish on Friday afternoon we were off. Not far we thought. Well it should have taken around an hour, it took a bit longer, but we did get a "Cotswold  Grand Tour", Tom Tom never found the site, but with a trusty map and a bit of manoevering we did. The site was a bit sloping but with the chocks, we were soon installed on a flattish gravel pitch, behind some tall trees, that's put paid to the telly viewing then, back to Kindle! On the positive side the campsite was not crowded, we had water on our pitch and it was dry!

 Billie enjoying a spot of morning sunshine.

The back field at Mayfield Park.

The next day dawned with a clear blue sky and the sun trying to come out. Armed with a map we set off for Cirencester via the scenic route, down the country lanes. Around an hour later we made it. Slight detour through the woods, over a few styles ( some managed better than others) and braving the local livestock in the fields, we had a great walk though some beautiful countryside. We were really pleased we were prepared with walking boots or we may not have been quite so happy, some of the fields were very muddy.We were really lucky as the sun came out and it was quite warm.

Beware the wild animals!!! Well there were a lot of sheep in this field!

We finally found our way over this stile and out of the woods. Fortunately did not encounter any livestock here.

Took a while to work out the instructions for the "walk", but we made it in the end.

On the way to Cirencester.

The end in sight, only one more field to tramp across, fortunately the cows we were expecting to find in the field were having breakfast elsewhere. Phew!!!

We whiled away a few hours exploring Cirencester, having lunch, coffee and going around the museum, well worth a visit.Those Romans were really quite clever! Cirencester  actually had some great little shops, I was amazed how many tea and cake shops there were!. We bought some very nice chicken parcels from the local butcher and caught the 51 bus back to the site. In the absence of telly, it was dinner, reading ,wine and bed, all that walking had worn us out!

 Certainly worth a visit, although I would be tempted to try the Caravan Club, Cirencester Park site next time. Mayfield would be a good place to go if you fancied walking as there were loads more walks we could have tried. Perhaps another weekend soon, but not in the summer the noise from the road would not make for a peaceful evening outdoors.

Monday, 10 September 2012

A Visit to "The Sheppy Show!"

This weekend we decided a trip to the motorhome show at Shepton Mallet was called for. Armed with our reduced admission ticket from the Caravan Club mag ( 2 for a tenner) we set out. We decided Billie would stay at home, as we have had wet and horrible experiences at the show in the past.

In order to rest our "little grey cells" we took a shopping list.

  • Find out about Wifi for Billie. We wondered if Sophie and Adam  ( Motorhome Wifi) would be at the show?
  • Find out about "solar panels", Vanbitz?
  • Look at cab carpets.
  • A new updated, colour co-ordinated easy clean tablecloth (  we can't only look at expensive things can we?)
  • A new travel kettle ( possibly)
  • A storage bag for the silver screens.
  • Anything else "exciting."
The day was beautiful as we set off for Shepton, a good day for a motor show. As we arrived, the first thing that struck us was how quiet it all seemed. The car parking field was not as full as we have seen it. Even the camping area was not as full as usual. We quickly got into show mode, Den setting off at full speed, me lagging behind and looking at things! The sun beamed down. We looked at all the jolly campers and were glad we weren't joining them. We love going away in our motorhome, but for peace and tranquility, not display! Still, horses for courses.

As we worked our way down the first row of stalls we spotted Adam and Sophie and "Motorhome Wifi" perfect!  We spent a few minutes talking about our needs. We want to be able to pick up Wifi in the van usually when we are on campsites. We usually take our ipads and don't bother with the laptop as it's so big to store. We decided on the "I Boost" system with a larger booster, so we could pick up signals that were further away. Paid our money and ordered the system.

Sophie also explained about the "Fon " system so we could pick up more signals, for £36 it seemed a brilliant idea.  We'll update the blog with the outcomes after playing with the new setup, which hopefully will arrive later this week. First item on the list sorted!

Solar panels next. We found the "Vanbitz" stall and spent a worthwhile ten minutes going over the possibilities of "solar panels". We were given all the info we needed. The outcome is that we need to decide exactly when and how we want extra power. Solar panels will not provide unending energy for free but will supplement our existing system. All we need to do now is work out whether we want to spend the cash. The next step for us ,is to have a second battery fitted and we will probably get Chipping Sodbury Caravans to do that first. Still Vanbitz as usual were most helpful. Further developments will be reported on in due course.

Following on a liquid lunch in the local bar, well a glass of wine and half of lager, we bought the tablecloth and the bag for the silver screens. The travel kettle we decided we would buy in John Lewis. The show was still relatively quiet, our feet were killing us, so we set off for home. All in all a pleasant interlude.

Was the trip to Sheppy worthwhile? Well it passed a sunny afternoon and we got the wifi sorted. In terms of vans, lots of the bigger dealers were not around and we fancied there were fewer stalls than usual. We are still pleased with our Billie and can't see ourselves changing him for a few years. All we need to do now is get out and about in him a bit more. Job for next week, book a ferry crossing for July 2013!

