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Hi again… you still reading?

Ok where were we, Oh yes… so everything was booked. Now all we needed to do was learn how to “caravan”.

The internet is a fascinating repository of ‘stuff’. I soon learned about electrical hook up’s, how to level a caravan, towing tips, water systems, gas safety, and most importantly the right and wrong way to empty a Thetford Cassette toilet….

Another thing became obvious… we needed to buy stuff. Some light weight crockery, knives and forks, towing mirrors, green solution, pink solution… the list was growing. Again, a search of the internet and we found we had a “Go Outdoors” store near us in Stockport… off we went with our shopping list. Thankfully we managed to get most things we needed in one go, that was untill I read something else on the internet about caravanning and decided we could not possably do without it and must have it immediately … which resulted in several more trips to Go Outdoors and a few places Sue never knew about!

I ordered the 12S kit from my local Land Rover dealer, Guy Salmon in Stockport and as luck would have it, they had one on stock which I arranged to collect the following day.

So, we had everything sorted. I’d installed the 12S kit on the Freelander and tested everything, all the equipment we had purchased was staked up in boxes in the workshop, complete with a list of the weight of each box and Sue had assembled the comestibles we were going to take. There was no point in trying out this caravanning lark if we didn’t try out the cooking as well.

We only had 5 weeks between booking the caravan and actually setting off with it, so everything passed in a bit of a blur really. We had kept talking about it and I was looking forward to it… Sue however, was being more reserved about it. I so much wanted it to be successful, having always secretly wanted a caravan, I was in danger of putting Sue off.

The morning of our planned departure arrived…. Sue, as usual was “slightly’ behind the clock, so I went off to collect the caravan on my own. I arrived at North Western Caravans around 8:30, although I couldn’t pick the van up until 9:00, I thought being early might chivvy things along a bit. I parked outside and turned my attention to fixing the towing mirrors onto the Freelander. I wandered intot he yard and they staff were readying a couple of caravans. One was a huge twin axle Sterling and the other a smaller Crystal Moorea… a continental set up, with the door on the drivers side.

The guys in the yard asked me if I was collecting a 6 berth… no, OK, this was mine then, could I reverse in to the yard and stop next to another caravan. I reversed in and parked where I’d been told.

One of the staff went round the caravan with me, showing me all the finer points of operating the van, filling things, emptying things, turning on the gas, tuning on the water, where the spare was etc. Eventually we were stood back at the hitch. It was an Alko hitch, and I read all about them… even downloding the manual onto my MacBook just in case. In fact I had manuals for nearly everything… including a video on how to empty the Thetford!

The lads finally pushed the caravan round and hooked it up to the Freelander. A check of the breakaway cable and lights and I was given the all clear to pull out of the yard. This was it.

I towed the Caravan back home so we could load it, I thought it would be easier than trying to stuff everythign including two bikes into the Freelander then transfer them into the caravan. The only problem was, this caravan is not what we wanted. It was a fixed bed, small washroom off to one side, only had a hob, no oven, no microwave (OK I’m being picky now) it was nothing like what we wanted or had thought about… a fixed bed was a waste of space, the shower was so small you left bum imprints on the tiny window when you turned round and if you dropped the soap… you had to virtually go outside the van to be able to pick it up.

I parked on the end of the drive and Sue cam out to have a look at what we would be staying in for the next six nights. I could see Sue was not a happy bunny… It took an hour for me to talk Sue round… I was stuck, I had to be in Essex for 12:00 the following day, and time was slipping by. I either had to go on my own or take the van back and set off and find a hotel down there. The clock was ticking, it was now nearly 11 and I would end up hitting the Friday rushour traffic on the M25 if we didn’t leave soon.

The first part of the journey down was quiet… I was concentrating on towing and Sue didn’t speak. She didn’t speak when handing over a cheese and ham muffin around south Staffordshire somewhere… and didn’t speak when I pulled in to Norton Caines Services on the M6 toll road to use the loo and get a coffee. However, on returning with chocolate, bottled water and nibbles, the mood had thawed a little.

The journey from Norton Caines Services down to the M25 was uneventful except we both noticed that HGV drives on the whole were very friendly in flashing us in or acknowledging us if I flashed them in… what was more noticeable were the Eddy Stobart drivers… every single one acknowledged us. One thing that we did see was a convoy of six or seven Airstream Caravans on the M1 traveling north… they were all hauled by vans or pickups with some film location services company logos on them.

Unfortunately, we arrived at the M1 – M25 Junction just as the rain started and just as most of North London and the home counties decided it was that time on a Friday that

Pitched at Kelvedon Hatch

Pitched at Kelvedon Hatch

they should all be somewhere else. From the M1 – M25 junction, it took nearly two hours to get to Kelvedon Hatch C & CC site… just as the sun was setting… not that we could see it through the rain. I really didn’t want to pitch the van in the rain.

The warden showed us to our pitch and said if we needed any help, just to let him know (I had explained this was our first time!)  Surprisingly, it only took about 20 minutes to set up, even in the rain. I stood outside under an umbrella and had a cigar, while Sue warmend up a pasta dish she had cooked the previous day and brought down with us. So at the end of our first day, settled down in the caravan, it actually felt quite cosy even with the rain rattling down on the roof.

Saturday,  I was up early and decided to tackle the breakfast. Really cooking in a caravan is all about being efficient with the space, you can virtually cook anything as long as you master the use of space. It didn’t take long to have a couple of plates with scrambled egg, sausage, bacon & toast on the table. Once all the breakfast things were cleared, washed and put away, I had to start getting ready for the photo shoot… which ment moving all my mobile studio stuff from the van to the Freelander including a couple of bags of cameras, lens’s and other kit. That done, I set off for the shoot, leaving Sue with a cup of coffee, yesterdays newspaper and a book to keep her occupied. I guessed it would be around six before I was back.

That evening, we found a fantastic pub that served excellent food, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was called. The following morning we were due to pack everything up and move on to Canterbury…. so an early night beckoned again.

Thats it for part two…