Car Trailer Mod…

Tags

, , , , , ,


I received an email from a gentleman who is a motor home owner and tows a car trailer that wanted a bit of help. Here’s what I received:

Dear Caravan Chronicles
I hope you can help. I have a motorhome which I use to pull a car trailer to classic car racing events. My trailer currently has a Warn winch to help load and unload my sports car but I have recently had a caravan motor mover fitted to help with manoeuvring the trailer with the car loaded. The trailer has one 110Ah battery fitted for the winch, which I have to charge by plugging in the trailer to a mains socket in the motorhome. I asked the company installing the mover if they could install a second 110 Ah battery for the mover and make it so I could charge both batteries while towing. Unfortunately they said it could not be done. I also asked if they could make it so I could link the two batteries if required with a switch, which they also said couldn’t be done. They did advise me to talk to the people that fitted the tow bar. To cut a long story short they also said what I wanted could not be done. Can you come up with something that would work?
Many thanks XXXXXXXX
 

After a couple of email exchanges to confirm a few things, here’s what I came up with:

Click on image to see full size

Click on image to see full size

Using the Leisure battery charging circuit to charge the 110Ah motor mover battery and the Fridge circuit to charge the winch battery was a simple task. However, to link the two batteries and make it so they could not be linked while connected to the tow vehicle so as not to cause any issues with equipment installed in the motor home took at least one cup of coffee’s thinking.

When the batteries are linked (it’s incase one or the other is flat so that either mover or winch can be used) there would be a potential for a large current to be drawn… around 80 amps for either the winch or mover so I sourced a 100 Amp DPDT (Double Pole Double Throw) relay. To stop this relay being operated a second 30 Amp relay was used that when the leisure battery charging circuit was live – i.e. plugged into the motor home, it would be impossible for the main relay to operate. A second level of safety was also added in the form of a key switch. Only the person with a key can actually link the batteries and the key would be on the motor home ignition key ring so the engine of the motor home would have to be off and therefore even if the trailer was still connected to the motor home the fridge circuit would be isolated.

Electrical protection would be via three fuses. If any fuse failed the circuit would ‘fail safe’. If F3 failed (protecting the relays) it would be impossible to link the two batteries. The key switch was one that you could only remove the key on the ‘off’ position to stop the batteries being linked, removing the key and starting the engine of the motor home.

The gentleman gave the drawing to his local tow bar auto electrician who upgraded the motor home towing electrics from a 12N to a 13 Pin socket and installed all the wiring on the trailer. He had it all installed and working within a day. The heavy-duty wiring to the winch and motor mover was completed in 16mm cable and the rest was in 2.5mm cable. Additionally, two C-TEK chargers were installed one for each battery so that the trailer could be left plugged in over winter to keep the batteries in good condition. The trailer has been used on five trips and has worked perfectly I have been informed.

It’s a bit of an unusual one and not generally something you would come across, but it might be of use to some of the motor home owners that tow cars on trailers that read Caravan Chronicles.

S

Annual Service – “Dealer or No Dealer?”…

Tags

, , , , , , , ,


I had booked our caravan in for its annual service for Tuesday 8th at Glossop Caravans, the local main dealer that we bought our caravan from 3 years ago. Now, by chance after a couple of comments on Twitter and a brief conversation via email with Jonathan Robe, Glossop Caravan’s IT Manager, it was arranged for me to spend some time and follow our caravan through its annual service to see what goes on behind the scenes at a major dealer’s service centre.

Glossop Caravan's service centre on the A57

Glossop Caravan’s service centre on the A57

Sue and I picked up the van from our storage site and drove the 11 miles to Glossop. Anyone that uses the A57 will know it can be a bit unpredictable traffic wise but the sun was shining and traffic was fairly light and we arrived around 7:45. We reversed the caravan into a parking spot and un-hitched. Sue was going to head back home and I’d spend some time with the guys at the service centre… trying not to get in the way too much.

The first person you generally meet is Trent. He’s a larger than life character who is a caravan service engineer that progressed from the workshop to the customer facing side of the business. Trent will help you un-hitch if required and then direct you inside to book your caravan in with one of the reception staff. Once booked in Trent will do a walk round your caravan with you and go through any items that might also need attention on the service.

Once you have signed the service paperwork and handed your keys over it’s not long before the bright orange tractor will appear from the side of the building to whisk your caravan off to one of the service bays.

Hooking up the tractor...

Hooking up the tractor…

SPB_5D_098056

Watching your pride and joy disappear is always an apprehensive moment...!

