We had always envied caravanners, when you are sat in a tent in the pouring rain next to a caravan with people enjoying a warm caravan it seems appealing, to say the least! So before purchasing a caravan of our own, we decided to hire one. Our first trip was in a hired caravan (try before you buy) proved to be a baptism of fire. Having decided to combine a wedding at Bude with a week’s touring in Cornwall. We had booked three nights at Wooda Caravan Park. We had arranged to hire a caravan from Tilshead caravans near Salisbury with the intention of trying out a Swift caravan prior to making a purchase.

On arrival the staff were friendly and extremely helpful, nothing was too much trouble, a quick check of the licence and insurance documentation and a signature and the paperwork was completed. I had already forwarded a check code valid for 21 days so that my driving record could be verified, for penalty points or disqualification, which can be obtained from the DVLA which requires your driving licence and National insurance number

As the car was nearly new and never towed before the first obstacle was the painted tow ball, this apparently stops the Al-ko Anti-snake device working so this was quickly removed with the aid of a drill and wire brush. The company had already attached the car’s number plate to the rear of the caravan. After a comprehensive overview of the vans facilities, electrical operations, toilet waste disposal, water and grey waste facilities, we hitched up the van; attached our wing mirror extensions, checked the lights and we were off.

The Tiguan towed the Swift Sprite with ease and the Al-Ko anti-snake device provide a secure and stable towing experience. At some point, you could almost forget that you were towing a caravan until you glanced in the mirror. it’s a disturbing feeling suddenly seeing something that close in your rearview mirror.

All went well until we reached the outskirts of Bude. Ignoring the Sat Nav and my wife I turned left (why I will never know but once committed there was no turning back. (as I had not yet mastered the art of reversing a caravan)  the Sat Nav immediately recalculated the route and was determined to send down the next left of the narrowest of roads. Eventually, I selected what we thought was a good wide road only to discover that it narrowed after 100 yards, panic almost set in as we drove slowly over the crest of a hill to see the biggest tractor I have ever seen coming in the opposite direction. However, as luck would have it there was a passing point, rutted and full dirty muddy water! No other choice but to take the plunge and dump the new clean van into the trench. The tractor slid past without incident, the driver had the look of resignation and doubtless thoughts that another idiot tourist season was underway.

We followed the road for further 1.5 miles of sweaty palms with my wife and daughter in fits of laughter with tears streaming down there faces as I blew the horn at every bend. It was at that moment I vowed to consult a good old fashioned map before ever trip and invest in a Sat Nav for idiots.

We followed the road for further 1.5 miles of sweaty palms and horn blowing at frequent intervals. My wife and daughter found the experience to be highly amusing but I vowed to consult a good old fashioned map in the future rather than relying on the onboard Sat Nav.

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Glad to reach the main road network we finally arrived at Wooda caravan park, only to discover that reversing a caravan is a skill best practised. Taken pity on by a seasoned caravan owner my pride was badly dented when he reversed without a problem into our allocated space at first attempt. (a caravan mover is now on our list of essential kit, which I believe will be cheaper than a divorce).

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The wheel lock proved to be difficult to line up, especially as the van was on a slight incline but with a bit of manual manipulation and help from the girls, I was finally able to locate the lozenge in the correct position. The water, electricity and waste connections were simple to connect and once the power was applied I switched the fridge from the battery to mains opened a bottle of wine and relaxed.

Once settled in we found the site was to be a good choice, superb facilities, clean modern toilet blocks, on-site activities for children including pitch and put golf, tennis courts, indoor badminton court, and for adults an on-site pub, shop, takeaway. I don’t think other sites could be much better than this.

wooda_toilet_block-8223The next day we were just about to leave for the wedding when the wife told me the toilet was full! (In less than 24 hours surely this must be some sort of record). The wife insisted that this needed to be rectified in case she needed the toilet in the night, There was no way I was going to undertake this task in a wedding outfit. So in the small hours of the morning, slightly intoxicated I experienced my first Thetford cassette toilet run.

One of the first things you realise in a caravan is the vast amount of water we waste on a daily basis, you soon learn that a short flush and use of a bowl for washing up helps prevent too frequent trips to the water tap and grey waste disposal point. However, my wife refuses to use the shower facilities on site, (however good they are) and this is not negotiable.

On reflection

Our first towing experience was not an unpleasant one,  the caravan and car combination together with the stability control provided a safe and secure drive. We also liked being able to stop at the motorway services on the route, having your own lounge to eat drink and relax in. In hindsight, although I had towed glider trailers in the past a reversing course would have been beneficial and would have relived the embarrassment of multiple attempts to reverse onto a pitch.

I also discovered in-built Satellite Navigation devices should not be relied on as suitable when towing a caravan, roads intended for cars do not necessarily include caravans, I have since dusted out my old maps to plan future trips, and have invested in a Sat Nav specifically for car and caravan combinations.

Overall a good start to our caravanning experience and we’re looking forward to our planned move to Padstow Touring Park in the Morning

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