Now where shall we go next week??

Monday, 3 September 2012

Out and About in Somerset

Just back from a great weekend in Somerset. We stayed at the Wells Holiday Park just outside the City of Wells near Wookey Hole.

Great little campsite, very well kept with super clean loos and hot showers.

The journey there was slightly fraught ! Fine 'till we got through Cheddar and then the A371, was the road from hell. Billie was quite happy until the road became increasingly more bendy and narrow. It is an "A" road and we did follow the directions on the campsite website but it was tight in places. Just don't be tempted to follow the sat nav! A big "star" badge for Den, I was just glad he did the driving. The final insult, was we took the wrong turning into the site and nearly grounded Billie on the speed hump. I jumped out and held up the traffic while Den reversed back out onto the main road........ we had arrived, a large drink called for.

The campsite was in a great spot, easy to fill up the water and good access ( using the right gate). We were on a tarmac hard standing. The site was not too full but as the evening went on there were lots of new arrivals. An "adults only" site so fairly quiet. I had taken enough food for the weekend so we had a leisurely meal, a few drinks and a comfy night sleep.

The weather god was in a good mood! We took a 20 minute stroll into Wells and had a lovely morning looking around the market, which was really one of the best ones we have seen. Fabulous farmer's products, cheese, sausages and of course Somerset Cider. Wells was busy, but a great place to walk around. The cathedral is really worth a look, we didn't go round the Bishop's Palace this time, as only the grounds were open. Wells is somewhere we will be returning to again, soon.

After a leisurely drink in a local pub we strolled back to the campsite, had lunch and then walked up to Wookey Hole. Another, lovely ( if somewhat hilly) stroll about 1.5miles from the campsite, at £32 for two adult tickets, we did not bother going into the complex but enjoyed the sunshine and the stroll back. At £49 for a family ticket , we were amazed that anyone went in!! No nice pubs near Wookey Hole, so back to finish the white wine and watch the X Factor, we live life to the full!!!

In all a very (nearly) relaxing weekend break ( except for getting there,) we drove home on Sunday through Glastonbury and then the motorway, further to drive but less stressful! A place we will add to our list of favourites and  visit again very soon.

Next weekend off to the Motorhome Show at Shepton Mallett, without Billie!

Friday, 10 August 2012

Viva La France!

Just returned from a great "nearly 3 weeks" in France. Our aim was to relax, enjoy the the wine and do as little as possible. We also wanted to see how Billie Bailey performed on an extended stay and whether the money we spent on "extras" was worthwhile.

Buffed, packed and ready to roll, us and the van! We set off this year from Portsmouth to St Malo. Usually we travel on a Friday night from Dover, but this year we bit the bullet, spent the money and decided on Portsmouth, pricey but worth it! Memo for next time, spend the money on a better cabin, it was a bit basic!!

On the dock at Portsmouth ready to roll!

Travelling on a Saturday was great! Very little traffic and no M25 to crawl on first. Very soon, we were safely sitting in the restaurant and our holiday had begun. The drive to our campsite the next morning was very quiet, coming out of St Malo was simple and the drive down to the Vendee only took around 3.5 hours of empty Sunday morning roads. Billie towed like a dream and breezed over the Nante bridge.  Really good idea to travel on the Sunday as there are no lorries on the road. Added bonus, the roads from St Malo to the campsite in the Vendee were toll free.
We arrived at the campsite to find a huge pitch in a lovely quiet field. Easy access to the campsite and good directions. There was water on the pitch, although a very long lead was required for the electric. We were told that the week before had been very wet, but we brought the sun! The following two and half weeks were almost wall to wall sunshine, we have the tans to prove it.

We put up the camp kitchen and the windbreakers. I was really pleased that in the end we did take the comfy Lafuma chairs ( so was Den!) We returned from our holiday with new comfy Lafuma chairs, having braved a trip to the French dump with the old ones which spilt in sympathy with each other. Our credit card company was happy.

This part of the Vendee, was relatively unexplored by us. Home to salt flats, oysters and lovely ( but busy) beaches. An ideal part of the country if you like all seafood, personally not too keen on oysters. Being creatures of habit, we tend to explore very locally, the nearest village St Gervais contains essentials and Beauvoir Sur Mer has everything else, including a very nice bar for coffee and a papershop. 

Supermarkets were all nearby but you do need transport. This is also biker country, but we were still glad we had brought Smartie, without her we would have shortened our visit as the shops were just a little too far. As it was, we decided to stay for the whole 18 nights and our trip south was put on hold, next year perhaps.

We explored the Isle of Normoutier, very busy, St Jean D'Mont,  even busier! Lots to see and do and loads of beaches, except the sand and sun was so hot we only ventured to the beach twice.

