The Gallery is a free tool available to all members of Caravan Talk to let you upload and share your photos.
We have recently updated the Gallery tool to remove most upload restrictions and photo limits so we should now be able to add high quality pics of our favourite holidays and towcars without having to resize images etc. ..
To celebrate and help introduce the gallery to those unfamiliar with it, here's a quick guide on how to add your own albums and photos using the Gallery:
Guide to the Gallery pt 1
Start in the Gallery and hit the green upload button to begin the process of adding new photos.
Guide to the Gallery pt 2
If you've already created an album, click "Select Album", if you want to start a new one click "Create New Album". This guide assumes that you've chosen "Create New Album".
Guide to the Gallery pt 3
Now you can set the album information - it should be fairly self-explanatory - you can pick the Name, Description, sorting method and whether people can rate or comment on the photos.
Guide to the Gallery pt 4
Now you can upload images to the album. Select the "Choose File" button and browse to the picture's location and double click on the image. Then you can hit the "Upload" button to add the photo to your album.
Guide to the Gallery pt 5
Once you've uploaded your images they should be displayed like this. Select "Review & Publish" to continue.
Guide to the Gallery pt 6
Here you can name the images, add tags, a description and the copyright holder's name if appropriate. Hit the "Save" button at the bottom of the page to publish your album.
Guide to the Gallery pt 7
You've now published your album, so sit back, relax and let your friends become jealous of your cracking holiday snaps
Want to know more about a particular feature or know a good topic for the next guide? Leave a comment below. ..
Friday was departure day for our annual holiday my two girls, grandson and I spend together. . This year, they rented a ‘cottage’ in Devon. The ‘cottage’ turned out to be a three bedroom, two bathrooms house overbooking the bay at Bigbury-on-Sea on the south Devon coast. And just up the road, in the next village there was a Club CL that had space for my van.
All of my long journeys invariably begin with a drive along on the M25 in one direction or the other so I left home at six in the morning to avoid the worst of the traffic. By 08. 45 I’d reached Stonehenge so I pulled into their car park for a coffee break and rest. Because I’m a member of English Heritage I took advantage of the free admission and travelled on the coach to visit the stone circle. Within the hour I was on my way and didn’t stop again until I reached the site.
My pitch was at Chapelcombe Farm in St. Ann's Chapel. It’s a working farm concentrating mainly on sheep. Their licence must be for more than a Club CL because my pitch was number seven with No. 8 and No. 9 going along into the corner of the field.
Each pitch has it’s own water supply, dustbin and electric supply point. Toilets and showers are provided in one of the out-buildings of the farm although the showers are charged for on a meter. Some of the pitches are on manicured lawn whilst mine and four others are on gravel. Presumably the gravelled pitches are the CL. From all the pitches there are extensive views across the countryside to the hills of Dartmoor in the distance. Site fee is £14. 50 per pitch per night. In my view, for a site by the sea in August, it is excellent value.– even more so for the family of five on the next pitch,
But the local roads!…………… They are a nightmare for driving. Especially towing to the site from the A38 trunk road. Most of the roads are narrow, high hedged single lanes, with passing places every 300 yards or so. My advice to anyone visiting the area is to ignore your sat-nav, research a route using maps and Google Earth and write it down.
On Saturday my daughters and grandson arrived and they quickly settled in to their ‘new home’. In the evening they called for me at the site and we went along to the Pickwick Inn for dinner. The Inn is situated at the cross-roads in the village and is only a short walk from the site. The Pickwick Inn is a Grade 2 listed building because although the frontage was built in the 19th century, the rear of the pub includes what was once a 15th century chapel and part of a 17th century house.
For our first day out we drove to Torcross then on to Dartmouth. I decided to try the short cut and fortunately the tide was out. By taking the Tidal Road one saves a detour of four to five miles. The road runs alongside the river but as the tide comes in, parts of the road goes under the water. We very soon arrived at Torcross, the village at one end of Slapton Sands. In December of 1943 the village was evacuated and the whole area was given over to the American Army as a battle training ground in preparation for the Normandy landings. In the car park is an American Sherman tank which was dragged from below the surface of the Bay.
It has been erected as a memorial to 940 American soldiers who lost their lives during a disastrous pre- D-day training exercise during one night in April of 1944.
After a lunch and a couple of hours on the beach, we continued on our journey to Dartmouth where I was able to park quite close to the Castle. Dartmouth Castle came into being during the 1380’s when it was thought that the town was likely to be attacked by the French. During Henry VIII’s reign, because of his break with the Church of Rome and because all the countries of Europe were threatening war against England, the Castle was enlarged and given artillery towers and an iron chain which could be stretched across the estuary to a tower on the far bank.
During the Napoleonic wars the Castle was again further strengthened.
The Castle is now in the care of English Heritage.
We had a birthday to celebrate during the morning so we spent the time in the conservatory until lunch time. During the afternoon we walked across the sands to Burgh Island.
The Island is around 400 yards from the mainland with about 700 yards of sandy beach between the two water lines. At high tide the water is up to seven feet deep on the causeway. The tide changes rapidly and should you find yourself marooned because of the rising water, you can always pay to have the sea-tractor ferry you across to the main-land.
On the Island is a 13thCentury Inn – The Pilchard so named because in the 1800’s fishermen caught vast numbers of pilchards around the Island, stored them in barrels of salt and sent them to market. After several years the pilchard stocks diminished so that now, pilchards are rarely seen in these waters.
The other building on the Island is the Hotel. In the late 1920’s the Island was bought by Archibald Nettlefold, a film producer and the then owner of Walton Film Studios. He built a grand hotel in the latest ‘30’s style with palm court and sumptuous suites. Among his frequent guests were the likes of Agatha Christie, Noel Coward, the Duke of Windsor and Mrs Simpson. The hotel is open to dinner guests starting at £75 per person however, dinner is included in an over-night stay. Each suite can be had for £750 per night.
Today we set off down the A38 for a few miles before turning off towards Dartmoor to visit the estate on which there is the Canonteign Falls. The estate used to belong to Viscount and Lady Exmouth and in 1890 after the closure of the estate’s silver mines, the redundant miners were set to work building a man-made waterfall with leats to power various water driven machines on the estate. The waterfalls are the highest man-made falls in England, measuring 70metres high.
I persevered through the woods and upwards to the base of the falls, but then a long arduous climb continued via ninety uneven steps which takes you on a circuitous climb round the top of the falls and back down on a different route. I settled for the walk to the base of the falls, leaving daughters and grandson to do the climb and circular walk. .
We decided on another beach trip today. This time to the National Trust beach and car park at South Milton. Fortunately we arrived early enough to secure one of the remaining parking places. Others who arrived later queued on the road for a space. Others set off on the long trek back to find another beach. After lunch the family took a walk along the cliff coastal path whilst I took a nap. The view inland from the car park was as equally beautiful as that looking out to sea. In the evening we drove to the next village where we found another lovely little pub to have dinner.
On Friday I programmed the Tomtom with the coordinates for a car park at Salcombe. We set off down the hill to the Tidal Road only to find that the water was still too deep to allow us to cross without damage to the car.
We waited for fifteen minutes or so as we watched the water line recede. Finally I drove through three inches of water for a hundred yards or so. Thirty minutes later we arrived at the car park where we found it ¾ full. It filled rapidly quite quickly after our arrival. With very little of the beach being exposed, the girls and Sam set out to have a walk. I was quite content to sit on the sea wall doing some people watching. But not for long. Within minutes a helicopter flew into the bay where it hovered above our heads and then began to descend, filling our eyes with blown sand. The machine settled on the grass alongside the car park where the rotor finally stopped and doctor and paramedics jumped out and ran across to the restaurant and beach shops.
After twenty minutes or so an ambulance also arrived and after quite some time, a youngish chap was stretchered out and with heart monitor balanced across his middle he was loaded into the ambulance. After a further delay the medical team returned to their helicopter, standing around finishing their huge ice cream cornets before boarding and taking off, leaving us to hang onto our hats and shielding our eyes from the violent down draught.
Later in the evening we adjourned to the Pickwick Inn for a final meal before preparing for the journey home the next day.