Watching your pride and joy disappear is always an apprehensive moment…!

A bit of background…

Glossop Caravans as we know it now was started in 1976 by two brothers on a small site at Brookfield on the outskirts of Glossop. In the early years they not only sold and serviced caravans but were also a major gas agent and for a while also involved in caravan hire. Over the next few years the main site a Brookfield expanded several times and now covers an area of just over 7 acres.

The main site was becoming increasingly busy and the number of day-to-day caravan movements – new van collections, customers collecting or arriving with vans for servicing or repair increased and a decision was made to move the service and repair centre to another location half a mile way, still on the A57. So in 2004 the new service centre at Woolley Bridge was opened.

In December 2009 Glossop Caravans had a major fire at their Brookfield site which destroyed a number of vans and some of the buildings. Rather than being a set back, it was seen as an opportunity to move forward and improve facilities and they bounced back from what could have been a major disaster for the company.

Today Glossop Caravans is still after 38 years a family run business. It now has four sites in Glossop and one in Oldham totalling over 11 acres. The company is still run by brothers Brian & Stan Laing.

 Now the bit’s you don’t see…

It’s at this point you normally remove your tow mirrors, jump back in your vehicle and drive off and wait for the phone call. Well what happens when the tractor pulls your caravan round the corner out of sight?

Caravans ready to go in to the service bays...

Caravans ready to go in to the service bays…

I met up with Mike Pinder, Glossop Caravan’s Service Centre manager to find out. Mike joined Glossop Caravans as a young lad and has been with the company around 33 years and it’s probably fair to say he’s seen more caravans than we’ve had hot dinners. Mike invited me into his office and we chatted for I while. He ran through some of the details about the service centre. They currently employ nearly 30 staff who do around 1000 services annually, but this is only part of their work. As a fully approved workshop they also undertake a huge amount of repair work to caravan’s and motorhomes. I asked Mike what were the top problems that they come across on caravan services?

“The main one is batteries in smoke alarms. Usually they are missing or flat. We also find a lot of the floor vents (gas drops) blocked. Most usually it’s the ones in the cupboard under the oven. People put pans in there and cover the vent. It’s vitally important to keep all the vents clear to allow air to circulate and its very important the ones below gas appliances to allow gas to escape if there is a leak. The other one we see a lot of is to do with the tyres. Either tyres that are out of date or have signs of cracks on the inner walls.”
 

OK I have to admit my first ‘DOH’ – I took the battery out of ours at the end of the last trip to remind me to put a new one in before the service… and I forgot!

I asked Mike if there were any other common things they find and was rather surprised with what he said…

“Spiders webs…. for some reason spiders like to build webs across the gas burner jets and it usually results in either the burners not lighting or not burning correctly. If a customer says the fridge wont run on gas and they have a full gas bottle, it’s one of the first things we look for.”

Mike went through some of the things that were part of running the service centre. One of the most important ongoing items on the huge list is training. Every year there is a big commitment in training. It’s not only the financial side of sending staff on courses that can take them away from the workshop for up to five days at a time, but also planning the workshop jobs and covering for them while they are away… trust me there were some eye watering training invoices! The most common things you think of are making sure the workshop staff are fully up-to-date with the Gas and Electricity certificates, but also as manufacturers change and improve construction techniques, all the staff have to be trained to be able to work on and repair these to a high standard. As each manufacturer has differing construction and materials, there may be some overlaps, but in general each will have its own approved course or training scheme. Of course all the equipment that is installed in the caravan – water and space heaters , ovens etc all require that anyone working on them are fully trained by the manufacturer.

I asked what were the busiest times for servicing…

“March and April are usually fully booked and it remains very busy through to around the second week in September and it settles down then to a steady rate through to February and then we are back into full flow again”

When Mark said a steady rate it doesn’t mean the workshop is quiet as I was later to find out!

Even though Glossop Caravans have sophisticated workshop management software they still have a traditional big ‘Page A Day” desk diary and each service is entered into it. It is so easy for everyone to see the day’s workload, whats coming up and for the reception team easily check on availability when a customer phones to book their van in for a service. What amazed me having a very quick look at the diary was that it didn’t have just entries for the next couple of weeks but there were caravans booked weeks and months in advance.

Trent booking another customer in...

Trent booking another customer in…

By now Mike seemed to have an endless queue of people waiting to see him and I’d taken up a lot of his morning. It was time for a coffee and to try to scribble some notes so I didn’t forget anything. I sat in reception and one of the ladies was soon enquiring if I’d like another coffee.