Passage du Grois.

The causeway to the Isle de Normoutier, you can drive across at low tide. Once the tide goes out the French are out in force picking the spoils of the seafood from the beach. We ate in the restaurant, 3 courses for 18 euros.

A very pleasant couple of hours eating here on the terrace overlooking the sea, followed by a couple more hours sleeping in the sun.

How did Billie perform?

Very well, no problems and everything worked. We used the facilities, as the showers were very hot and we cooked outside for most of the holiday. The bed is really comfortable and the living space makes so much difference to overall comfort. The air-con works and did lower the temperature by a few degrees. I think a slightly bigger unit would have been more effective, but it was fine for what we wanted.

Minor niggle, the TV wouldn't pick up a signal due to our pitch behind some tall trees, so we used our Kindles as usual. Missed the Olympic opening ceremony but watched it when we got back.

On the way home we went via Caen, simple easy crossing, we stayed at the Municipal  in Ouistram for a night on the way home. Definitely would use this crossing again.

Our idea of a perfect holiday. Easy driving. Good clean campsite with BIG pitches and pleasant company. Things to do and places to go if you wanted to do them!!

TIP: Never park next to a coach in the customs checkout....but that's another story!!

Check out my campsite reviews in the French Campsite section.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Billie Becomes an Uplands Boy.

Thinking about a brand new radio, for a brand new van is a bit extreme I admit. We pondered on this for some time before taking the plunge.

The music system that came with the van was the standard bottom end van system that came with a Peugeot cab. It looked quite neat and played OK, the controls were wired into the steering wheel, presumably so "white van man" could control things as he happily sang along to the latest hits! Peugeot, in their wisdom, had decided that "white van man" was incapable of turning his music on and off and that 20 minutes at a time was enough singing for anyone! To prevent the battery flattening and consequentially late deliveries and ( I suspect to reduce the lunch break,) when the engine was off, after 20 minutes the radio turned off too. Fine, for "white van man", highly inconvenient for owners of motorhomes. After spending the weekend jumping up and down turning the music back on, enough was enough and we decided to update.

When we were decluttering we had culled the CD collection. We then loaded all our music onto an Archos media player. We now had a whole cupboard which was bare and all our music safely on one little gadget. Infact , enough music to drive around Europe and back without changing a CD. We wanted a system that would easily let us plug the Archos in and as a bonus ( for future basing and all that!) also to use the iphone, handsfree. We wanted a radio that did not turn off after 20 minutes and we wanted the whole lot at a reasonable price, fitted this week. Not much to ask!

Using trusty old Google, we narrowed the search to Uplands Radio based in Taunton.

Uplands had helped Jamie at Chipping Sodbury fix his van radio, so they knew about motorhomes. Following a few phone calls and chats to very helpful Nick at Uplands, we set a date for the fitting. Yes, they could do it this week. No travelling for Billie, Uplands provide a fitting at home service. The deed was done, the deposit was paid and the radio ordered. Friday afternoon, the rain and the Uplands man, also called Bill, arrived on time to fit the radio.

Great service and no travelling, Bill from Uplands arrived in his fully equipped van to do the job.

For the technically minded, we went for a Clarion CX501E radio with steering controls and new fascia. This would be rewired to stay switched on. We would be able to connect the Archos directly with a phono lead and use the iphone with bluetooth.

The initial system as fitted by Peugeot.

The super new system, pretty when lit up and ranges different colours through the rainbow display. Now works with the steering wheel controls. Also connects with my iphone, for hands free!

New system with the Archos connected ( that's the little square thingy in front.) The Archos will sit on the dash tray when driving.

Connection for the iphone to charge on the go, through the USB lead, neatly hidden in the dash tray.

All music systems are really "horses for courses" and a matter of personal preference! We are now very happy with our new system. Uplands did a brilliant job. Bill the fitter really gave  a brilliant service, giving loads of his own time to ensure that the job was done really well and that the bluetooth connection worked! The best part of his Friday afternoon off, was taken up getting our system to work well. Many thanks!!!

Nick at the Uplands office also did a stirling job, with phone calls to all and sundry, to find the information Bill needed to get the bluetooth connected. Hope Uplands realise their employees do go the extra mile when needed!

Now Billie is all set up for his first venture to foreign parts next week and music to sing along to.

Anyone want to buy a nearly new Peugeot van radio??

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Brean, Weston-Super-Mare and Country Music.

A strange combination you may think and you would be right. An action packed weekend with sunshine, showers,loads of walking, piers, chips and cowboys.

We decided that with a ferry to France booked very shortly, we really needed to try out Billie and the trailer. We waited until Friday afternoon to book a pitch at our old favourite, Unity at Brean. We waited for the weather to cheer up and finally on Friday afternoon decided to go for gold! Following the school run, we knew we could not get away until around 5.30pm. So as soon as Den got home, we loaded the van and pulled out the trusty trailer. Smartie had been buffed and preened and was ready for the weekend away. Billie didn't know what was coming, but was soon ready with his towbar in place!