As I drove home towards Stonehenge, I decided to do a small detour. The British Army has had a presence on Salisbury Plain for more than 120 years but after World War-1 the War Office began buying up huge tracts of land so becoming the landlord to many farmers. The ground they purchased also included Imber, an ancient, isolated village with a 13th Century church set in the centre of the Plain. So all the villagers became tenants of the War Office. In 1943 villagers and farmers all received letters telling them that within 43 days, they must leave their properties. . The date by which everyone had to be gone was just one week before Christmas. No one other than military personnel has been allowed into that part of the Plain for many years, hence it’s the only area in the Country without post codes. But recently without any public announcement, the Ministry of Defence has allowed access to the village church for one week during August. I was curious to see what had become of the remote village.
The church was built in the 13th Century and stands on an earlier building from the previous century.
At one time it was rich in fittings and furnishings however most have been removed and scattered among other churches in Wiltshire. The building is now just a shell however the army has kept it in a reasonable state of repair with the bell tower still functioning. Because of some 13th and 15th Century wall paintings which are still faintly visible on the walls, in 2005 the church was given a Grade 1 listing and its care and preservation was handed to The Churches Conservation Trust.
As for the rest of the village, most of the once thatch-roofed cottages have been pulled down and replaced with groups of skeleton houses built without windows and doors and roofed with pressed steel roofs. Likewise the former manor house has had its windows and doors boarded up. A third floor built into what was once a dormered roof has also gone, to be replaced by a factory-like steel roof . The ‘village’ is now used by special forces as a training ground for simulated house to house combat.
This blog may be seen with many more pictures at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/another-summer-in-devon-august-2018/
A full week with nothing in the diary so why not take the caravan down to Kent for a few days. My first choice was Black Horse Farm at Folkestone but it was fully booked for some of the nights I wanted so instead I looked at Daleacres on Romney Marsh. They had pitches available so I booked. I was quite looking forward to seeing the place again. The last time we went there as a family, taking our Siamese cat with us was in 1970. I have memories of our cat taking himself off for a prowl along the hedgerows and proudly returning with a freshly caught vole.
For my first drive out from the site I drove twenty miles along the coast to visit Samphire Hoe Nature Reserve, just outside Dover. The entrance is from the dual carriageway – the side which leaves Dover and heads towards Folkestone. Entry is down a one-way, traffic-light controlled tunnel cut through the cliff. The road comes out onto what used to be the narrow beach at the foot of the cliffs.
If you are into DIY you’ve probably at some time been faced with getting rid of unwanted soil. If it’s just a bucket full, you may have sneaked it into the dustbin or if it was a bit more, taken it to the rubbish tip. The last little bit of block paving I laid to extend my drive, produced two cubic meters of earth – enough to fill a small skip. But what if you’ve got FIVE MILLION cubic metres of the stuff to get rid of. What do you do with that? ……... You build a nature reserve.
Back in the early 1980’s when the Channel Tunnel was being planned, there were lots of suggestions as to how the spoil from the tunnel boring could be got rid of. The winning solution was to create Samphire Hoe. They began by sinking two rows of sheet piles out into the sea from the base of the cliff. After they’d gone straight out to sea for a ¼ of a mile, they made a 90 degree turn and continued putting in the piles parallel with the cliff for a mile. The piling then made a 45 degree turn towards the cliff, finally enclosing the area at the base of the cliff. The three metre wide space between the piles was then filled with mass concrete. In all, the area covered around 75 acres. Once it was pumped dry, it was into this space that the builders of the tunnel dumped the chalk.
And why the name, Samphire? In Victorian times fishermen who lived along the beach in wooden huts also collected Samphire, a type of sea vegetable. It was stored in barrels of sea water and sent up to London on the newly built railway to supply the Victorian catering trade.
After a walk through the reserve, I drove to the White Cliffs National Trust car park. Walking along the top of the cliffs you get a bird’s eye view of the activity in the Port of Dover.
On the way back to Daleacres I visited the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial which is built on what used to be a World War-2 airfield situated on the high ground to the west of Dover. The memorial is laid out in the form of a giant propeller with a sculpture of a young airman dressed ready and waiting for the the next order for take off.
A semi-circle of panels bearing the names of all the young people who gave their lives during that short period forms a backdrop. To one side of the complex are two WW2 aircraft. A Spitfire and a Hurricane.
On my second day I drove towards Canterbury to visit Howletts Wild Animal Park. I left early, wanting to get most of my visit done before it became too hot. I arrived just as it was opening at 9. 30.
The Park began as a private zoo in 1957 on a large country estate owned by the gambler, John Aspinall. During the 1950s gambling was illegal except for when it took place on race courses - and on postal football pools. Aspinall bent the law by hosting private gaming parties for members of the aristocracy where fabulous amounts of money were lost during the course of an evening. Aspinall’s hobby was keeping exotic pets. Amongst his collection he kept baby lion cubs and monkeys. In 1974 he became involved in the disappearance of one of his gambling friends, Lord Lucan. Lucan was facing charges of murder for killing his children’s nanny, mistaking her in the dark for his wife. Before he could be brought before the court, he disappeared, and so escaped justice. It was believed but not proved that Aspinall had helped in his disappearance.
The zoo is now run by the Aspinal Foundation on the Howletts country estate with the mansion being at the centre. The animal enclosures are laid out on either side of a circular route around the estate. To visit every enclosure involves a great amount of walking, however I was only able to manage a comparatively short distance before retracing my steps back to the entrance. Some form of transport would definitely be an asset.
Saturday the 14th of October 1066……. …That was the day Harold, fresh from his victory at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, met his adversary, Duke William of Normandy. The two armies were evenly matched however, the forced march from Yorkshire, left Harold at a disadvantage. A close-combat battle had continued for most of the day, but by nightfall, Harold was dead and the English army was in disarray.
William lost no time in building castles, giving grants of land to his knights, and savagely dealing with any resistance. By Christmas, he had himself crowned King of England in Westminster Abbey.
History has it that the Pope ordered William to do penance for killing so many people during his conquest of England so in response, he ordered the building of an Abbey on the site of his first battle on English soil.
So on Wednesday my first stop on my tour was to visit the site of the battle and see the remains of the once great Abbey.
Building began in 1070 but the great church was not finished until 1094, by which time William was dead. The church was designed so that it’s high altar was positioned on the spot where Harold supposedly met his death. The Abbey continued to flourish right up to 1538 when Henry the Eighth ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Henry took the treasure but the Abbey and much of its lands was given to his friend and Master of the Horse, Sir Anthony Browne, who demolished the church and parts of the cloisters and turned the abbot's quarters into a country house.
Later in the day I stopped off in Rye, one of the Cinque Ports. In medieval times the town was a flourishing sea port but because of the silting up of the river, it now stands several miles from the sea. I wanted to walk up Mermaid Street where the ancient Mermaid Inn is situated.
The building declares that it was built in 1420. I also came here for the first time in 1958 when the river frontage had been converted to look like the French town for the film “Dunkirk” with John Mills, Richard Attenborough and Bernard Lee was being made.
From Rye I made my way across to Dungeness, a desolate shingle promontory said to be one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe. It continues to build up year on year so that in all, the area has had seven different lighthouses. The two modern power stations dominate the landscape but I headed off to the train station where the train had just ended its journey across the marsh.
The miniature train is built in a 1/3rd size from normal. It was the brain child of two model engineers who first started with one train running on a much shorter length of track. Now a service runs from Hythe to Dungeness.
I ended my day with a look at the beach at Littlestones.
Very little has changed from when we used to come here on caravanning weekends in the 1970’s. Close by is one of the Martello Towers.
These were built during the period when Napoleon was threatening invasion. Originally, all along the coastline from the Wash round to Hastings, 103 towers were built. The design (and name) was said to be copied from a circular fort on Mortella Point in Corsica.
My first stop today was less than a mile from Daleacres. I wanted to take a stroll along the Royal Military Canal. Following the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte had a vision of a united Europe under French rule. His eyes turned towards England as his first target. He supposedly said, “All my thoughts are directed towards England. I want only for a favourable wind to plant the Imperial Eagle on the Tower of London.” The British government were alarmed and were particularly worried about the flat Romney Marsh as a landing for invasion. Plans were quickly drawn up to build a circular canal running from Hythe in the east to Rye in the west – a distance of 19 miles. It would be 20yards wide and 3. 5 yards deep and all dug by hand with shovel and wheel barrow. However before it was completed Nelson and the Battle of Trafalgar gave Napoleon other things to think about. Now the Canal remains a lovely place to walk and to see some beautiful scenery and wild-life.