OK before you ask, no I didn’t follow John Coleman, the chap who was actually servicing our caravan round while he was doing the service. There is nothing more off-putting than have the owner trailing you round their van while you are working and what’s worse if you know the owner is going to write all about it! So I left him in peace to get on with it… although I do admit to keeping an eye on progress through the workshop window!

Workshop tour…

There is nothing more fascinating to me that wandering round workshops. I’m always interested in what tools people use, watching them do things, see how they work and asking questions… but obviously I can’t just go wandering round, after all this is a place of work and there are off course safety rules, so I waited until Mike had a break from a bit of a backlog that had built up from our earlier chat.

In the mean time John who was servicing our van came out with the service report. Now the first question I think any owner wants to know – was there any damp? I am happy to report that no damp was found. However he did have a couple of other things… The first was no battery in the smoke alarm (Ok I owned up to that earlier!) the second was the floor vent in the cupboard we had put a couple of pan on it… “DOH” Number 2! Next, The HEKI roof light struts were weak… they were checking to see if they had them in stock and would replace – I didn’t notice a problem with them! Next, Rubber pad missing to protect the glass lid on the cooker – good grief these guys pick up on everything. Next… The mod for the drop down TV hasn’t been done. They will put a claim into Swift and request the parts.

Now we have been having problems with the Omnivent fan… turn it on and sometimes it runs, sometimes it just goes to full speed but it always cuts out after about a minute or so. I had assumed that as it was over two years old it would be out of warranty and had even asked the question on Swift Talk but I thought I’d just mention it to John. Apparently it might be able to be done under warranty as there was an issue with some fan controllers, so He’s going to put a claim in to Swift and we will see what the response is. John disappeared to check on the Heki gas strut situation…. within a couple of minutes he was back waving two gas struts at me and said he’d go and fit them and then the caravan would be taken out of the workshop for cleaning.

OK so I got two “DOH’s” but at least we didn’t have a spider’s web in our gas burner jets! While I’m writing this, I’m still thinking about the gas struts on the roof light… seemed fine to me!

The ramp where our caravan had been a few minutes earlier...

The ramp where our caravan had been a few minutes earlier…

OK on to the tour. Mike had cleared the decks and took me round the workshop. It doesn’t look big, but that is because there is a lot packed in there! In the far corner there is a spray booth that can accommodate two caravans or large motorhomes, the rest of the floor is taken up by caravans, most of the ones on the right hand side and at the far end are having repair work done. The areas directly in front of the bay doors are generally caravans or motorhomes that are having service work done, although the floor plan is flexible so things can be moved around as required.

Looking down the workshop from the stores area...

Looking down the workshop from the stores area…

We climbed to the top of the steps that lead into the stores above the reception area. The shelves were packed with almost everything you could need. Thankfully a number of parts are common across ranges so as long as you have someone who can remember where everything is… you are OK!

Mike took me through to the far end of the workshop weaving in between vans and motorhomes. We stopped at one van that was being prepped for a side repair. Depending on the level and type of damage, some light ‘dings’ and scrapes can be filled and the area repainted. However, if the damage is more extensive the normal repair method is to bond on a new aluminium side skin.

Light damage being filled on the lower panel.

Light damage being filled on the lower panel.

SPB_5D_098072

As much if not more prep has to go into a van that is being re-skinned as is in one that is just being filled and sprayed. As the aluminium is so thin, any tiny imperfection will show through and by the time that you notice it, it is too late as the skin will be bonded and almost impossible to remove without destroying it and you have to start over with a new skin. At least with paint you can rub down and start again!

Any damaged insulation or sub structure is always repaired to the original standard or better to provide a repair that will last the lifetime of the caravan. If the inside requires work, the wall panels are always replaced in full sections to the original manufacturers seam.

Mike going through some of the different techniques for repairing side damage..

Mike going through some of the different techniques for repairing side damage..

We went into the paint booth where there were a couple of vehicles that had recently been sprayed. The panel on the motor home below had suffered some damage so it had been repaired and was now in the final stages of being finished with a matching paint. I could not see anything, it just looked like an area had been masked off.

SPB_5D_098075

On the other side of the spray booth was a caravan… now I had a close look and couldn’t see anything apart from the fact it must have recently been sprayed as there was still masking on it where they were blending the paint in. Mike said when we get back to the office I’ll show you a photo of it when it arrived.

SPB_5D_098074

OK, the after, above….  and the before, below.

