Our First Caravan came to be, as one might expect, by mistake, and was also somewhat newer than we had expected.
The family, Julia, our two children, Andy and Claire, and I, struggled for years with a huge, heavy, frame tent. Trying to entertain two children whilst laying waste to the surrounding area with boxes, poles, toys and the inevitable kitchen sink, were hard enough, without the empty pitch next door being selected as a suitably quiet place for an older couple to install themselves and their 30 feet of comparative luxury.
Our frustration was further tested when, after just, what seemed to be mere seconds, the sound of happy relaxed voices could be heard as these usurpers of our tried and tested way of life, sat down in what can only be described as luxurious, camping chairs, and proceeded to crack open a bottle of dark red libation, which glugged annoyingly into their elegant wine glasses.
When that holiday ended, we decided that we'd look at purchasing a 'Tatty Tourer'
for about £500 to give this caravanning treachery a chance. Steeling ourselves we wandered in to Weymouth Caravans and with noses held high, we scoffed at the sheer audacity of people who thought that this means of escape could in any way be compared with camping. As we were about to leave after traipsing our way through damp, dreary, stained and well used caravans (I can say that because they are closed now
, we thought that we'd treat ourselves to a look around some of the newer offerings. This, I'm willing to admit, was our downfall!
I am 6'6" (1.98m) tall with fairly wide shoulders, gained from two years of wheelchair use due to past back problems. The first couple of caravans we tried out were uncomfortable, dark and, frankly not us at all. We then entered another one and, much to my surprise, I could stand up straight without opening the roof light! The second thing that struck me was how light and airy it was. To cut a long story short, the £500 ended up as the deposit and the following weekend, after a frantic upgrade to the tow hitch, we were starting out on the first weekend away as caravanners.
The 3 year old, 1993 Lunar Clubman 520/4, was in many ways, unique. Claire was just 5 years old and Andy 7 when we took her on her first trip out and they were still enjoying coming with us 14 years later when we purchased our second caravan in 2010. With its boat roof, bunks for the children to fight over, blown air heating, hot and cold running water etc. We were definitely spoilt. We learnt quickly the potential pitfalls, problems and possible situations, and, to my surprise, we are still learning and open to suggestions after all this time. Luckily I was brought up in and around the farming community of Devon, and learnt to reverse tractors and trailers from an early age, so that nightmare was soon put to rest. The first major thing I learnt was that when you are towing, leave lorries plenty of room when you overtake them. The caravan will get pulled in toward the front of the lorry as you pass. I speak not just as a caravanner, but also as a lorry driver.
The Clubman took us many thousands of miles around the UK and France over our 14 years of owning her. From Teesside to Perpignan and Brittany to Lancashire. We are currently based in Upton, near Poole in Dorset at the gateway to the Purbecks.