I’m writing this in 2012, as an enthusiastic convert to caravanning. But back in 2007, things were very different!
Early in that year we bought ourselves a Pennine Clubman folding camper second-hand off eBay.
Facilities were basic – double beds front and back in the fold-out compartments, and a centre section which doubled as the lounge / diner or another double bed. We had a gas cooker (two rings and a grill), cold water to the small kitchen unit via a foot pump in the floor, and an electrical connection from the site hook-up to a couple of mains sockets. Still, it looked like fun to try, so off we went…
Our first trip must have been around Easter, to a site near a quarry outside Buxton. The first night we were woken in the early hours by thunderous explosions, as hundreds of tons of rock were dumped into the wagons of the quarry train. Followed of course by the roar of diesels and the screech of metal wheels on the track, as the heavy load slowly set off on its journey past our campsite. On the second night the weather took a turn for the worse, with a hard frost as the temperature plummeted . I’m surprised hypothermia didn’t set in, although fortunately I had packed a small electric fan heater which we could huddle around.
Our second expedition took us further afield, to South Wales in July 2007. Date sound familiar? Should do, because it’s when the country was hit by some of the heaviest rain and flooding in years. So as we were driving South West into Gloucestershire towards Wales, the driving rain from the South West had already visited Wales, and was now causing chaos in Gloucestershire. The M5 motorway was flooded and reduced to a single very slow lane around Tewkesbury. We moved onto ‘A’ roads after a while to try and avoid the traffic jams, but fared no better. Countless roads were flooded, and some were closed by police due to land slippage or deep water. We eventually found a route through, although passing through several inches of water at one point caused us some concern – any higher and it would have entered the camper, soaking clothes and bedding before our holiday had even started.
We arrived at our first site at Newport rather later than planned, and had to erect our camper in the dark and rain at the bottom of a wet muddy sloping field. The conditions didn’t seem to deter the private function in the site clubhouse though – the loud music and drunken revelry continued well into the early hours of the morning. We had already booked a sequence of campsites for the week, so felt obliged to stop for another night in the muddy field before packing up and moving on.
Our next site was in the Brecon Beacons. A lovely site, overlooking a lake, with good facilities including a small restaurant. Unfortunately by the time we arrived most of the pitches had become waterlogged, with a couple of inches of water visible above ground. I think this was the point where we all conceded defeat. Unable to face any more rain, mud or water, we stopped for a hot meal in their restaurant, then turned around and set off sadly home. The M5 was still passable, although Tewkesbury was by now isolated by the floodwaters.
Our final trip of the year was in August, to Woodstock Farm near King’s Lynn. In complete contrast to our earlier trips, the weather was perhaps some of the best that year, and we had a fantastic holiday. The kids were elsewhere doing their own thing with friends, so my wife and I had the entire camper to ourselves. We visited King’s Lynn; the tiny and quaint village of Wereham within walking distance of the site; and the wind turbine visitor centre near Swaffham.
We were well and truly hooked, and the next Spring we bought ourselves our first caravan!