IMG_2547

Photo courtesy of Mike Pinder, Glossop Caravans

While we were looking at some of the repair work, which I found fascinating, Mike came up with an idea…. “How about an article following a caravan or motor home through the repair process?” Now that’s a great idea. Mike is going to keep an eye out for a repair that will be interesting and involve a lot of the skills his team have. Obviously we will need to ask the owners if it’s ok first. So keep an eye out for that on the blog later this year… or early next year.

After our tour of the workshop Trent had all the paperwork ready for me. A completed copy of the caravan service schedule, the Gas Safety Test Record, a caravan damp report and of course…. the bill! Which I was happy to pay knowing our caravan was fully serviced, safe for the road and Swift Group’s warranty requirements satisfied for another 12 months.

After the paperwork is completed and you have paid the bill, that isn’t quite the end of the story especially if you own a Swift Group caravan. Swift have an online system that their dealers have access to so they can update the records for your caravan and Sue in reception is responsible for making sure all your service records are updated. So in the future when you sell your caravan, and the new owner takes it for a service, the new service agent can see the full service record for the caravan and that all the warranty requirements have been met. Which is important for the future resale value of your caravan.

After every service probably the most important guy in the place gets his hands... or brush on the caravan. Steve gives every van a thorough clean down.. there is a saying in aviation "People judge the servcing of the aircraft by the coffee rings on the drop down table" and the same is true for caravans!

After every service probably the most important guy in the place gets his hands… or brush on the caravan. Steve gives every van a thorough clean down.. there is a saying in aviation “People judge the servicing of the aircraft by the stains on the drop down table” and the same is true for caravans!

I rang Sue to let her know ‘we’ (that’s me and the caravan) were ready to be collected. While I waited Jonathan Robe called in from the main site to see how it had all gone. We sat in reception chatting for a while and I got chance to ask Jonathan a few questions. I was intrigued to know just how many caravan motorhomes and static caravan Glossop’s sold in a year. Jonathan was guarded in his reply but He did tell me and it is a jaw dropping figure… and sorry I’m not going to tell you. Dealers like manufacturers like to keep figures like this close to their chest and I respect that. Trust me though, the way that the leisure industry has increased over the last five years and if Glossop Caravans numbers are anything to go by it won’t be long before Jeremy Clarkson’s worst nightmare of every car towing a caravan is realised.

I would just like to say “Congratulations” to Jonathan as he get’s married this weekend. I did ask if the honeymoon was in a caravan and he said….. well lets just say the answer was no.

The contact details for Glossop Caravan’s Service Centre:

Glossop Caravans Logo

Telephone : 01457 863 232

Email :  info@glossopcaravans.co.uk

A word of thanks…

I would like to just take a moment to say a huge thanks to all the team at the service centre. I’m not a big hitting journalist, nor is Caravan Chronicles a major mainstream caravanning publication, so for Glossop Caravans to allow “a bloke that writes a blog” behind the scenes access to their service centre was a privilege. Thanks Everyone.

 My thoughts on using a main dealer…

OK, this is a big one. A lot of people say that dealers are overpriced and you can get a service done by any caravan engineer. Well, it’s a good argument and maybe they are right. But I take a different view. My Granddad used to have a saying “Owt cheap’s’ dear”.

Main dealers and caravan service centres have to be efficient, well equipped and well-trained. They usually carry a stock of the most required items, it’s no good starting a job then having to order something because it needs replacing. That’s not efficient and customers generally are not to pleased being told they will have to wait. Having a modern well equipped workshop usually means they can tackle the unusual problems they come across quickly and finally training, to keep up with all the current training requirements requires a huge investment in time and money. OK, this means that overheads are more, therefore they have to charge slightly more.

But it goes beyond that. If you have a main dealer, especially the one that sold your caravan to you do all the annual servicing, when it comes time to trade in or trade up the residual value of your van will always be slightly more, and here’s why. If you went to buy a second-hand caravan (or vehicle for that matter) and you had a choice of two identical vans (or vehicles) and the dealer said to you:-

 “We sold this one to the first owners and they traded it in when they bought another new one from us. It has always been serviced by us and we know it’s full history…..the other caravan we took in part exchange when the owners bought a new caravan from us, it has a service history but not by us”

Now which caravan would you go for? Two things stand out, to me. The first is the dealer sold two new vans, one to an existing customer that had come back and second, one to a customer that had not gone back to their original dealer. Now it could be that it was a superb discount that attracted the customers, but customers tend to remain with dealers if they have had good service from them and change dealers if they feel they haven’t been looked after.