With Smartie safely on board we were off. Towing proved much as usual and soon we were on the M5 heading South. Billie towed smoothly with little puffing, panting and the odd sway. As long as Den watched the corners, we cruised along arriving at the campsite around 6.30pm. Safely on the pitch with Smartie unloaded and the trailer safely stowed behind us, over Fish & Chips from Alan's Take Out, we planned the weekend.

The following morning we were off for a little exploration further afield. We had driven through Burnham- On -Sea, but sadly never stopped, so now we set off to Burnham and breakfast. A nice surprise greeted us, a pretty prom and nice beach with loads of parking. We parked in Morrisons and did a bit of shopping which paid for the parking! Good tip for any visitors, motorhome parking in Morrisons car park, there is a dedicated motorhome bit, though no overnight parking! It looked like some motorhomers couldn't read.

Smartie on the prom at Burnham-on Sea. All alone.

Across the sea- front at Burnham. The beach was deserted and the sun came out, we wished we had brought a picnic!

Following breakfast at a local cafe, brilliant value at well under a tenner, we headed back towards Brean. The sun was still out and we drove all the way out to Brean Down, parking in the National Trust car park ( that was £3.00 off our membership for this year), feeling smug, we headed to the beach. The scenery here is beautiful, we climbed the steps to the top of the downs to survey the scene and then the rain came down, hard and very wet!!

 The beach at Brean.
 Yes , we did climb to the top and the view was worth it!
This was just after the rain storm.

Fired off by our new expertise in mountain climbing and hill walking, we decided to go to Weston for a bit more "seaside" The drive was lovely, around 8 miles by the scenic route, we were glad we were in Smartie and not Billie. We arrived in Weston and did what all Brits do, went for a refreshing walk along the prom. We checked out the new pier inside and out, visited the marine lake and ate chips in the rain! We drew the line at paddling in the sea, going on the donkeys and making sandcastles, but loads of other vistors did just  that, despite the weather. 

 Inside the new pier. Beautifully done and very busy.
 The donkeys looked so much better fed than I remembered!

 "We will have a paddle come what may."
 "What's a bit of driving rain and freezing wind? "
"We've all got our umbrellas and macs."

Weston Pier and the great British Summer.

We had a great day out and went back to the campsite for a night out. Now, most of our great nights in are usually sleeping in front of the telly, however I was determined we would take advantage of the "entertainment." At around 9pm following all that sea air, we headed for "The Tavern" and  Country & Western Night. The Country & Western theme should have alerted us to what was going on, after all there was evidence around the site of cowboy & cowgirl, things happening. The queue at the bus stop left us feeling very under dressed, but we were not expecting what we found, when we got the "The Tavern". The room was packed with ( shall I say politely) people of "senior years" having a YeeHa time! The boot bill alone would have paid for a few weeks in the South of France. There were hats, tassels, waist- coats, legs, bulges and rhinestones everywhere. All shapes and sizes were squeezed into or out of, every kind of wild west outfit, complete with guns, feathers and swagger. Line dancing was the order of the day.

The question I wanted to ask was, how did they know which dance to do? The whole thing had a macabre facination about it, but everyone was having a great time and the music was good. There was a strange quasi religious moment in the middle where everyone sort of stood in a cirle around the flags, while Elvis was played singing Dixieland. What that was about we had no idea, but it seemed to be taken very seriously, all the men took their hats off! Mmmm......very odd. Some kind of patriotic salute to something maybe? The problem is this is the UK not the USA, although I don't suppose anyone cared that much. Still, a good excuse for a sniff and the chance to fire their pop guns and have some fun!

 We had a few drinks, tapped our feet and then went home to bed. September is the next Country and Western event, we may go back ???

Billie has a Bath & Extras Again!

We have been very quiet recently and because the weekend weather has been so dismal, after Moreton -in- Marsh, we have had two weekends at home.  For those who may be slightly interested, Billie also had his first bath. Like every good parent we made sure it was a warm day, not too much wind and no chance of a shower. The bit about the shower and wind was crucial, as I love my husband too much, to have him washed off the roof, or like Incy Wincy, washed down the plughole! A squashed spider would mean, no holidays and trips out for Billie and "nursing duties" for me instead. We checked, well I checked, with Chipping Sodbury Caravans first, to ensure it was safe for the spider on the roof! After all, falling off was one thing, falling through a self made hole in the roof could make dealing with the insurance company, well......difficult!

I hold the ladder and give instructions. Den, dances about on the roof with the mop and bucket. I feel better if I hold the ladder and pass the hose around and feel less guilty because, at least I appear to be "helping". Finally, after a lot of reeling and unreeling of hoses, Billie was back to his clean and shiny self and then it rained! Generally speaking not too bad to clean and the reduction in silicon sealing means, not so many black marks. We will save the polishing for another day.