Later in the morning I drove into Dover and went to visit the Castle. I was here two years ago but only saw a small part of what’s there. After a quick look again at the Keep and the Roman Lighthouse,
I headed for the Secret Wartime Tunnels. The first tunnels under Dover Castle were dug in the Middle Ages. Then again more were dug during the Napoleonic Wars as a barracks to accommodate up to 2000 troops. In May 1940, as France was over-run by the German advance, the tunnels became the nerve centre for 'Operation Dynamo' which was the code name for the evacuation of the British Army from Dunkirk's beaches. Admiral Ramsay was in charge of operations and his efforts are commemorated in a statue of him standing on the cliff tops.
In the Second World War there was also a hospital in the tunnels complete with operating theatre. The main military telephone exchange was installed in the tunnels in 1941. It linked Dover to the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air ministry and to fighter airfields. As one stands on the deck of a P&O ferry approaching Dover harbour, it’s hard to imagine all the huge rooms and tunnels, plus all the activity that went on inside the cliffs and under the Castle.
Next day we had rain. The first wet day for weeks – but it was also the day for my return home.
To see this account with many more pictures go to my website here
Fitting a new window regulator isn’t a caravan job – unless you happen to be a motor-caravanner. Most door windows these days are operated by the flick of a switch. They’re great – until suddenly they don’t work. Whatever the make of car, they nearly all have the same type of mechanism. See the picture below. ................. The wires rust where they go around the pulleys. ...... Eventually, a wire snaps.
One afternoon at the end of February, just before I was due to return home from Spain, I drove out of the site. I did what many other Brit drivers do. I dropped the passenger window, pushed my phone ‘selfie’ stick through the opening and waved it in front of the barrier control box. Because my electronic opener was fixed in the selfie stick the barrier opened and I drove through. Then I closed the window. But it didn’t work! All I got was graunchy noises from the window motor and no movement of the glass. Instead of going out, I returned to my plot to see what could be done. I quickly realized the electric motor wasn’t going to close the window. By pulling and pushing, I managed to raise the glass to its closed position, but it was just as easy to push down again. With black plastic tape and rubber wedges I got it to look reasonably secure. A local garage quoted me 600 Euros to fix but not until the following week. I would be on my way home by then. It would have to stay as it was.
I got a replacement regulator delivered shortly after getting home but cold, wet weather persuaded me to stay indoors Then for eight weeks a surgical procedure put my left hand out of use, so only now have I got around to doing the job.
This is how to put it right. First to remove are the plastic trims around door pulls and arm rest. They can be gently prized off with a small screwdriver, but take care – they are fragile. Beneath the trims are the screws which hold the arm rest on. Next to remove is the inner door card, held by ten or so plastic fittings which push into drilled holes. The plastic fasteners inevitably snap as the card is levered off, so it’s as well to order replacements. Usually the supplier of the regulator offers plastic fasteners of the correct type for your car. Fixed to the inside of the door, under the door lining is a damp barrier which has to be taken off. If you use a suitable knife to cut the adhesive the sheet can be reused. Inside the door there are several electric connectors for the lift motor, the door mirror, the window switch, foot-well lighting, the central locking and radio speaker. All need to be disconnected. At this point it’s as well to remove the speaker. Mine was held in with pop-rivets which I drilled out. It’s sometimes suggested that the window glass should be removed from the door completely but I lifted mine by hand to it’s top position, then secured it with duct tape. But before doing that, the two screws holding the lift sliders to the glass should be taken out. The regulator rails and motor are held by six screws. They need to be removed and the guide rails and motor manoeuvred out of the door cavity. The lift motor is bolted to one arm of the regulator. Three screws are removed and the motor comes away from the regulator. Broken lengths of wire and springs may have fallen to the bottom of the door cavity. They too should be removed.
Whilst doing this job it’s advisable to wear nitrile or latex gloves. Not only is the regulator very greasy but the edges of the inner door are unbelievably sharp.
The motor spindle is fitted into the new winding drum and the holding bolts tightened. If not already done, coat the wires with as much grease as is possible, then manoeuvre the unit into the door and loosely replace the four torx screws. Temporarily reconnect the motor wiring so that the lift motor can be parked in a suitable position so as to allow the glass to be attached to carriers. When they are in such a position, the glass can be slowly slid down and the window secured to the sliders. With the screws tightened and the motor reconnected, the window should be closed and the two top regulator screws tightened. Leaving them loose allows the rails to adjust to a suitable position. Now open the window fully and tighten the bottom two screws. Check that the lift mechanism is working correctly. If it closes, then re-opens, the ecu needs to be reprogrammed. On my car it’s simply done by holding the switch in the closed position for ten seconds. All the electrical connections can be remade and it’s as well to test each function before proceeding further. If everything is correct, the membrane can be replaced and the door card refitted.
Since it was a first time for this job it took me two leisurely mornings – (by 11. 30 the sun had got around and it was too hot to carry on) The Spanish garage wanted to charge me €600. Maybe they quoted for a new motor. I don’t know what an English garage would have charged, but total cost to me was 40 quid so I was well pleased with the outcome.
The new regulator fitted inside the door cavity.
The plastic membrane replaced prior to refitting the door card
Avondale fitted two G4 halogen lights under the overhead cupboards to light up the sink unit area and cooker. They gave a good light but they ran very hot which was possibly one of the reasons that the bulbs didn’t last very long. And they used a considerable amount of battery power compared with more modern lights. It was maybe time to replace them with LEDs. Browsing ebay I found sets of four lights. I chose these:- https://www. ebay. co. uk/itm/4-X-LED-12-VOLT-SURFACE-LIGHT-CARAVAN-BOAT-MOTORHOME-BRUSHED-CHROME-WARM-WHITE/121789332702?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872. m2749. l2649
I thought that when I replaced the two G4s with the LEDs, I would add two extra ones above the window. The whole job was easily done in a morning. Unlike the G4 lights which require new bulbs from time to time, these LEDs are not replaceable but since they have a supposedly 20,000 hour life, it’s expected that they will last for a good few years. Each light also consumes only 1. 8 watts against the G4’s 10watts each. They are available in warm white or cool white. My preference is for the warm – the cool light appears very clinical.
First I disconnected the old lights. They were connected with two male/female spade connectors which are housed under a plastic cover fitted inside the cupboard. With the old light disconnected, the fitting came away by removing three screws. The bezel for the new light was fixed first with the two screws provided. The new wires passed through the bezel, through the existing hole and into the cupboard. For the two additional lights a hole was drilled in the cupboard side through which the wires would go along the shelf above the window. Again, the bezels were fixed first with the LEDs snapping into them. The wires were threaded through the hole and the three pairs of wire were grouped into negatives and positives. A male spade connector was crimped onto each group of three wires. It is essential that the polarity of each light is correct since if positive and negative are reversed, the light won’t work.
I made up a small length of matching pelmet to fix to the shelf. This enabled the new wires to be attached to the back of the pelmet, so hiding them.
To read a more detailed account of the job with more pictures go to section 17 of https://jondogoescaravanning. com/modifications-additions-to-my-rialto/
Whilst I was away in Spain I noticed that the rubber boot on my tow hitch was beginning to swell and tear. It was time to replace it before dirt got in to contaminate the grease.
The disintegrating boot.
The method for changing is the same for both Winterhoff and Alko stabilizers. Also these notes and pictures may be of help to anyone wishing to change their hitch from Alko to Winterhoff or vice versa. I began by removing the A-frame cover which was held in place by four self-tapper screws. Both Winterhoff and Alko hitches are attached to the drawbar by two 12mm bolts. Both bolts have got to be removed. However, before removing the rear-most bolt, the one in my picture marked with a red dot,
a piece of 12mm rod needs to be tapped into the hole to hold the end of the hydraulic damper in position. The rod needs to be slightly shorter than the diameter of the draw bar – which on most Alko caravan chassis is 50mm.
The holding bar knocks out the bolt.
Should you remove the bolt without fitting a holding bar, the damper will relax and move away from it’s fixing position.
The drawbar with the bar filling the hole.
With the bolts removed and the rod holding the damper in position, the hitch can be lifted off the drawbar, allowing the old boot to be removed. Whilst the hitch was on the work bench I took the opportunity to clean up the two pads with some fine wet&dry paper
The upside down hitch showing the rear pad.
I hitched it onto the car’s tow ball to check that there was no movement. On the Winterhoff hitch there is a pin which moves along a scale to show when new pads are required.
The hitch fitted to the car’s towball.
