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!