There are some excellent independent caravan engineers out there that can come to your home or storage site and do an annual service. However there are one or two that may not be up to scratch, and that’s what bothers me. If you read some of the forums there are a reports of mobile engineers allegedly cleaning the ‘one shot’ wheel hub nuts from their previous job and passing them off as new, just to save £10. (Did you get the old one shot nuts from your last service?) Other reports state that wheel hubs haven’t been removed to check the brakes. To my mind if it’s too cheap, something is not right. Unfortunately most of the time these ‘engineers’ cannot be named as the forum owners run scared of ending up in court.

I think mobile engineers come into their own when you have a problem on site or you are hundreds of miles away from your dealer. That said, I think it is always worth checking in with your dealer first if you have a problem as they might just be able to help as a lot will know people in the area that they can rely on to help out from time to time and usually will go the extra mile to keep their customers happy and make sure they come back in the future.

Finally…

I hope you enjoyed my little insight to our caravan’s annual service at Glossop Caravans. So remember, battery in the smoke alarm, don’t block the floor vents, inspect your tyres and beware spiders webs!

See you on a pitch sometime

Simon

PS.. Oh yes I have my nuts in a bag… one shot nuts that is… in a plastic bag left by John in the caravan doorway… and I’ve put a new battery for the smoke alarm with the caravan keys.

Lets be Practical…

Tags

, , , , , , , ,


Some of the most popular articles on Caravan Chronicles are the “practical” type posts. Anything from the electrical stuff through to little modifications and projects I’ve done. A while ago I had the chance to look through some of the caravanning magazines from the late 50′s through to the late 60′s and they were full of projects. Installing a new roof light, repairing door hinges, updating handles and magnetic catches… in fact all sorts. One interesting early article was about upgrading your caravans road lights to install indicators using the ‘new’ 7 pin plug!

My copy of the Readers Digest Repair Manual from 1973

My copy of the Readers Digest Repair Manual from 1973

In the loft I have a book that was bought for me as a Christmas present back in 1973 when I was a teenager. It’s the Readers Digest Repair Manual, the complete guide to home maintenance. 700 pages of practical advice and ‘how to’ articles about repairing and maintaining things in and around the home. There are no photographs but hundreds of fantastic line drawings making up simple step by step pictorial guides.

One of the chapters is dedicated to repairing and maintaining your caravan, showing how to maintain your caravan brakes, the hitch, replacing broken window seals, fixing leaks and damp and repairing the foot pump for the water supply amongst many.

Page 616.. the start of the caravan section

Page 616.. the start of the caravan section

All this got me thinking, caravan magazines now seem to have lost the practical element to them. The magazines I looked at all had several practical projects in each issue, some were simple and some more complex spread over two or more issues. There was a great one about upgrading your A frame gas cylinder holder so it would hold two cylinders and another about making a fold down spare wheel carrier.

Nowadays caravan.. and I guess motorhome magazines too, are all about the latest offerings from the industry. ‘Features’ on places to go that the rival magazines covered the previous month and probably were also covered in last years editions too. Each month we seem to get a repeat of all the latest caravan layouts (why don’t they make that a pull out section at the start of each manufacturing production season and stop repeating it every month?) and for me, there is only so many times you can review a caravan, be it a new one or a ‘featured’ previously owned one.

If I look at one of my favourite magazines – Land Rover Owner, each month there are technical articles from long running projects such as restoring a classic ‘Series” Land Rover and rebuilding gearboxes to short articles like replacing clutches, installing new equipment and simple upgrades. All written by people that have been tinkering with Land Rovers long before they picked up a pen. I’m not saying that everyone that reads the articles is going to rush out at weekend and try out the latest project, but there will be some that say “I’m going to have a go at that”.

The caravan (and motorhome) magazines we have now are more adverts and photographs than written words. A quick few lines to say “we went here” followed by a lot of photos and “we did this” with more photos. As a photographer, I know photos for magazines are cheaper than the written word and it’s easier to fill a page with photos than it is with good quality writing. “A Photograph is worth a thousand words” is the old saying… well sometimes I think we want the thousand words.

There are some caravan journalists – Andrew Ditton for example, that live the caravan life and write from experience. No matter if it’s a trip or product review,  I am much more inclined to listen to Andrew saying ” I like this product because…..”  than an anonymous editorial saying ” We like this product” knowing they only like it because some manufacturer has supplied it free and usually has a big advert somewhere in the magazine. I know Andrew has been there, used it, tested it and his practical experience has come forth when writing about it.