When fitting the new rubber boot, it first needs to be stretched over the plastic insert in the housing on the A-frame which is shown in picture No 4. With the new boot fitted, the stabilizer can be bolted back onto the drawbar, replacing the front bolt first. Being careful not to damage the thread, the rear bolt is used to drift out the holding bar. With some new self-locking nuts tightened to 90Nm, the job was finished.
Full blog at https://brianyoungphotos. weebly. com/caravan-blog
Posts so far:
7: At last I have made the effort
6: Off to Suffolk coast
5: New tug: BMW X5
4: Good start to 2017
3: Waste water pipes
2: So who is Oscar?
1: To start, a caravanning blast from the past
It started about lunchtime with myself working in my S-I-L's workshop polishing motorbike body work when the cry of FIRE was heard. Now, at this time of the year the Almeria province issues bonfire permits providing the fire is started before 2pm. Recently a neighbour's fire had set the nextdoor's house on fire, burnt to the ground and he was jailed. We are in Tabernas, the driest place in Europe, home of film studios for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly and many other spaghetti westerns.
Fire here is to be feared and rightly so. Within 2 minutes 7 of us ex-pats were in a neighbours garden with buckets taking water from the swimming pool to try to put out a fire in the neighbours edge of the property. The Spaniard had started a bonfire and then driven into town as there was no wind. What an idiot!
The fire spread along 60m of the property border and we just made it in time and managed to put it out and dowse everything down.
Returning to our house we decided on a BBQ so went off to the local supermarket DIA to get burgers and assorted buns and rolls. We then had a super BBQ on a fire pit made on my SIL's plasma cutter finished off with roasted marsh mallows for the grandchildren.
Then we all got in the jacuzzi, my first time!
Self, OH, daughter and three grandsons. We enjoyed it whilst drinking red wine and Gasiosa (lemonade) having started with sherry. Not a gin and tonic in sight! The sun set, the moon was 3/4 full, we saw the Space Station go over and stayed in the water till 10 pm with just the fairy lights for company. Then back to bed.
All this in March and the weekend was sunny but very cold but suddenly today was hot and Andalucia has gone from late winter to early summer in 2 days. The temperature today was hotter than any summers day in Cumbria. We have been coming here to see the family 2 to 3 times a year for 11 years now. But any later than April or earlier than October and it's too hot for us.
P.S. The jacuzzi cost €800 but is worth over €2,000. It had a fault so my SIL (who can fix anything, nearly) took the risk and we fitted a new temperature sensor got off eBay for £2. You have to be lucky sometimes!
Opinions are polarized over the question of whether or not one should use the caravan’s onboard shower. My choice has always been to use it. Therefore I was horrified when during the past winter spent in Spain I saw what looked like a crack developing across the corner of my shower tray. Upon closer inspection there was more than just the one. But maybe it’s not surprising. It is after all eighteen years old and plastics do seem to become brittle with age. Also it gets a lot of use – approximately 150 days per year.
Without removing the tray there’s no knowing how deep the cracks penetrate. And if the old tray has to come out, it makes sense to replace it with a new one. Should the cracks go all the way through then the floor is going to become damp and eventually lead to rot. After so many years an identical replacement was impossible to find however, a suitable tray was found at https://www. grasshopperleisure. co. uk/ Although it was going to need some modification.
Before I started removing the shower tray, I unscrewed the bifold door. Only when I had it removed and outside, did I realize how coated with lime scale it had become. I set to with vinegar and a paint brush. Eventually it came up looking like new.
With the six screws removed from the corner unit, the moulding pulled away from the wall, exposing the water pipes behind it. To remove the tap unit completely the water pipes needed disconnecting. Next I unscrewed the eight screw caps and screws holding in the shower tray. With the screws and the drain outlet removed I expected the shower tray to lift out, but not a chance. It was firmly glued to the floor with 6mm x12mm strips of adhesive pads along each moulded channel. It would yield to nothing less than a garden spade thrust under the tray. Of course, the tray came out in pieces - shattering along the cracks I noticed several weeks ago. . Finally all was removed and I was relieved to see the wood floor was quite dry and sound.
With the new tray temporarily in place, I could see at once that the drain hole in the floor would need re cutting. Also the new tray was smaller than the previous one. There were gaps all around it – 15mm down each side and around 40mm along the back. . Leaving the tray in place, I marked out the position of the new outlet. Then I began cutting the holes for the new drain – 90mm diameter on the top sheet of the floor and 40mm through the bottom sheet.
The old tray had been attached to the floor with 12mmx6mm sticky, spongy strips which also reinforced the fan of ridges across the tray. I used silicone sealant to overfill the grooves on the new tray so that the cured sealant would support the ridges, and at the same time the excess would squeeze over the floor and when cured will hold the tray in place. Some bags of sand on the tray held it down whilst it cured.
Next day some thin but flexible plastic angle was glued between the top surfaces of the shower tray and the walls around the cubicle. Later, when it was dry, lengths of upvc window trims were selected from a variety of stock widths. Each piece was measured and mitred then attached with white sanitary silicone to the angle which was laid down yesterday. Because the new shower tray was considerably deeper than the original, the corner unit needed to be raised. Because of that, the water pipes had to be lengthened by about three inches. The bifold door also wouldn’t fit in its original position so that also needed to be raised. With a bead of silicone run down the inside of the door frame and around the tap unit, the job was finished.
“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all — the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.” ― Randy Komisar
We found that we were becoming very averse to this kind of risk , so we gave up work and accidentally bought a caravan, Kismet and four cavapoos; Kai, Rosie, Ruby and Lani.
Then, we rented out the house, sold most of our possessions on eBay and began to travel full-time with The Fab Four. In the summer, we tour in caravan Kismet. In the winter, we rent a small ski apartment.
Our purpose is to experience a different life. We are not millionaires; we made choices about what’s important to us and live within modest means. However, we feel rich beyond measure because we have time; time to do more of what we love.
What we love is water, woodland and wilderness; our passions are windsurfing, skiing, cycling and, well, just wandering where the fancy takes us!
My blog is about all of this; how we escaped; how we travel with four dogs; the fun and frolics involved in being first-time caravanners and quite simply, the wonders of the world!
They say that a journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step. If you want to know how it happened for us, see my very first post World Wide Walkies – The First Step https://worldwidewalkies. blog/2017/07/04/first-blog-post/
Picture - Kismet, pitched just feet from the Adriatic on the Island of Krk, Croatia
For advice on touring with dogs, saving money, giving up work early or to follow our travels around Europe, check out my site at http://www. worldwidewalkies. blog/
It had to happen. Leaving day had almost arrived. It was time to prepare to head homeward. I’d planned to set off on Friday, doing a leisurely four day drive north. In the forecast the weather looked good all the way through Spain, although with some very cold nights.
I decided packing up would be best done on Wednesday. I made a half past eight start by cleaning and dismantling the awning kitchen unit. I’ve got a microwave oven and an electric oven with a two burner hotplate on top of it, all sitting on a table with an extension top. Once the ovens were cleaned, they were put on the floor in the bathroom giving me access to them on the journey. Then the two PIR halogen strip lights which clip to the awning roof bars were taken down and packed in the car. By 9. 30, friend William had arrived with step ladder, long brush and bucket. He then set to cleaning the awning roof of three months worth of bird droppings. Next to arrive was Jim, closely followed by Paul. I am so grateful to these guys, both those three who helped me pack up, and Martin who helped me with the awning away back in November. By 11. 30 we were finished so we broke open the beers with me being very relieved that all the gear had been packed away in the dry.
I left El Pino at around 9. 15 on Friday morning and within 10 minutes I’d reached the A7 motorway, heading eastward towards Motril. The journey now (except for the approach roads to my overnight stops) would be entirely on dual carriageway all the way to Bilbao – and nearly all of it would be toll-free. After I’d driven 100 miles and was on the A44, at KM70 (or there abouts), I pulled into a Repsol filling station, cafeteria with large parking area to take a coffee break. Within 15 minutes I was on the road again and I didn’t stop until I’d completed 170 miles which brought me to Santa Elena. When I saw the Osborne bull, I knew I wanted the next exit.
I booked in at Camping Despenaperros which is situated at the far end of the village in Calle Infanta Elena. The site entrance has a double arched entry which with long outfits needs some care in entering. Pitches are level and all under trees without any boundary markers.
