Friday, September 03, 2010

Caraven club....hmmm

Tuesday morning we realised I had a scheduling issue. Bristol Wednesday evening, home, then Bournemouth Thursday morning would leave me driving most of the night and doubling back on myself. Despite apperances I really like sleeping, so I thought there had to be a better option. When we got the motorhome I joined the Caravan club, who's main benefit is having lots of member only camp site. How hard could it be to book somewhere to stop overnight between Bristol and Bournemouth? As it turns out, quite hard and time consuming, but I did eventually find a site that could cope with a late night arrival, and being at Longleat, it also offered the sound of lions in the night. Cool.

The trip down to Bristol was good although Bristol itself is a bit of a challenge for an elderly motorhome. It's very hilly with tight turns, but I found the venue and parked as close as I could. The venue has a lift that was apparently tailor made for my talk and serveal helpers made light work of getting set up. The audience were very interactive, laughing and groaning in the right places. Thanks to having two helpers I could walk up and down the row and talk to everyone which was great. Reloading the van was much easier than unloading as I got two really good helpers. Help is always appreciated but when I happen to get one or two who think like me and can lift heavy things it's great, so by the time I left I was feeling pretty good.

I headed off to Longleat with satnav and guide book to help me I knew that after hours there was a different route into the camping so the site guide was likely to be pretty important. I quickly discovered that a satnav has a talent for picking roads I can't use. It came up with a fair selections or height and width reatrictions, but I read road signs and managed to avoide them all. This did make for a rather longer slower journey than I had expected. About 11.30 I started seeing signs for Longleat. As far as I could tell the book, the satnav and the signs all wanted me to go different ways. Not ideal, and the satelite signal was getiing weak too. I figured that the signs should be pretty reliable. Too many people use them for them to be too bad, so I went for them. Great when there were any, so more driving around in cirles when there was no sign and I trusted the satnav. By now with all the extra milage I was getting low on fuel. Not a problem I was only a few miles from the site and I had a jerry can of fuel. In the morning all the closed petrol stations would be open and I could refuel.

A caravan came out of Longleat as I went in. Odd, they have to be Caravan club people and they don't move their vans at this time of night. I was a little worried but maybe they liked driving at night. I tried to follow the signs and instructions but all I found were ever smaller roads and tighter bends. The second car and van combo I felt really sorry for. They were huge and I was having a bad enough time. They did also worry me, they seemed to be giving up and leaving. Eventually I had to admit defeat. Every route in I could find was blocked by gates or road blockers, I wasn't going to be stopping here. Worse I was now really low on fuel and there was nowhere to pull in, I didn't fancy trying to refuel in the middle of a single track road.

I told the satnav to head for home and hoped I would find a bigger road. When I found a village shop with parking and light I was thrilled. I could try to refuel. Unfortunately the jerry can doesn't have a spout, but I do carry a funnel. The funnel has to be held into the petrol filler with one hand, which leave one hand to lift and pour a 5 gallon jerry can. Sound easy, try it, it isn't. I managed it by standing on one leg and using the knee to push up and tip the can. I did get to wear quite a lot of the petrol but I got some into the van too and headed off again.

Heading for London seemed to be heading for street lights, which was hopeful but the petrol stations were still all closed. The van was rapidly chewing through the fuel I had got into it and I was tired and hungry. It scary when you realise you shouldn't be driving but you can't find somewhere to stop. Eventually the fuel gauge was solidly in the red and I still hadn't found an open petrol station. I found a closed one on a big roundabout and stopped. It looked like it should be busy and I hoped it would open early. It wasn't the best place to spend the night but it better than breaking down on the road. 6am the place opened and I was able to fuel up.

Not the best experience I've had but it did have a couple of upsides. The petrol station I was stuck at was just down the road from Stonehenge, so I went and visited it. It was lovely in the early sun and the scenery getting there was fantastic. There were several patches of amazing mist but nowhere to stop and take pictures. It was really quite wonderful. From there I went and harassed a friend who had complained about me coming to the area and not saying hello in the past. This time she got a breakfast visitor. It was a real bonus having a chance to catch up and have an impromptu fashion show outside her house. I think we comfused a lot of people but we had fun. I did make it to Bournemouth on time too, where we had lunch in a lovely fish restaurant on Mudeford spit.

6 comments:

SLIKstitches.blogspot.com said...

so frustrating!!! So you never did find out why the others were leaving? I hope you managed to get some sleep!

Borderline Quilter said...

Guess the others weren't leaving...just couldn't find the site either.....I've been in the caravan club.... there are some fantastic out of the way sites that I am sure you would love....there is a six week temporary site just on the edge of our farm in the summer....very limited facilities but wonderful scenery.....I also heard that you visited your friend.....lol....
Best Wishes
Kay in Scotland

Ferret said...

Yes, I think the caravans couldn't find a way in. There is no way someone would have been moving a big van about at that time for fun and the site expects people to leave between 10-12 in the morning, so it can't be a normal thing to do.

Ah you have have you. I'd better start looking for the control box and find out if it works with a juki

Ferret said...

Oh I ment to also say, I can't see me using caravan club sites. Our van is also our transport and you aren't allowed to move it most of the time. They are so restrictive and expensive I just can't see the point. It's cheaper and easier to stay at a motorway services and you have facilities there at all hours.

Christopher said...

As a fellow Caravan Club member and Taurean I was sorry to learn of the hassle you had finding Longleat. I know the site well. Because I am driving my motorhome on my own, bitter experience has taught me to write down the last part of the route from the Club handbook so I do not end up in a muddle slavishly following the satnav into small roads!!

I am a huge fan of Caravan Club sites but it is worth recognising they are for recreational use and you will always struggle if you attempt to use them on a business trip. What is wonderful about them is the quality of the services on offer - and the sense of security.

All the very best.

Christopher

Ferret said...

Yes I had the handbook instructions with me and tried to follow them. Sadly every route had a gate or other barrier across it.

It sounds like the caravan club is a complete waste if you are going to them after a booking somewhere else, which is what I would always be doing. I can't really cut a class short because the caravan club only like people who arrive in the middle of the day.

As for secure, well as a lone female in the middle of nowhere trying to get into their site and failing, no I didn't feel at all secure. Had they said I wouldn't be able to get in I would have gone straight to the motorway, a much safer and more friendly alternative. It had taken hours just to make the booking and the sites are surprisingly expensive.

Also with all those barriers how easy is it to get off the site in an emergency?