I wonder if caravan magazines will ever become practical again? Probably not. Most of their revenue now is derived from advertisements and ‘sponsored’ product reviews, not from sales of copies. I wonder if I’m part of the problem, writing and publishing ‘how to’ guides on the internet for anyone to see. But then again if magazines carried more practical information, would I be doing it or would I be writing in to the readers section with a simple project or tip? In the meantime, I’ll just get on with the next project and keep on scribbling.

Simon

PS… I’ll leave you with a couple more pages from the Readers Digest Repair Manual… click on the images to see full size.

RD Repair Manual 02

Want to know how to replace a window seal… read on!

RD Repair Manual 03

Are We Back In Wales Now?…

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,


We had another chance for a few days away mid week again and decided to visit another Tranquil Touring Park site in Wales. Daisy Bank Touring Caravan Park is located almost on the Wales England border in Montgomery, Powys.

Monday 9th June

I’d uploaded POI’s for the site and some of the attractions around the area and checked the route. It should only take just over two hours to drive the 95 miles from home to the site so it was an easy start to the day. Thankfully the light rain had stopped while we loaded up the Freelander. We pulled out of the storage compound just before 10:25 and headed for the motorway to take us west towards Chester. It was a busy day for caravans and motorhomes… every other vehicle passing us in the opposite direction on the M56 seemed to be one or the other. By the time we reached Preston Brook the on again off again rain had stopped, and looking west the clouds were clearing and blue was becoming the prominent colour.

Skirting round Chester and south towards Wrexham on the A483 was the cue for the sun to come out at full strength.  The traffic was fairly light and apart from a few minutes delay just before Pant (yes that’s right… look it up!), the A483 and A490 crisscross the border between England and Wales. It seemed that just as we passed a sign saying “Welcome to Wales” the next sign said “Welcome to Shropshire” followed by “Welcome to Wales again…. hence the question kept being asked…’Are we back in Wales now?” We eventually arrived at the site about 12:40… and it is definitely in Wales!.

The customary post set up shot...

The customary post set up shot…

SPB_5D_097960We booked in, only a simple visitors book to fill in with our details, and were shown to our pitch. We were given the run down of the site and the location of all the facilities and if we needed anything just to pop into reception.. quite simple really. We were also given leaflets about the site and a number of discount vouchers for local establishments.

The pitch was a fully serviced pitch and the tap and drain conveniently lined up nicely at the side of the caravan and allowed quick and easy connections. (To see how we easily connect the drainage on serviced pitches see “Connecting your drainage on serviced pitches…“) The 16 Amp EHU was a little further away and the 10 metre lead wouldn’t quite reach so we had to use our 25 metre EHU lead. The pitch was level side to side and sloped down gently towards the front but two or three turns on the jockey handle soon sorted that out!

While putting up the Fiamma sun shade I discovered the centre pole rafter wouldn’t extend. You are supposed to twist it to unlock it, slide it open into place then twist it again to lock it… well it wouldn’t twist. We didn’t really need it as our canopy is one of the small ones so we could do without. I will give it a course of looking at back home.

As it was warming up nicely, my alter ego “One Hairy Caravanner” set up the Cadac and rustled up a couple of pork steaks done in garlic & chilli sauce with spicy potato slices… and of course a green leaf salad for Sue!

Tuesday 10th June

Tuesday started off fine and not having any definite plans for the day we thought we’d call in the local shop about two miles down the road for a few bits and pieces before setting off exploring. Now, you know when you loose track of time… well that happened to us. “Tuffins Emporium” as it’s described on the Daisy Hill web site is well worth a visit. It’s one of those shops that seems to go on forever in a haphazard and disorganised manner. Amongst the things we picked up was a selection box of ‘O’ rings for a pound… a washing line sock organiser for a pound… and some local cheese, fresh baked bread, pate and wine… not for a pound!.  Tuffin’s is really worth a visit. It’s more than a supermarket, discount shop, garden centre… it’s an Emporium!

We spent so much time in there we decided to head back to the caravan for a spot of lunch… the fresh bread smell had worked its magic and the lunch time nibbles had struck!. As it was clouding over we sat in the van and had a makeshift picnic of fresh bread, cheese, olives and pate. The first few drops of rain turned into a torrential downpour of monsoon proportions.

Sue's action shot of me drying the cover with the portable blast furnace!

Sue’s action shot of me drying the cover with the portable blast furnace!