Each pitch has an adjacent electric point, water tap and drain connection although some of the electric sockets require attention. Electricity is switched on at reception so if the supply is accidentally tripped, you maybe be in trouble since reconnection requires a visit during office hours. The toilet block is centrally placed on the site and all the facilities are modern and in a clean condition. However, whilst toilet rolls are provided, none of the pans are fitted with seats. Free Wifi is available over most of the site. With my ACSI card I was charged €17 per night.
For the past four years the motorway has been carried over the gorge on a viaduct and to join the motorway requires a drive through the village to the junction however, I turned right and drove down through the gorge to the next junction. During the journey I’d been debating with myself whether to make my next night stop south of Madrid at Aranjuez or north at La Cabrera. I finally decided to get north of the City so I took a coffee break at the filling station at KM98 on the A4 after driving for 100 miles. I also took on some fuel – but not too much. I didn’t notice the price until I’d started to fill. A whopping €1. 20 per litre. That particular stop has easy access from the motorway and a good parking area. My rest over, and I headed towards Madrid. There are three ring motorways around the city. The M30, the M40 and the M50. The M50 takes the widest detour and adds about 10 miles however it carries the least traffic, so I turned on to it at junction 17. It joins the A1 at Junction 21. At KM57 I took the slip road and five minutes later I was checking in at Camping du Miel. My ACSI card was accepted with a payment of €19 for the night. Most of the site is taken up with mobile homes and bungalows however, at the edge of the site there’s an area devoted to tourist pitches. A water tap and electric bollard are shared by four pitches although being winter, the water was turned off. The toilet block is close by which has modern facilities, is clean and also heated. Washing up sinks are outside where there’s hot and cold water. With the pitch taps being turned off, there was nowhere to fill an Aquaroll. .
At 8. 30 I went out to an ice covered car with the outside temperature down to -7c however with the engine running, the windows quickly cleared. Within twenty miles I’d reached the foot of Somosierra, the pass through the Sierra de Guadarrama. It rises about a thousand feet over a distance of four miles however it’s a well-engineered three lane motorway without any serious bends. Today’s drive was just 120 miles so it was just on lunch time as I arrived at Camping Fuentes Blancas at Burgos. I presented my ACSI card but when the receptionist realized I was on my own she told me to put it away as the site fee for a single person was cheaper. I paid €17. 60 so presumably the ACSI fee would have been €19. Pitches are on level ground which is inclined to become boggy in wet weather. In some previous years when I’ve stopped there the pitches have been so water-logged that I’ve parked on the roadways. There are several ranges of washing up sinks dotted around the site however, the water is turned off during the winter months. Water is available at the two toilet blocks but again there’s no tap where an Aquaroll may be filled.
Another Osborne bull.
The last stage of my journey was the 110 miles down to Bilbao ferry port. I didn’t leave until just before 12 mid-day because my plan was to spend the night on the dockside. Arrival and check-in was scheduled between 4pm and 7pm but when I arrived at 3pm several outfits were already waiting. Check-in began at 3. 15. Very soon I presented my booking number and passport and I was issued with my boarding slip and cabin key.
When I took a walk around the parking lanes at 7 in the evening there were 45 outfits overnighting on the dockside. The night was quiet and I slept well. But where were the blue skies that had been with me for the past four days. They were gone – only to be replaced by heavy black clouds. Maybe the forecast for snow in northern Spain by Wednesday was going to be correct. The ferry arrived at around 7. 30 and loading began at 9. 30. The ship was fifteen minutes or so late in leaving but we had a reasonably smooth crossing. We docked at 9am; unloading took for ages, as did Border Control but by 10. 15 I was on the motorway and home just 90 minutes later. Just a pity about the snow!
As I’ve done in previous years, for the benefit of would be travellers, here’s a break down of my expenses for the four months.
Ferry fare Outward £363
Total ferry fare which included friends discount £709
Fuel for outward & inward journey 240Ltrs £236
Toll charges Bilbao to Zaragoza 32Euros
Cartagena to Almeria 8 Euros
Burgos to Bilbao 21. 50 Euros Total £54
Site fees for 14 nights outward journey €200
Site fees for 3 months + 1 week €996
Site fees for 3 night homeward journey €46
Total site fees €1242 Approx conversion £1092
Red Pennant for 120 days £295
Time is running out! Not too many days left now. But it looked as though another beautiful day was on the cards which I thought would be good to take advantage of before I’ve got to start heading homeward bound, so with lunch packed into my cool-box, I headed up into the hills beyond the white village of Frigiliana. My aim was to take another look at the remote hamlet of El Acebuchal. Even now it doesn’t have a surfaced approach road. A dirt road wends it way around the hill sides for four miles or so before descending into a valley where there’s a collection of houses.
The place came into being during the 17th Century since it sits alongside one of the ancient mule routes between Granada and the coast. Life would have been hard for the inhabitants but it became even more difficult when they were caught between Franco’s Guardia Civil and the guerrillas who had taken to the mountains at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The Franco authorities suspected that the villagers were supporting the rebels by providing them with food and refuge. Some of the villagers were summarily executed; others were imprisoned, and eventually, those remaining were ordered to leave their homes together with their live-stock. The roofs of the houses were pulled down so that they became uninhabitable. And the village became known as the “Pueblo el Fantasmas” – the village of ghosts. And so it remained for the next half century.
Then twenty years ago a descendant of one of the original families decided to try to rebuild his grand-parents old house.
Those premises are now the village’s bar and restaurant which has built up quite a reputation. The church has been rebuilt and it had its inaugural service in 2007.
Several other houses have been renovated and occupied, whilst others are still derelict. In fact 36 houses are now habitable – many of them as holiday lets however, besides being no metalled road, there’s also no telephone land-line, no mobile reception, no shops or ATMs.
This one took the quick way down!
To read this blog with several more photographs see my blog at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/a-spanish-winter-2017-2018/
There’s no doubt about it, and most of the visitors here in southern Spain agrees, that this has been the coldest winter we have experienced. That’s not to say that it has been wet, because it hasn’t. You only need to see the shockingly low levels in the reservoirs to appreciate that, but many nights have been much colder and some days have been decidedly chilly. Of course that’s speaking relatively. When I say some nights have been cold I’m talking 5C and a chilly day is when the temperature doesn’t get much above14C. Probably in a few weeks time when I’m home, 14 degrees will seem quite barmy.
But yesterday, when the Australian guy told me 21 degrees was forecast for the afternoon, I had a sudden urge to pack some lunch and a beer into the cool box and go out for the day. This would be my first day out since that distastrous fall off my bike four weeks ago. I set off along the motorway to Velez Malaga where I turned inland and headed up to Lake Viñuela. I resisted the urge to stop at my favourite lay-by over-looking the Lake and instead, headed over into the next valley where I took the road up to Alcaucin. The village is located in the foot hills of the Sierra de Tejeda mountains and from the road climbing up to the village, there are some stunning views. Looking across the valley is the U-shaped pass known as the Boquete de Zafarraya.
It was here just a few years ago that in one of the caves high up above the pass, the remains of a Neanderthal skeleton was uncovered. A twisting, steep road leads through the pass to the village of Zafarraya which is built on a plateau on the far side of the mountain range. The road was once an important trade route between Granada and the coast. So much so, that the Moors built a castle and town over looking the road.
Closer to my view point were the first signs of Spring with the almond blossom beginning to bloom.
The olive harvest was also just getting underway with huge sheets being spread beneath the trees.
Labourers then use long handled rakes to pull down the olives before being gathered up and packed into sacks.
At the village the road ends so with no through traffic, it has an unspoilt, traditional charm. Car parking is at both ends of the village. Walking through the narrow streets, the first object of interest is the restored Moorish fountain, La Fuente de los Cinco Caños, with its five spouts providing fresh spring water.
Whatever the time of year, the fountains never cease to run. There’s a traditional story that if an unmarried person drinks from the centre spout, that person will marry someone from the village within the year. But there’s no need to rush! I tried it three years ago and it didn’t work!
From the fountain I walked through the narrow streets up to the tiny Plaza where there’s the town hall and the 16th Century church. What a shame all these beautiful photo opportunities have to be spoilt by the parking of cars. The best shot I could find was the bell tower peeping over the orange trees.
There can’t be many towns and villages in Spain without its share of abandoned building projects. Sadly the outskirts of this beautiful village is blighted by hundred of half built apartment blocks and houses. These ones have been derelict for more than 10 years.
Whatever will become of them?