Time to reappraise our "extras". We had a number of "bits & bobs" fitted onto Billie to make him happy and well turned out and us comfortable!

Air-con: Essential for hotter climes Spain, South of France and the UK if the sun shines. We gave up one of the inside roof lights for this. Makes very little difference we feel to the inside, we used the sklight over the kitchen area.

This unit works really well it blows warm as well as cold air. We have tried it out and it appears fine, will report back when we have had extended holiday use.

Ladder : Essential to get spider and husband onto the roof. This is a Fiamma one which we had fitted to the rear of the van. It fits neatly next to the bike rack.

Gaslow system: We had two bottles fitted a 6kg & an 8kg, as these fitted neatly into the locker. The plastic stand was taken out. The filler was fitted neatly into the side of the body near the locker. All done by Van Bitz.

The gauges make life so much simpler, as we can now see when we need to fill up. A plus point is that if we ever change the van we can take the expensive kit out!

Satellite TV: A real luxury and one we could have managed without! Easy to tune in and a very neat job on the roof. Nestling happily next to the aircon unit. Another trip hazard for the spider. Van Bitz again!

Towing Trailer for the Smart. I will take a picture of Billie and Smartie together when I get a moment. In the meantime, Billie and the trailer.

The Smart trailer tows happily behind Billie and loads and unloads without too much stress. Toad or tow may be a topic for another day. We braved the road this weekend and Billie had his first tow. Smartie enjoyed it ;)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

A Midweek Break in the Cotswolds.

Being a totally well organised kind of person.....NOT. I left it until the last minute to book a few days away. I phoned a few places, but being the school holidays everywhere was full. So, "No room at the inn!" Billi may have to spend a holiday on the drive. Finally, on the off chance, I tried the Caravan Club Site at Moreton-In Marsh. Yes, spaces available on hardstanding, so I booked three nights. I have tried in the past to get onto this site but usually draw a blank with no spaces available. Great we thought, right near a small town, lovely surroundings we had been led to believe, an ideal short break.

We packed the food and wine and off we went! It's very strange once we set our van off in holiday mood, all our neighbours collectively decide to go out, or come in, en masse. Slightly problematic that, as we live in a cul de sac and shuttling two cars and a van in and out is a logistics exercise that works well ... usually. The journey was uneventful and Billi trundled up the motorway and through the Gloucestershire countryside without any problems. The campsite proved easy to find and was brilliantly placed for the town. We filled the water tank and found a pitch. Surprisingly, the  site had quite a few spaces, the facilities were usual high Caravan Club standards. We had read that some of the pitches were a bit narrow, ours was huge. The only slight moan was the road noise, although it was only minor. If you do use this site, get there early.

Nice large easy Reception Area, made for caravans. Bunting and flags out, just for Billi's visit, on reflection maybe the Queen had something to do with it!

Up the park. Nice large pitches for nice large vans. I'm afraid at this point my camera's battery went to sleep. Sadly the picture of the bunnies on the park was rubbish so I left it out! I nearly took the picture of the Elf & Safety sign, which said something about beware of bunny holes when walking in the park, visions of tumbling down one like Alice in Wonderland, spring to mind. The Elves were certainly at work here, there were signs everywhere! Tidy Crazy Golf on this site, no palm trees though. Good children's play area and very clean toilets with temperature adjustments, we did try the showers out!

Our first afternoon was beautiful and we sat outside twice in the sunshine. We had booked three nights, but sadly gave up at two ( due to adverse weather conditions ) and drove home in the second worst rain storm we have had. If we were going to sit with our feet up infront of the telly, we would be better off doing it at home.

Would we go there again? Well possibly, the site was OK and easy to walk into town, but not much else to do, unless you have a car or transport with you. Handy bus stop for Oxford outside the site. We would have gone to a nearby (4 miles) National Trust house but no buses went that way and then it started to rain!! Lots of restaurants and pubs, so we could have gone on a pub crawl. We did enjoy the couple of days and went to an interesting RAF Museum outside the site,we had a late breakfast for two days trying out the local eateries. It said in the site info TV reception was a problem, ours was fine although we did have to do a re- tune to pick up BBC. Overall an enjoyable couple of nights away, a bit more sunshine would have brightened our view of the place I think!

Billi is turning into a real "worst weather" babe, hope he gets the chance to put on his summer clothes soon, we want to use the awning! The van does stay beautifully warm and dry, without the mustiness you sometimes feel though. Hopefully, we may be able to try out our air- con soon and give it a proper test.

Planning our next trip. We have unburied the trailer, so perhaps Billi may have a little friend to take on holiday with him soon.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Trashy But Fun!