Sue asked me if I had closed the roof vent over the bed…. DOH!.  It was then I discovered that the rain had been driving along the roof of the van and had entered the roof vent above the bed and we now had a rapidly growing puddle on the duvet!. Shutting the roof vent stopped the flow of water and using a towel to stem the drips partly solved the problem of dripping water. However, the duvet cover was soaking. We stripped the cover off the duvet and a big thumbs up to the Jonic duvet… it shed water quite easily, the hollow fibre filling seemed not to be wet. First thoughts were to see if the site had a tumble dryer… then I had an idea. Sue has a hairdryer that I think in a previous life was a hot air paint stripper. Throwing the cover over the bathroom door and giving it 10 minutes of going over with the hair dryer set to “blast furnace” sorted it out… dry as a bone. The actual duvet wasn’t too bad and a further couple of minutes work with the hair dryer again had it feeling like it had been pegged out in Death Valley. The roof vent needed some attention now… just as the rain had stopped. A good wipe down with a towel got most of the water but the fly screen seemed to hold on to it and it was like looking up at a swimming pool. The hair dryer trick worked again and 30 minutes after discovering it everything was dry again. It’s a good job we decided to come back to the caravan for lunch or it could have been soaking in for a good few hours. Lesson  learnt… shut the bloody vents when we go out!

Wednesday 11th June

The Welshpool & Llanfair Railway Travellers Guide Book - well worth buying

The Welshpool & Llanfair Railway Travellers Guide – well worth buying

The forecast was to start overcast but clear through the day, and so we planned to visit the Welshpool & Llanfair Railway.

Raven Square Station just to the west of Welshpool town centre is the start of the line. Originally the narrow gauge line used to weave through the houses and main street of Welshpool to what is now the Old Station Building station and connect with main line services before the station was moved.

The line was operated for a time by GWR and subsequently British Railways, with the last train operated by them on the 3rd November 1956. The line and buildings were then left to decay. By 1959 a group had formed with the intention of trying to preserve the line and work started to clear the line while negotiating with British Railways to lease the line.  In 1962 the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway Preservation Company Ltd. was formed and they leased the line from British Railways.

The whole story can be read in the book The Welshpool & Llanfair Railway Travellers Guide available in the station gift shop (available for £4). It’s well worth getting for the history and the commentary and photos for the journey up to Llanfair Station.

SPB_5D_097974The trip takes around an hour and passes through some wonderful scenery and a few level crossings. By the time we arrived at Llanfair the station tea rooms were calling and we headed in for a cuppa… and a slice of something squishy. It was about an hour before the train returned to Welshpool which gave me a chance to wander round and take some photos and Sue to stock up on some local preserves… and buy a piece of coal. Don’t ask!

Coupling up after 'reversing the set' at Raven Square Station

Coupling up after ‘reversing the set’ at Raven Square Station

By now the sun was shining and a late lunch and lazing around back at the caravan seemed appropriate. After misjudging the one way system in Welshpool and doing a second pass through the centre we headed back to the caravan… calling in at ‘Tuffin’s Emporium’ en route just in case we missed anything the previous day!

Now they always say things come in threes… first it was the Fiamma pole sticking, then the Niagara falls through the roof vent and the third fell in the category of “it could only happen to me”.

Sue had wandered down to look over the hedge at the dog walk and the sheep in the field opposite and in one of those rare artistic moments that photographers sometimes get, I though that would be a nice photo… I’ll just change to a 70-200 zoom lens.

I took the 17-40 lens off and put the 70-200 lens on the camera body. Went to frame the shot and there was a black blob moving in the view finder. Taking the lens off again I peered in to the camera body and sat on the mirror was a green insect about 8 mm long. I gave it a gentle blow expecting it to fly off but no it decided to wander about checking out the black matt lining of the mirror housing. I tried wheedling it out with a bit of paper but this boy was tough, instead of flying away the sodding thing decided to investigate my camera further and I’ll swear it stuck two legs up at me before it went through a hole where the lever to operate the mirror comes out and disappeared into the dark internals of the camera body.

The last image captured before the 'green insect incident'

The last image captured before the ‘green insect incident’

No amount of shaking, blowing or verbally threatening it with grievous bodily harm would persuade it to come out. So at the moment I have a Canon body that I can’t use due to the fact there is a lodger sat somewhere in the delicate internal mechanics that operate the mirror and shutter blind in front of the sensor. Once I get this thing out it’s going to receive the thrashing of its life from a particularly heavy rolled up copy of “Landrover Owner” magazine.

Thursday 12th June

Why is it the day you are going home the weather is always perfect? We woke late and opened the blinds in the caravan…. yep sun shining, breakfasts being made on Cadac’s, the mouth-watering aroma of bacon and sausages wafting through the camp site. We were packed and ready to roll at just gone 11:00 and pulled in to the caravan storage compound at 1:15pm. Another mini adventure over.