To read this blog with several more photographs see my blog at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/a-spanish-winter-2017-2018/
It’s almost a month since I posted my last edition and as much as I would like to have presented this page earlier, it didn’t happen. The reason comes later.
On Wednesday the sky was clear right from the start and already by 9. 30 it was feeling warm. I thought it was time for another day out. With lunch and a beer packed into the cool-box, and the bike loaded into the car, I set off along the coast road in a westerly direction. Within a few miles I passed a familiar view perched high up on a cliff top. What I was looking at was the familiar silhouette of a bull.
First time visitors to Spain soon become familiar with the Osborne Bulls. Not only is it often displayed as a sticker on the rear ends of vehicles, or included in sports clubs badges, but can also be seen standing proudly alongside the road network.
They have an interesting story to tell. During the 18th Century Thomas Osborne Mann, a British immigrant to Spain set up the Osborne Sherry Company. In 1956 the company commissioned a local Andalusian artist to come up with a design for a roadside advertisement featuring their “Brandy de Jerez”. He designed a black bull with a red logo. The original designs were much smaller and slightly different in shape, but the signs were erected alongside the main roads.
Then fast forward to 1994. In that year the EU passed a law that prohibited within 150 meters of the carriageway any advertising of alcoholic beverages, so the bulls were therefore ordered to be removed. However, by this time the signs were nationally recognized and the removal order was opposed by pressure groups, public bodies and some of the regional governments in Spain. Eventually the Spanish court ruled that if the logo was completely blacked out and the image was re-erected more than 150mtrs from the carriageway, the signs would be allowed to remain on the grounds that “they have become a part of the landscape and have aesthetic or cultural significance."
The original bulls were cut from wood which offered little resistance to climate and wind and demanded a lot of maintenance. Later the design was changed to 3mm galvanized steel sheet. Many of the 90 or so examples standing around Spain reach a height of 14 metres and weigh up to 4 tons.
Parking is virtually impossible in central Malaga so if I have the bike with me I usually drive to the far end of the promenade and park near there. There, I unload my bike and cycle into the City. On this day, my aim was first to visit the Roman Theatre, then cycle up to the top of the hill to see the Gibralfaro, then finally visit the Cathedral which was closed the last time we came here. I rode straight to the Roman Theatre and locked up the bike.
This Roman theatre was built in the 1stC BC, on the orders of Augustus, and was in use for the next 400 years. . After the Roman decline it was left unused until the Moors settled in Andalucia and in the late 800’s the theatre was treated as a quarry to build the Alcazaba fortress - consequently you can see some Roman columns and capitals built into the fortress archways. Over time the theatre remains became buried under dirt and rubble, and remained hidden for almost five centuries. The theatre was uncovered in 1951 after the demolition of some 19th buildings
I ignored the Alcazaba – the fortified palace built in the 11thC because we visited it a few weeks ago and my account is written elsewhere. Instead I took to the bike and cycled up hill along side it, up to the Gibralfaro.
The higher I rode, the narrower the pathway became. Eventually I arrived at steps so I locked up the bike, chained it to a lamp-post and left it. My word, what a steep path it was. It snaked its way upwards, forever expecting that around the next bend, I must surely be at the top. But no – another 100 yards or so before another hairpin bend. But soon there was a viewing balcony with a marvelous view across the city. I got out the camera and took a panoramic picture.
Starting from the left, and almost out of the picture is the bull-ring, built in the 1800’s but now completely surrounded by modern buildings. At mid-centre is Malaga docks with the car ferry almost ready to begin its journey across to Melilla in Morocco. In the foreground are the gardens of the Customs House whilst round to the middle right is the one tower of the Cathedral. The trees at the bottom right hide the Alcazaba. In the back ground is Mount Calamorro – the back-drop for Torremolinos.
But back to the hill climb. A few more lengths; a few more bends and finally, I was there – at the entrance. Once inside, there was even more climbing. This time up steep steps to the walk-ways around the castle walls.
The castle was built in the 900’s by the Caliph of Cordoba, on a former Phoenician enclosure and lighthouse, Then at the beginning of the 14th C the Sultan of Granada, enlarged it. The castle held out against a three-month siege by the Catholic monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, which ended only when hunger forced the Moors to surrender. Afterwards Ferdinand occupied the site, while his queen took up residence in the town.
Back at ground level and my bike recovered, I rode the short distance to the Cathedral. With bike locked and secured again, I paid the €6. 50 entrance fee. Unfinished Cathedrals seem to be a trend in Andalusia. Like Granada’s Cathedral, the one at Malaga has never been completed. Building started in 1528 on the site of a previous mosque and dragged on for another 250 years before work ground to a stop.
At that stage, only one of the two towers had been built, leaving the Cathedral with only the footings for the second tower and the frontage between the two tower bases without coping stones. Stories for the stoppage of work in 1780 abound. Two of the favourite stories are that the money was diverted to America to help fund the War against Britain, and the other that the road between Antequera and Malaga was in need of urgent attention. The Cathedral work has never been restarted and although there is support for completion, agreement is never reached.
The ground plan of the Cathedral is of three naves standing side by side. My first stop was to see the Choir stalls.
What an exquisite display of craftsmanship. Forty-two finely carved seats and canopies all done in contrasting timbers and all depicting a different character. They were designed by a pupil of Granada’s Cathedral mason and carved by a team of master-craftsmen. Above the choir is one of the two 18thC pipe organs.
Back on my bike, I set off homeward bound around the Cathedral precincts. But just too late, I realized I was riding over freshly washed marble tiles. My wheels slipped from under me and I crashed down on to the tiles with the bike on top of me, A young guy helped me up; I assured him I was OK; I got back on the bike congratulating myself on a lucky escape. .…………… I felt fine! ………... I rode the four miles back along the prom. Folded the bike and loaded it into the car and set off on my forty miles drive back to the site. But with the car unloaded and myself back in the caravan I began to shiver and shake. I didn’t want to eat and felt very sickly. After a hot drink, I went to bed.
By morning (probably because of Warfarin) my right leg was a deep purple from groin to ankle and very painful to move. Gradually over the next two weeks, with gentle exercise, movement became easier and less painful. Then just as I was thinking I had turned the corner, I took my weekend-visiting daughter out for dinner to celebrate. But misfortune stayed with me. I picked up a stomach virus. That confined me to the van for several more days, and only now am I trying to put the memories of a miserable three weeks behind me.
This blog may be seen with extra pictures on my website at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/a-spanish-winter-2017-2018/
Ferry crosssing fantastic, Brittany ferries, short comfortable journey our dog Summer was priority for choosing this short crossing.
Summer is very spoilt and also elderly at 13, but she certainly doesnt look it or act like it, even so the thought of putting her in a kennel/cage was not going to happen on other routes.
The Cherbourg route was ideal so she stayed very happily in our car in her bed, happy dog therefore happy us. No problems with checking her in, this is our first time towing abroad and Summers first abroad adventure so we needed to plan it as stressfree as possible.
The towing experience was fine, I was map reader with the help of Miss Sat nav (Ummm??) and we managed to get to our first stop a campsite Mont St Michel - having ventured through the tinest villages around to get there. We have an 8 metre caravan and a 5 metre car - Swift Conqueror 645 and Nissam pathfinder. This site was excellent - do remember that a lot of sites you have to pay for water, here it was 3 euros for 10 minutes of water we only used 2 minutes - but had no change so had to go off looking for change as reception was closed and after a long day and journey it wasnt ideal - a lesson learnt for next time!
Many sites we have found were not open at this time of year (Dec 28th) and also many unsuitable for twin axle caravans. Coming of the motorway and hunting these sites down which we could find, was going to be very stressful, so we decided the only solution was the motorway aires. Also a warning about unmanned french petrol stations - Dont use them, they take 100 euros from your bank even if you only put in 50 euros, a few days later they take the 50 euros but hold onto your 100 euros for 2 weeks!!! This is apperently normal on debit cards so do beware of this - Spain is fine operates as in the UK - I had not read this on any foums anywhere - we thought we had been victims of fraud.
This as I metioned is our first time towing abroad, Id read the forums the warnings and picked up tips on parking in the Aires. .. so we took a chance we had no other choice, they were ideal for us, you just pull in, park up then straight off again in the morning. We found that the 2 we parked in one being in France near Bordeaux and the other near Zaragoza, were absolutly fantastic and it is such a shame theres so much bad things experianced in these aires. We parked at the end of a lay by pull in, as advised no one can then block you in and rob you we parked close to lorries and other fellow campers. I also kept a light on all night so it was visable just slightly through the caravan blinds.