It is always so easy to pre-judge things and get it completely wrong. In our time we have been to so many campsites and the worst ones have been the organised "Hi De Hi" type. The second worst experience we have had was last year in a nearly lovely campsite in Crickhowell, when the couple from hell, ruined our last weekend in our old van.

 Again "pre-judgement!" These were no "larger louts" "large family groups with loads of kids" or "teenagers on the razzle". No, the perpetrators, were perfectly normal middle aged couples, in perfectly normal caravans, with large voices,making phone calls in loud voices, constant swearing and drinking till midnight without stop, right under our window! To cap it all, we are quite partial to a bit of country music, but not 24/7! Their idea of a great night socialising would have been fine in their own back garden. We bit our lips, but maybe we should have been more American and complained loudly...that's life. We thought, a nice quiet campsite would be "nice and quiet!" How wrong can you be?

So here we were on a very large brash campsite in Brean Somerset ( see the link) If we had just read the write up, it would have been the last place we would go. However, we were going to Davan Caravans to buy Billi a new silver screen and this was the nearest campsite we could find, so it was for convenience rather than comfort. Living in Bristol most of our lives, sadly we had never ventured to this part of the coast. What a great surprise it proved to be.

Booking was painless,we arrived with trepidation. A very easy reception to manoeuvre, loads of room and well organised.We queued briefly with the happy campers and got our welcome pack and of course our passes for  "the entertainment". Den nobly drove Billi in through the barrier, while I jumped out and tried our gate pass, it worked and we were in!  We navigated to the Yellow Field and were efficiently allocated a massive pitch with all services. The toilet block was very clean and heated. Although a massive site, it felt friendly and was very quiet. We tried all the facilities including the supermarket, Chinese Takeaway, Cafe and Bar. We walked all around the site looking at the statics with their gardens and the lake with it's ducks. Berrow beach is lovely and strolling on the sand looking for the sea, made us feel we were on holiday.We had a nose around Brean Leisure Park and Splash Pool and explored the genuinely trashest market in the world. In all, it was so lovely, we have now been back three times, the "loyality bonus" makes it a relatively cheap weekend and it's less than an hours drive. Last weekend, with the sun blistering we could have been on the Med.........well dream on!

We will definately be back soon. We have to see how Billi tows, so he will have to make friends with our Smart car very soon, that will be another story. Next week Den has a week off, we will avoid the Bank Holiday crush but who knows we may sneak in a few quiet days somewhere. We still haven't walked to Brean Down yet, or been on the new pier at Weston -Super- Mud.

On the beach at Berrow. A really easy stroll from the campsite. Tide out of course.Is it ever in? Well yes, twice a day. Check the board in the car park by the beach.

Rest and relaxation. Tide in for once. Enjoying the view and more.What's more the drinks are quite cheap and you don't feel you've been ripped off.

No, not the Med, a few very tasteful plastic palm trees in The Jungle, Mini Golf.
There is a very nice proper golf course opposite the site for those who are seriously active and a Pitch & Put, for those who aren't.

Large very flat pitches with all the services. Billi's drains work very well. A quick tune up by Chipping Sodbury Caravans and his waterworks are back to normal. Phew!

Cosying up with the new silver screens on. Worth the money and they take up so little room because they fold flat.

Back on the beach, we went on a huge hike and then back along the road by the golf course. Easy walking really, as the sand is well compacted, just a little scramble over the dunes at the end.

The moral of this tale is, there's nothing wrong with a bit of "Hi De Hi" or "The Piglet Club" Bingo and The Cabaret..there's even a bus to the entertainment for those who can't stagger home. No we didn't try it, there's always next time.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Wet, Wet Wet and Windy.

If you could pick the best weekend in the year to try out a brand new motorhome, this weekend at the end of April was not the one. However, I guess it meant we really put Billi through his paces and test the waterproofness ( is that a word?) of the body.

We set out on a Friday afternoon to Glastonbury, to the Old Oaks Campsite We had booked there for two nights to try everything out before moving off to Cornish Farm and Vanbitz to have the alarm fitted. The journey to Glastonbury was fairly uneventful on the motorway. Den is now getting used to Billi and his little ways and they both performed well! As we got off the motorway, the rain and wind got seriously worse, infact the rain was torrential and we were so pleased we had booked a hard standing.

 Arriving at Glastonbury, a dry spell broke though and we safely settled onto our hardstanding and connected everything up, which all worked! How pleased we were that we had heating! As night came on, we tried out the oven, microwave, shower, hob and fridge,  everything performed well. Then came the great moment when we tried out the TV. I was expecting much fiddling, tutting and a picture which seemed like a snow storm. What a surprise! Perfect picture, no messing, just turned it on and it worked. A peaceful evening enjoyed, wine , food, telly and heating, we could have been at home!