What we thought of Daisy Bank Touring Caravan Park…

Located on the border between mid Wales and Shropshire it’s a great base for exploring the area. The site is well laid out and the pitches have plenty of space around them. The site is divided into four areas and for us, two of the areas “Roundton” & “Camlad” were a little bit buried within the trees, however this might suit others. There are two facilities blocks and the one serving “Kerry” was clean and well presented. The 4 showers were ‘wet rooms’ that each contained a wash basin and toilet and there was plenty of hot water through out the day. What we did like was the fact you could adjust the water temperature of the shower and it was a proper tap… not push button operation. Generally the noise was non-existent, although we could hear a chain saw somewhere a couple of fields away going all afternoon, but you have to remember the area surrounding the site is all working farm land and some noise is expected.The serviced pitches each have a tap and drain located within a few feet of pitch on the off side. 

Would we go back? – YES, there is so much to see and do in the area.

I have created a gallery of images for the site on the Photo Gallery page and you can see all the locations we have stayed at on the Trip Map page with all the trip details on the Caravan Log page

Places to visit:

The Welshpool & Llanfair Railway - 
The Space Guard Centre -National Near Earth Objects Information Centre
RAF Museum Cosford - 
Bala Lake Railway - 
Ludlow Castle - 
Kerry Vale Vineyard - 
Rheilffordd Talyllyn Railway - 
Snailbeach Lead Mine - 
Corris Mine Explorers - 
Corris Railway -  

A Bit Of An Update…

Tags

, , , , , , ,


Back in February I wrote a post “Testing Testing… about trying out some OLPRO products. One in particular was their “Inside & Out” which I tried on the Freelander with great success, however I haven’t had chance to try it on the caravan… mainly due to the weather and I did promise back then to do an update.

So the day after we returned from our North Wales trip (A Pitch With A View…) The weather was co-operating so we loaded up the trailer with 3 x 25 litre containers of water, a hand pressure spray, a set of steps, long-handled soft washing brush and set off for the caravan storage compound.

Right.. where do we start? (Sue is wearing one of my mahoosive old polo shirts)

Right.. where do we start? (Sue is wearing one of my mahoosive old polo shirts)

IMG_7917While Sue tackled inside I got the steps out and started on the roof. The first bucket of water I added the recommended amount of Inside & Out… which was a bit of a problem as it was foamy as a comedy laundrette in a flood and took a while to wash off the roof. It did however clean the roof very easily just using my normal long handle soft washing brush (I think I got it from Costco a couple of years ago).

For the first side, I reduced the amount of Inside & Out by about half that I added to my bucket of water. This dilution seemed to work fine. It was an easy job of brushing the sides in sections, going round all the intricate bits – awning rails etc with a small soft brush and spraying down with a hand pressure wash – the garden sprayer type with clean water.

Rinsing out and refilling the bucket for the back panel and repeating the process for the opposite side and front panel. As you can see from the photos, the sun was out and quite strong and one of the problems that often occurs when washing anything in strong sunlight is that it dries leaving water marks. This didn’t seem to be a problem using Inside & Out as I guess there must be a wetting agent in it. When I sprayed on clean rinse water, it beaded straight away and rinsed off any remaining washing water. I didn’t have to use a leather to dry off the caravan, a simple soft car body squeegee worked great.

The other thing that I noticed was it was particularly effective at cleaning the zip on the Fiammastor Awning. The zip fabric along the length of the bag was starting to go a little green, but Sue scrubbed it with the small brush with just the same normal soapy solution I was using and it came up a treat. It also cleaned the plastic insert in the awning rail easily as well.

Sue giving the lower awning rail some attention!

Sue giving the lower awning rail some attention!

It took just over 2 hours and one and a half 25 litre containers of water to wash and really give the outside a good going over. It took nearly as long to remove excess mastic from the edges of the roof light left over from some exuberant use of a mastic gun back in the Swift Factory. I’d been picking at bits ever since we bought the van but I was determined it was all going to come off this time.

IMG_7926

IMG_7922

IMG_7929 IMG_7930

All in all I was impressed with “Inside & Out”. It cut through road film on the front cap easily, cleaned the roof which always seems the worst and removed some grease from around the lower valence where they service guys had greased the steadies. It tackled the green stuff on the Fiammastor awning zip and it didn’t dry leaving water marks even in the hot sun.

So I’ll give it a Caravan Chronicles 5 out of 5 jockey wheel rating.

IMG_7933

Inside & Out is available directly on-line from the OLPRO shop or from many good caravan accessory shops.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 539 other followers