Our Life of Caravanning

We started our caravanning with a tiny Compass 2 berth caravan. It had a kitchen across the back and the bathroom had a washbasin that had to be ‘tipped up’ to enable us to use the loo. However, we had some lovely holidays in that van, as we had always used hotels for our holidays we thought long and hard about buying a caravan. We decided to go ahead and try it for a year, if we didn’t like it we would sell it and go back to using hotels.

That little van became ‘our friend’ it followed us to France and Holland in that first year, non-caravanners' used to say they wouldn’t drive abroad even without a caravan. Our reply was, after you get round the first roundabout it’s easy

Our 2nd van was another Compass, like so many people we went to the dealers for some accessory and came away with a new van. This one was slightly larger than the first; we thought it was the bee’s knees.

We then progressed to an Avondale Avocet, this one had a lovely bathroom with a large wardrobe, luxury, or so we thought. This was when we joined the Avondale Club; in those days it was the Avondale Caravan Owners Club. We went to a newcomers rally where we met some very nice people, we arranged to meet up again at other rallies but due to Colin damaging his knee in the Lake District we were unable to caravan for almost 2 years, (2 operations later).

We then took our Avocet to Holland for a month, however the night before we stayed in Dover ready for an early ferry the next morning, we realised we had no water through the taps and had to spend the month using a 5 gallon container. Luckily we stayed on sites with full facilities. As Avondale we’re unable to correct this fault we changed the van for a L shape Avondale Eagle. We didn’t keep this long as the L shape layout didn’t suit us so again we changed the van.

We decided on an Avondale Osprey, this was a super van, nice bathroom, plenty of kitchen space. We had found our ‘ideal van’ or so we thought until arriving at a rally when we were asked ‘what have you done to your van?’ The body of the van was leaving the chassis. Lots of sticky tape was produced to stick it together. As Avondale had stopped trading a couple of months earlier and our Insurance told us it was a manufacturing error we decided that the time had come for a change of manufacturer.

We now have a Coachman VIP, the layout is similar to the Osprey, we are very pleased with this van and we are hoping that it will last us until we are ready to give up caravanning.

Ann & Colin Crowther

Worcestershire Wandering

Worcestershire is a fairly compact county just south of Birmingham, and close to the M5, which makes it ideal for touring in a motorcaravan or provide a one-centre caravan based holiday.

The county is rich in history and encompasses a varied rural landscape. The city of Worcester is well worth a visit and offers a varied retail experience. The more rural towns of Evesham, Pershore, Kidderminster and Droitwich offer shopping in a less hurried way, whilst Great Malvern offers a more high-end shopping both by value and altitude. Views from the top of Malvern Hills are well worth the climb.

Driving around the county offers a mix of country lanes, secluded valleys, open fertile plains and many fascinating buildings. Croome Park is a beautifully landscaped park south of Worcester, whilst Hanbury Hall near Droitwich Spa is a fascinating property and garden. Avoncroft Museum near Bromsgrove tells the story of a bygone age whilst Whitley Court south of Stourport has a majestic feel to its ruined building.

West Midland Safari Park near Bewdley is a major attraction for youngsters, whilst the Severn Valley Railway running from Kidderminster to Bridgenorth (in Shropshire) is an experience which appeals to all the senses.

Whether walking through the Wyre Forest, over the Malvern Hills, the Clent Hills, or along the various canals, numerous rivers such as the Severn, the English countryside is all around you in this beautiful green county.

Stephen Bullock

Suffolk has Punch

Does this make you think of a horse or a lawn mower? Well Suffolk does have a punch with its surprising variety of attractions, historical buildings, attractive coast and lovely beaches.

Sandy beaches are aplenty at seaside resorts such as Lowerstoft, Kessingland, Southwold, and Aldeburgh. At Felixstowe, which has the largest container port in the UK, a viewing/lookout area provides an excellent opportunity to watch the ships arrive and dock. The Languard Fort and Museum is a fascinating place to visit.

The unique village of Thorpness with its famous “house in the clouds” is well worth a visit, the “cottage” at the top once housed a huge water tank that supplied drinking water to the village. Lavenham, with its many thatched buildings, is another must-see place, with its half-timbered Tudor guild hall (National Trust). Aldeburgh and Snape Maltings are destinations for art and music lovers. Whilst nature lovers should visit Minsmere with its many different species of waterfowl and bird life.

Anyone with an interest in the Second World War should visit Orfordness and Bawdsey where much of the development for radar was carried out. If no holiday is complete without some retail therapy, Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds are worth a visit whilst the museum of East Anglian Life in Stowmarket offers a fascinating view of local history.

For something different, try watching powerboat racing on Oulton Broad every Thursday evening from April to September.

Pam and Colin Wenman

Touring America – a different approach!

In 2000 Ruth and I attended a Millennium Rally with the Hymer International Club and there we met two couples that were talking about touring America. They had recruited a 3rd couple but they were not at the rally.

The idea was to buy an American motor home (Recreational Vehicle (RV) as our cousins call them), run it for two years then sell it. Costs to be shared, profit or loss on sale shared also. Each couple would spend two 3 month periods in the van touring USA wherever they wished, the only constraint being that before they started their 3 months they had to fix a point, which had to have a major airport, to finish at. This was to enable the next couple going out to at least have the opportunity of obtaining a reasonable fare by booking early.