It was all very quiet, not much noise, but it was New years eve maybe everyone was where they wanted to be. Will we do it again? - yes we will on the journey home.
We arrived at Bennicasm around 4pm - first experience of a Spanish campsite. ... oh lordy. .. large twin axle caravan with no motor mover. ...um we will save that one for the next blog. ...till next time x
Photos below Summer at the first campsite in France,
So here we are. .. The first episode. ..the crossing Poole to Cherbourg. ..
. number 1. ..always check when boon docking (no electric hook up) that your leisure battery works. ..ours didnt. ..thankyou to all all who got me candles for Christmas. .
No 2. ..parking up noone for miles around to find someone park 3 inches away from you . ..do not pull the window blind up in anger and rip it off "just to have a look" .
No 3. .emptying all your entire water out of the internal tanks under the van to create a flood then to realise the dogs water bowl is empty.
No 4. .Dont rely on your mobile phone to be an alarm clock for an early start the battery goes flat . .espcially when your parked at the very front of the check in lane with a ferry load of cars waiting to board.
You tube vloggers, bloggers or carry on camping??
But hey were on our holibobs. ..who cares . .join us in the next blog as we attempt to find our first campsite with the help (or not) of the new sat nav, who loves taking us through narrow french villages Im sure I heard the sat nav laughing afterwards!! . .Hi de hi campers xx
December the 3rd 2017. Our beautiful bundle of grandaughter arrives in Cardiff at just over 6lb and all is well with mother and baby. Izzy we call her and she's lovely! So off we go in the caravan to a lovely little site only just a few minutes outside of Cardiff called Ty Coch. The Lunar performed well as it had done on our other excursions but we were falling out of love with it fast. As I'm sure must be the case in most families, it's mum first who shares her dislikes, the younger generation follow suit pretty quick and I have to conceed in the end they were right!
The double dinette layout is good, but if you put space aside to make up 2 large double beds in a single axle caravan, then something has to give in the middle right? In the Lunar Quasar 556 it's the kitchen storage and the washroom. The kitchen storage you could put up with, seems a little silly to have food in lockers over beds, but it's not the end of the world. The washroom, now that's another matter. We don't claim to have an athletic stature, quite the opposite, a few pounds lost here and there is on our new years resolution list but I don't class us as large either. The side washroom in the Lunar from 2011 was just to small to move and given that it is in the centre of the van it's also impossible to maintain modesty by dressing elsewhere in the van as you exit into the centre viewable from both dinettes !
We'd booked our two weeks in Tenby for August '18 already so I was delivered the ultimatum! "I don't think I can stand two week in Tenby in this van". I didn't argue, she was right.
I had to start searching again and this time it had to be the van we wanted - no compromises.
I had the Elddis Affinity in my sights but it was not going to be cheap. I wanted to have a van that was going to last us, going to look modern, going to look good inside and out. The fixed bed was a must this time, it needed to sleep 4 and I was keen to have proper heating as I knew we would be using it well out of season for say Christmas visits to Cardiff!
Time to trawl around the websites again. Time consuming and I often came away from a session of looking thinking, "not sure I achieved a lot there!"
There's lots of info out there, there's lots of dealers out there, I just find on most websites I'm a little underwelmed by the presentation. There's too many websites of dealers and some of the caravan search websites that are franckly dated and should be much more interactive and wow than they are! And if you're going to make a video of a caravan to show potential buyers, do it professionally please. Too many are point the mobile phone at the van and then start to wonder what to say about it on camera. Is it me? Maybe I spent too long looking at caravan websites this year??
We took our time. I found some vans that fitted the bill and we went and looked mainly locally in Lincolnshire. It's mid December. Most dealers are thinking of closing for Christmas, but some are using the time of year to do some discounting. A 2017 Lunar Quasar with transverse fixed bed took our eye at Grantham Caravans. Lovely van but it didn't quite tick all the boxes and the finish a little cool.
Snowy Monday the 11th December. Return to Cardiff but this time without the van. Nanny is going to stay for a couple of nights whilst dad goes back to work and new mum just needs that little support. Although the snow from the previous day had been quite bad through the west midlands the motorways were fine. I dropped new Nanny off and returned. I knew what I'd be doing with the time now available to me at home ! Caravan searching!
There had to be an Elddis Affinity 554 somewhere, because we just kept coming back to that model ticking all the boxes. I kept searching. I dropped onto Newport Caravans website. They were having an end of season sale on some of their vans. Guess what - Elddis Affinity 554 2016 model with £1500 of their original price !
The Chance is here today!
Wednesday 13th December, back to Cardiff to pick up new Nanny. Pickup time 1pm. (daylight left approx 3 hrs !!).
"So everything alright" I said. "yes baby doing well, mums doing well". "oh good. Thats good" I said. "I've found a caravan" I casually mentioned. "Oh? What have you found?" says new Nanny. "Er, an Elddis Affinity like I showed you before" I said, still casually. "Oh? Where that then". "Oh in Newport - just up the road here on the way home if you wanted to look?"
You see new Nanny although wanting to look at new vans just like me and enjoying it mostly, becomes a little tired of it in the end. So I have to be shall we say "timed" with my suggestion of when to look at them! But it was a yes. I set the satnav for Newport Caravans and followed the instructions (we'd never vetured into Newport before, it was just another town name on the many road signs between Cardiff and Lincolnshire for us).
They had two on show. A 2015 and 2016 of the 554. Both very well kept vans and with the reasurance of buying from Newport that they would come with warranties and balance of manufacture warranties. I'd already said we won't stay long with 3. 5hours ahead of us travelling. An hour later we'd had the speculative valuation of our Lunar as a trade in and the resulting maths produced a figure which was reachable. ..this was the Chance. The chance we were going by a dealer the other side of the country with the right van at the right price !
I called the dealer back a couple of days later and left a deposit. Date set to pick her up - 12th January. A later Christmas present to ourselves we thought!
Wind back the clock. .. we'd looked at all sorts during 2017. The main criteria was a double dinette layout. Our son Harry loved the White Arches version of the Sprite Major 4TD, they call it the Cottingham. We carried on looking, Autotrader, Caravanfinder, Gumtree, Ebay . ... (good job broadband is unlimited these days!)
We really wanted a fixed bed, thats what we started out looking for but, compromise, a 12 year old lad needs his own space right?
Mid August 2017, I found a Lunar Quasar 2011 model 556. Private sale, with all the kit included (well worth considering when you're starting from scratch again. My sundry items amounted to a pair of mirrors and a hook up cable!
I decided to send a message to the vendor. Could they tell me some more about the van? Within minute the lady rang me explaining she thought it would be much easier to talk about it than send lots of messages, fair enough I thought. Goodness did she give me the whole history, how it had spent lots of time in the south of France prior to them having it. All about the kit and the way the bed makes up, servicing, covered storage, two awnings an Isabella and a porch awning, barrels, mirrors, wheel clamp, hitchlock. .....
We booked a visit and off we went to look at it. Fresh out of storage just for us to look at on a sunny August day, she gleemed. A very well looked after van it was easy to see. We did the deal and set a date to return to pick it up. Horray, we were caravan owners again after nearly 5 years out.
Our daughter moved to Cardiff along time ago now, perhaps not quite such a move, but she went to university there and never came back! It's really not something we expected but actually I see the attraction for her and her partner. Hence we know the roads between south Lincolnshire and South Wales so well, both solo and towing. Many happy fortnight's have been spent in Tenby where her partner hales from and it seems along time ago now from when we introduced our son to the pleasures of caravanning and Tenby at 3 weeks old. That was 2005 and we were in our, still relatively, new Ace Award Morningstar. Lovely open 4 berth van with a big Issabella awning for the family members to sleep in when the occupancy reached 5 or more!
Time passed and working life dictated a change so the Morningstar was sold. A sad day for us and especially as this was the only van we had ever had as brand new. It was never a problem, no niggles out of the showroom it just did what it was supposed to do!
We missed it. The times we said "if we still had the van we'd be at so and so park this weekend wouldn't we?".
2017 saw alot of caravans. No I don't mean we had several vans and sold them all, I'm talking about the process we all go through (unless we're unique, but I don't think so) of visiting as many dealers as possible looking at vans, setting a budget and then lifting the budget to fit the type of van you really want, trying to assess all the layouts and the pros and cons, reading reviews, going to shows. ...........