The next morning, having had the best night's sleep ever, in our van we got up to shower and found no water. The first little mishap, or Bailey messup.  After a bit of fiddling about and checking water, it turned out we did have water, it was just that Billi's magic panel ( control box) thought we didn't! Fortunately, there is a good facilities block at the Old Oaks, so we would still smell sweet. As far we could see everything else worked fine, 9/10 to Bailey's. We rang and booked a service visit to get it fixed and felt really smug to know the dealers were only just down the road.

Following a second peaceful but freezing night, we knew we had made the right choice of van, as Billie was warm, comfortable and very easy to live with. Heating on a low tick, fed and wined, we were very content as we watched or fuzz free TV. A trek across the fields for a shower was a bit of a pain, but we knew it would be fixed. The following morning off to Cornish Farm at Taunton to Vanbitz. Through wind, rain hail  with tree branches crashing around us ( slight exaggeration,here ) we forged on to Taunton, through rain, rain and more rain!

The next morning all was calm. Billi put up with a wiring job, while we went off to Taunton for what turned out to be a dry and mildly nice, day. By the time we returned at 4.00pm, Billi had, had the operation and was in recovery. Flashing brightly when his fob was pressed to show he had a swanky new and very expensive alarm fitted, he could now also wink on command. Just to keep his tummy happy, he was also the glowing owner of a Gaslow LPG system, complete with two bottles and a filler. Hopefully we had all the extras we would need. One last drama , on the way home a stone hit Billi in the windscreen and caused a minor crack fixable.... just, the next day would mean a trip to Autoglass. Enough stress for one weekend I think, but well done Bailey's ,quality of motorhome, more than passable!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

"To Dump or Not Too Dump?"

Always a difficult question this for many a seasoned motorhomer. We have over the years built up enough stuff in our motorhome to fill a medium bedroom or a large garage. Mostly we try and keep everything we need, minus food and clothes in the van ready to go. At least that way you remember most items. We usually take far too many clothes and always bring back at least two-thirds unworn. We are trying to improve here, although I'm not sure we will ever really get it "just right!"

With the arrival of Billi, we had already had a major cull removing items that had never or rarely been used. Putting things back presented another challenge. There were loads of lockers in Billie and a big under bed space. Plenty of room for all our items and more. Not wanting to bore I don't intend to give you a list of everthing we take but just the extras.

A gas and coal BBQ, table, comfy outside chairs,sitting at the table chairs X4, basic tool kit, walking boots, Ipads, Kindles, mobile phones, spare calor gas bottle, portable outdoor cooker and wok, assorted bats, balls and an 8 boules set, windbreakers, biking bags, these  are a few of our essentials. The items causing the biggest concern were the comfy chairs, table and windbreakers. Our windbreakers were the wooden pole type, well used over the years but with six hefty wooden poles and pretty tough fabric, they were heavy! Our chairs were the Lafuma recliners, in which many a happy hour had been spent lounging ( well sleeping actually, in the sun ) complete with waterproof bags, they were pretty lumpy and again heavy. The table was a big fold up oval table which took up loads of space.

We decided to dump the windbreaker, sitting at the table chairs, lafuma recliners ( now we could use these happily at home in the garden!) bats, balls etc. boules (to be replaced with a smaller set the next time we go to France) and  the large table. Having dumped most of the weight we replaced some of these items with two lightweight Lafuma chairs that could be left outside and an aluminium roll up table. The chairs we picked were reclining, but we decided that sleeping outside could be probably done on a beachmat! A lightweight windbreaker set in a bag, completed our new purchases.

Everthing fitted perfectly into the van with cupboards still free. Our final purchase would be "silver screens" for the windscreen.

We were now ready for our first trip a real "Baptism of Fire!" Billi would be put through his paces on a wet and wild weekend away. We would soon be finding out if the 10 year warrenty for body leaks really worked and if the bed was comfy!!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Billie Bailey Is Born!

With great trepidation and a lot of excitement, we set off in our Pilote to get Billi. We had a lot of good times in our Pilote, so although we were sorry to see her go, it was time to move on. We hope she will find a new home very soon as she was well looked after and is a great little van. So goodbye Pilote and welcome Billi Bailey!

Billie Bailey was all ready for us, suited, booted, badged up, taxed with all the extras and ready to go! Finally, as Goldilocks thought "Just Right!"

 We had already transferred the money, so he was officially ours. Terry at Chipping Sodbury Caravans spent ages with us, making sure we understood how everything worked and being very patient. As usual Den understood all things technical and I understood most of it, making all the right noises anyway! Not wanting to sound or act like " the little wifey" we do have an equal partnership. I decide where we are going and if we can afford it, Den drives, fixes any bits that fall off and does everything "van", while I read the instuction books and give directions. With a bit of bickering we usually get there in the end.