We joined in with them and took both winter slots (November through January inclusive). We all undertook to do a daily check on the vehicle, to change the oil every 3000 miles and to make sure the vehicle was serviced at the appropriate intervals. It was also agreed that you would meet your changeover couple at the airport and make the motor home available to them for the first night. They, in turn, would collect you from wherever you were staying and take you to the airport to fly home. We can tell you that it is very pleasant to be met at an airport, whisked off to a car park, placed inside a very large comfortable motor home and fed a gin and tonic all within the space of around 30 minutes!

Each couple paid for the fuel they used, cost of all calls made on the mobile phone, food, entertainment/entrance fees, parking charges and fines. All other costs, such as tyres, repairs, insurance, road tax, breakdown insurance, state taxes and oil changes where shared. You simply paid for these as they happened and submitted your receipts when you came home. Today, of course, you could scan and send them via the Internet. All was then calculated and you either got some money back or contributed more.

The initial deposit paid for the second- hand truck, which in our case was an 87 Winnebago with so many horses under the bonnet that we sometimes got 8 miles to the gallon, and basic living items such as bedding, crockery, cutlery and utensils. The van had easy chairs, fixed bed, flush toilet, shower, you name it, it had it. We all maximised our use and travelled many miles, had memorable experiences, some good, some not so good, but overall very enjoyable.

We still communicate with each other. At the end of the two years we sold Winnie (as we all affectionately called her) for less than we paid for it, but the loss was nowhere near what it would have cost to hire one even for 6 months. It proved to be a very cheap way to tour the USA for 6 months and it brought us in touch with the actual communities in the places we visited.

Fancy doing it? Then, ideally, you need one couple to be the "control" to take care of all the fixtures such as insurance, breakdown cover, road and state taxes, to hold the phone contract and be the registered owner of the RV. In our case this person also did the accounting. We never had a cross word (nor a written contract) and it ran so smoothly that it was a credit to our "controller". It was worth doing. Would we do it again? Yes we would but unlikely as we now have a dog and this would make it a little difficult, also, being British, we could not leave him for 3 months!

Denis Neilson

A Norfolk View

Norfolk is a county often overlooked by tourists. Many people only think of boating and the Broads, but Norfolk has much more to offer.

The County has many claims to fame and its many museums and galleries tell a fascinating story covering many centuries. The area is often called “Nelson’s Country” with obvious connections, which also reflects its nautical history. The whole coastline is well worth visiting with its diverse mix of scenery, seascape and wildlife.

There are several nature reserves including Blakeney Point, which can be accessed by boat or walking along a causeway. A huge variety of boats can be hired on the Norfolk Broads for weekly or daily hire, with over 100 miles of water to explore, this provides a holiday with a difference.

Most of the beaches are sandy and accessible and the coastal towns are good to explore, the best known being Cromer, famous for its crabs, and Great Yarmouth, the chips from the market are VERY good.

The main shopping places are historic Kings Lynn and the City of Norwich, which has most of the top named shops, an open market as well as interesting museums, churches and the Castle Keep, which is a natural history museum. A note of interest - Norwich was the first place in the UK to use Post Codes.

There are several stately homes in Norfolk; among them is the Royal estate of Sandringham (worth a visit, when the Queen is not in residence). Holkham Hall, Fellbrig Hall, all worth a visit.

The Thursford Collection houses steam traction / Showman engines as well as organs, including a Wurlitzer which is often played for the public. The Musselbrough Collection of military equipment is also a must visit for the men in your party. Bressingham Gardens is a famous garden centre, which also has a steam railway museum housing several mainline engines, thus making it a venue for both lads and lassies.

At Walsingham is “The Shrine of our Lady” to which many people make a pilgrimage.

Norfolk has much to offer, so hitch up your caravan or jump in your motorcaravan and come and visit us.

Pam and Colin Wenman

Why we are members

Enid and I have been members of the Avondale Club since 2001. We have made numerous friends over the years and have run many rallies as well as assisting with many others. Rallies are an excellent way of meeting people and getting to know them.

We have a 2000 Avondale Rialto four-berth caravan, which we tow with a Vauxhall Omega Estate. This combination has carried us all over the British Isles and enabled us to see some spectacular sights. You are never too old to enjoy new experiences and see new sights.

The reason we joined the Avondale Club was partly because of the very warm welcome we received from older members at our first rally in Market Bosworth. Our caravan was new but our fridge would not work on gas. A friendly club member allowed us to use their fridge whilst on site, a typical friendly gesture from a fellow member. Whenever anything goes wrong with the caravan or car, someone is always on hand, to lend a hand, to repair the fault.

This help extends to many things whether its erecting a new awning, when either we don’t seem to have sufficient bits or can’t understand why we have so many, or when the weather is against us, many hands make light work.

With the passing of the years we all get older. Enid and I are now 81 years young and we enjoy passing on our knowledge and experiences to younger members. Any club needs a constant flow of new members with new ideas. Our club needs to grow its membership to enable rallies to be organised, competitive site fees to be negotiated and to ensure a diverse range of activities are maintained to suit everyone’s taste.

We enjoy sharing this great hobby of touring with our fellow Avondale Club members, attending value for money rallies in interesting places and being able to swap information and experiences when we meet up.

Dave Holland