Eurika ! Elddis Affinity 554. That's it! That's the one we want! Now to find one ?
It was the blank clock face that told me the electrics had gone off. A quick trip outside with a torch was needed to reset the breaker. But it didn’t need resetting. A check on the sockets in the bollard showed they were live so it wasn’t a power cut. Back in the awning I disconnected the mains lead and plugged it temporarily into an emergency extension lead. That got the kettle boiled and with the fridge turned to gas, I had breakfast and pondered what to do.
When it was light I looked under the seats to check around the charger and the fuse module but everything seemed OK. The breaker switch on the Zig unit had gone to off and it wanted to stay that way. With the holding screws out I pulled the Zig unit forward and there, at the back of of the box, I found the melted mains connector. It seemed the neutral pins had been arcing and had burnt the plug and socket
They both had RS stock numbers moulded into them but RS Components web site showed no such numbers. Not surprising at 18 years old. To get the electrics temporarily working I cobbled together a connection using a UK three-pin plug into an extension socket wired between the RCD and the incoming supply. With the Zig unit back in place and the mains lead reconnected, electricity in the van was temporarily restored.
Looking on the internet it seemed the best thing to replace the burnt connectors with would be an IEC plug and socket. There were several suppliers on ebay who would deliver to Spain but none of their stock had a capacity of more than 10amps. I needed 16amps. I found suitable replacements on RS Components website – but they wouldn’t deliver to Spain. They said I must use their Spanish branch. I ordered on the Spanish website but they wouldn’t accept payment off a UK debit card. ------ FRUSTRATION! ------ Finally forum member Jim (Wigandiver) who is staying on site had the solution. Order on the UK site for delivery to his home address and he would bring them with him when he returned to Spain. . And that worked fine.
The new socket
The replacement socket wouldn't fit in the existing hole because of the switches on the face plate so a new hole needed to be cut lower down where there was space. With the socket screwed in, new wires connected to the RCD, and the matching plug attached to the incoming supply, it was all reassembled and refitted into the overhead locker.
Today is a Bank Holiday in Spain because it’s the Dia De Los Reyes or Three Kings Day. In the church calendar it’s Epiphany. In traditional Spanish families it’s on the 6th when children receive their presents from the three kings rather than from Santa Claus, although I’m told many families use Christmas Day for present giving.
On the evening of the 5th some towns and villages celebrate by holding a fiesta with a procession going around the town. Last night I went to the one in Nerja. It began to form up in the car park on the edge of town from about 4. 30pm. The procession is lead by young women walking on stilts.
Then come groups of dancers, various bands and wind orchestras, followed by the floats carrying the three Kings seated on their thrones and surrounded by their retinue of Queens and servants.
As the procession gets on its way around the town the Kings throw handfuls of sweets to the children lining the streets.
Once I’d seen the procession on its way I took to my bike and cycled across town to the Mirosol where I had dinner. An hour later, and back on the bike I rode to the Balcon where a huge crowd had gathered to await the procession. A stage was set up outside the church with a raised gangway laid out through the crowd. Seated on the stage was a Joseph and Mary nursing her baby. After what seemed an age, loud music announced the arrival of the procession.
After some performances by two or three groups the Kings and their retinues began to slowly make their way up onto the gangway and to the stage where they presented their gifts.
How fortunate it was that the forecasted rain held off until the fiesta was over. But in the early hours the lightning flashed, the thunder crashed and the rain hammered down.
More pictures can be seen on my blog pages at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/a-spanish-winter-2017-2018/
On the 19th December my two daughters and grandson came to stay. Not with me in the caravan but close by in an apartment on the Costa. . In fact, from their balcony they had a grand view along the sea front.
On our first day out we did a short drive eastwards along the old coast road. I parked the car on the Cerro Gordo and we all climbed to the top of the promontory where one of the ancient watch towers is situated.
In the 16th Century similar towers were built all along this coastline to keep a lookout for marauding pirate vessels crossing over from north Africa. As we tramped across the rocky peak, I don’t know who was more surprised – the ibex blocking our path, or us.
But no worries. It quickly turned and bounded after the rest of the flock. In both directions there are beautiful views along the coast. Later we drove down the hill into the bay where we enjoyed a packed lunch on Herradura beach.
On the next day we drove inland – first stopping at Viñuela. My visitors were shocked to see the water level, as they remember the reservoir being full in earlier years. This picture was taken in 2012
- and this one only recently.
After a short stop we drove on and took the mountain road to Comares. Many claim that Comares is the most beautiful of all the Andalusian Arab-built villages. Standing at 4000 feet, it’s access is sufficiently off-putting to deter the tour operators, so winter visitors are few in numbers.
A tiny Plaza stands at its lowest point with very steep streets going upwards in three different directions.
Walking in any direction requires a great amount of effort. But it seems not to harm the locals for many of the tombs in the cemetery indicate that the occupant was in their 80's and very often their 90's. As I strolled around the village I couldn't help but stop to admire a bit of modern craftsmanship in the form of a new front door on one of the houses.
We set out on a circular drive today. First along the familiar route to Velez then up to Viñuela. Without stopping there, we continued on through miles of olive groves until finally joining the A45 Autovia and staying on it until Antequera. I’d entered into my Tomtom the coordinates for the Dolmens on the outskirts of the town.
We went to see the Menga Dolmen - a burial chamber built around 5000 years ago.
At 30 meters long, it’s the biggest dolmen in Europe. It’s built with two stone walls and a stone slab roof supported in places with columns. Engineers have calculated that the upright stones weigh around 180 tonnes each and since they were quarried and transported several miles from their source, the builders set themselves a mammoth task. Situated in the centre of the plain is a huge craggy outcrop of limestone. The Dolmen is aligned so on the summer solstice, as the sun rises over the peak, the first rays shine directly into the mouth of the chamber.
From Antequera we drove up to El Torcal which is a national park full of weird limestone rock formations.
Millions of years ago the rocks were laid down whilst they were under the sea. Later eruptions forced them upwards to where they stand now at 4000 feet above sea level. The wind and rain has worn away some of the softer layers leaving the shapes we see today. Although all of them require some climbing and scrambling, there are three different signposted circular routes.
Christmas Eve and we planned to drive to Malaga so that we could visit the Cathedral and the Castle and also see the Christmas lights. As the lights didn’t switch on until 6. 30, my visitors walked along the river bed and up to the site where we had lunch. Car parking in Malaga City is a nightmare so I dropped the family at the Port then drove a few miles along the promenade until I found a space, then unloaded the bike. Malaga is a very bike-friendly city. It has numerous bike lanes with their own traffic lights.
I met up with the family outside the Cathedral but we were in for a disappointment. We joined other visitors reading the “2pm to 6pm on Sundays” opening times, then we walked around the Cathedral looking for the entrance, but No - It was closed. So we went on to the Alcazaba, a fortress which was built in the 11th Century by Malaga’s Arab rulers.
The building also served as a palace. The entrance is at the foot of the Gibralfaro hill and stretches its way upwards. In 1279 the city became part of the Nasrid kingdom and the palace was redesigned so that with its rectangular patios and spaces around gardens and pools, it became very much like the Alhambra. From the top of the walls there’s a grand view over the city and port.
Rising even higher above the Alcazaba is the Gibralfaro castle, built in the 14th century to protect the palace. Although the two are connected, to enter the Castle now means a long walk or a bus ride to another entrance. The climb is such that I decided to leave visiting for another day – maybe. We contented ourselves with taking a look at the remains of the Roman Theatre – a treasure only uncovered in 1995 after the demolition of a modern building. We then wiled away some time over drinks at a nearby pavement cafe as we waited for sunset. It was only a short walk to the Calle Larios where the best of the Christmas lights are to be seen.
After a stroll down Larios we got back to the car and drove the forty miles to Nerja where we arrived at The Bamboo just in time for our 8. 30pm booking.
To see more pictures go to my website at https://jondogoescaravanning. com/a-spanish-winter-2017-2018/
I have sold my 2017 Elddis Crusader Aurora Caravan
I have for sale the following items:-
Full Caravan Storage Cover with Side Door Entrance + Storage Bag only used a few times.#
Full Fitted Bedding Set Crusader; Aurora;Fitted Sheet 1x still in package + 1 x used twice - Color /Percale Cream;Duvet Tog & Filling / 10. 5 Hollow Fibre -/Pillow Cases
Please contact me for sale price or any further information on 07584170520