Set up on a pitchWe left Camping Le Perroquet just after 06.00hrs on Tuesday 26 August. We had asked about leaving early the day before and were told just to show our receipt to the gatekeeper who was on duty 24 hours a day. We then drove to the Norfolk Line ferry terminal at Dunkerque. We did, however, encounter a problem. When queuing at the ferry terminal at Dunkerque I noticed that the car was reluctant to pull the caravan forward. On checking I found that the caravan handbrake was fully engaged. I could only surmise that when manoeuvring out of the campsite the breakaway cable had caught on our cycle carrier and pulled on the handbrake. As we were so near to boarding the ferry I decided that it would be easier to check out the problem further after we had reached the UK. Unfortunately the hold-up with the brake problem meant that we missed the 07.00hrs ferry and had to wait for the next ferry which departed at 08.00hrs. We spent a rather boring hour in the empty Norfolk Line car park. There were toilet facilities in Norfolk Line terminal buildings but the cafe was still closed at that early hour. I was, however, able to get some good photos of the arrival of our ferry, the "Maersk Dover".

The ferry

A close-up of the ferryWe arrived in Dover and disembarked at approximately 09.30hrs. We made good time on our 111 mile journey mainly on the M20 and M25, anticlockwise, and reached Wyatt's Covert Caravan Club site, to the north of London, by 13.00hrs. We regularly visit this site on the way home from our Continental holidays via Dover. Cary's Dad lives in nearby Ruislip and Wyatt's Covert makes an ideal base for visiting him.

The caravan site is very close to, and handy for, the M25 and M40/A40. The approach to site is along a main road apart from the last mile or so which is through a residential area and then a minor country road, but that is not too narrow. When visiting the site it is important to follow the route in the Caravan Club handbook, ie, via Denham Green Lane, as Tilehouse Lane is quite narrow at its western end and extremely narrow at its eastern end. The caravan site is not signed at the left-hand turn from the main A412 road onto Denham Green Lane but the adjacent picnic site is signed. We had no access problems following the recommended route. For those unfamiliar with the site, the site entrance is not too clear, especially at night. One has to turn into the entrance to the adjacent mobile home park and then immediately right into the caravan site, without actually going into the mobile home park. As one turns at mobile home park entrance the Caravan Club sign and site entrance can be seen on the right-hand side.

Wyatts Covert site is obviously intended as a base for visiting London and it is ideal for that as there is a railway station at Denham, just over a mile away, with a direct rail link to Marylebone. Although there is a small, private airfield next door we have never really experienced any noise problems as the planes only fly during daylight hours. There is, also, a helicopter charter base on the airfield but we only heard helicopters land or take-off a few times during our stay.

The site is just rows of caravan pitches on hardstanding with some grass in between and all with EHUs. The site is surrounded by trees and hedges - no views at all. The only site facilities are the toilet block, which is clean and warm, and the adjacent information room. There is no play area or even anywhere for children to play. This caravan site is very popular and does get booked up, especially during holidays and at weekends. I suspect some of the residents may have been working in the area as they left very early, and arrived back late, in vans! The wardens were friendly and helpful. There is a security barrier which is operated by a swipe card on entry/exit.

There is a parade of shops, including a mini-market/newsagents/ off-licence, pubs, restaurant, petrol station and railway station in the village of Denham, just over a mile away. Quite a long walk downhill, and then uphill back to the site! There are other shops, including supermarkets, in Uxbridge, about 5 miles away. Watford shopping centre is about 10 miles away. There is a picnic area next to the site but we have never visited it. In addition to the delights of London Windsor, Becconscot model village and Legoland are in easy driving distance. There is also the very pleasant Buckinghamshire countryside to visit. Basically quite a good site if you wish to stay in the London area but it does not offer a lot in its own right

Unfortunately when I sited the caravan at Wyatts Covert I discovered that the problem with the caravan brakes was much more serious than I had previously realised. The brakes were so badly worn that when I applied the handbrake it sprang so far back into the upright position that it took a piece out of the plastic fairing! Obviously the brakes were not in a fit state continue with our journey and I was, also, concerned about the state of the wheel bearings, as they had obviously got very hot. With the help of Bailey Caravan's customer service line I located and contacted Ian Gibbons, a local NCC and Bailey approved mobile caravan engineer. Ian kindly agreed to reschedule his bookings and come out and make any necessary repairs to our caravan brakes, bearings, etc the next afternoon, Wednesday 27 August. Ian was a really friendly and helpful chap but on opening up the brake drums he discovered that the brake linings had completely disintegrated and all that was left was a fine powder! It appeared the caravan brakes had probably been on for most of the 30 minute drive from Camping Le Perroquet to the Dunkerque terminal. Ian repaired the brakes but it cost over £400 - not a very happy end to our holidays.

After the caravan had been repaired we visited Cary's Dad and in the evening we went out for a pleasant meal with him at his local "Cafe Rouge". On the morning of Thursday 28 August we set out on the final 200 mile leg of our journey back to St Helens. We travelled via the M40, M6 Toll and M6. After stopping off in Stafford to visit friends we arrived home safely in St Helens by the early evening.

Holiday Statistics (French Pyrenees & Ile de Re combined)

Total diesel consumption: 672.78 litres
Total mileage: 3,268 miles
Total diesel costs: £830.27
Total Autoroute tolls: c£400
Total nights away: 38 nights
Average diesel costs £0.254/mile
Average diesel costs per litre £1.12
Average miles per litre: 4.857miles
Average miles gallon: 22.079 miles

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