Quickly, before the Three Bears returned or the Bank Manager changed his mind, we  were off. We filled up with diesel (first trauma in a strange garage) and set off to the motorway to bond with the new baby. We only live a few miles from the dealership but the motorway though longer, is less taxing for a new drive. Den performed stoically as usual and we got Billie on the drive without too much drama, he fitted perfectly! After giving the obligatory "audience" to any neighbours that wanted to look around we set about fitting all our belongings back in the right places I could already feel the "checkbook urge" coming on. More decisions to be made and undoubtably more money to be spent! After all Billie had to be dressed inside as well as out, a new baby needs loads of bits and pieces, all absolutely neccessary of course.


The first trip away beckoned, but first what to dump and what to keep, decisions, decisions...........then, The Christening.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Bailey Optional Extras.

Buying extras can jack the price of a new motor home faster than the wheels can turn. Before deciding on which extras to buy we did have a long hard think about what we really needed. We had spent a huge amount of money on a safari room for our Pilot which had been aired twice, so we did not want to make the same mistake again.

This is the list of "optionals " we eventually settled on.

  • A bike rack for two bikes
  • A tow bar
  • Air con
  • A rear ladder
  • Bedding. Duvet, pillows, throw and x 2 sheets. Colour co-ordinated to the van
  • An awning
  • Satellite TV
All these were fitted by Chipping Sodbury Caravans and very reasonably priced.

Fortunately Bailey don't go in for giving customers choices, I guess it does keep the price down! The engine and interior fittings were, as they were. No choices here for Goldilocks then! Beige was the colour of the day. Our general rule of thumb was, that anything needing body work would be done by the dealers.

Like life there is always an exception to the rule. After some research, we decided to go for a "Strikeback" alarm and a "Gaslow" system, both to be fitted by Vanbitz in Taunton. The insurance company insisted on a Cat 1 ,Thatcham alarm system with 30 days to do the deed.Our first trip was planned. Pick up the van and off to Taunton for a very wet weekend and our first trip in Billi! 

The only other major expense would be silver screens, more info on that to follow!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A Decision Made! Waiting for Billie.

Over the first few weeks in April we had made a final decision on the layout of our new van. We decided to take a trip to Marquis at Tewkesbury to have a look at the Autosleepers Malvern. A week later we had booked a test drive and with great excitement arrived at Tewkesbury.

We spent sometime looking around at various vans, "just to be sure!" The layout of two bench seats in the front and a fixed rear bed suited us perfectly. However, we were a little concerned at the lack of storage and the fact that the fridge was so small. On the positive side, it was on a Mercedes chassis which quite appealed. The driving moment arrived! Den confidently manoevered the van off the forecourt onto the road, whilst I as usual, supervised and listened for noises. It was easy on the road and a quick blast up the motorway and around the town went well. I always admire my husband in these situations, driving a (larger than we are used to) vehicle, in a strange place with a watcher, not an easy situation! I was just glad it wasn't me! 

Back at the shop we talked prices and were offered a good trade in price on our Pilot, it passed scrutiny and a damp check. Now decision time! We decided to sleep on it and have a few days "thinking time". To be truthful a few niggles were beginning to gnaw away and "storage space" was the biggy. A lovely van but also a lovely price. Did it really give us everything we wanted?

Back home the following day I was browsing the Caravan Club mag. The page fell open on the Bailey Approach large advert. As I read through it, I realised it could be another contender! I did a bit more web browsing and when Den came home from work ( luck me I'm the retired one!!) we rang Chipping Sodbury Caravans. I was convinced that a smaller place would not have one in stock, but after a brief conversation with them we were off in our Pilot to suss it out.

We live in Bristol and had decided that "Location, Location Location" was very important for our dealer, especially when things go wrong! Chipping Sodbury is on the outskirts of Bristol.A good decision, all the Bailey motorhomes were there. We loved the Approach SE 740, the only problem was, could we get it to fit on the drive. "No problem!" said Jamie the manager, I'll bring mine over and we can see if it will fit?  He did and it did!! One van sold.

An excellent trade in was offered and accepted, we put £1000 deposit down and signed the paperwork all in the comfort of our own home. A brilliant van with everything we wanted and hugely cheaper than the Autosleeper, infact we could get all the extras we wanted and still have some loose change.  Excellent service from Chipping Sodbury Caravans so far.

Next job deciding on the extras.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Finding the Right Layout

Finding the right layout! Not an easy task but one we kind of stumbled on. We had been looking around ever since we bought our second van a Pilote Galaxy. As always tripping to the shows to see what was around. Last year at the NEC show in Birmingham we finally found a layout we would change for. A rear bed, a large fridge, storage with a maximum length of 25 feet. Bentley and Marquis fitted the bill almost, but not quite exactly!

I guess we felt a bit like Goldilocks, too long, too frumpy, too expensive but always not quite right.

The search continued, we knew what we wanted but the manufacturers obviously did not! We finally narrowed it down to a Marquis Malvern but at that point it was only dreaming!