Sweet dreams are made of this
THIS YEAR WE bought our first caravan, a 2003 Bailey Ranger 460/2. It is small but like a Tardis on the inside. Recently, we took great delight in kitting it out for our first adventure, to Cornwall. Everything in the caravan functioned as it should and it was a success in every way – bar one.
Like many caravans, the two sofa seats turn over to make two single bunks, or by pulling out the central slats we could make a queen-sized bed. We preferred the two single bunks.
We discussed what to use as bedding and considered various items to make the cushions more comfortable. I am a very poor sleeper at the best of times and also suffer from back problems, so this aspect of caravanning was important to me.
In the event we settled on a folded-over duvet and then a single duvet on top. It was okay but far from ideal, and talking to other caravanners on site, I discovered that sleeping – or the lack of it – was a popular subject.
On my return home I set about trying to find a suitable alternative. I found a company called J and A Foam in Blackburn (www.mymellow.co.uk) who make memory foam mattresses or toppers for caravans, motorhomes or campervans.
Visiting the website, I was able to choose from the many shapes available and add the exact size I wanted, so I ordered a 5cm-thick topper to go on top of our cushions. Prices are displayed on the website and they are very reasonable. I’m sure if your requirement is an awkward shape or size then a quick phone call would solve any issue.
The topper arrived a week later. It was rolled up and vacuum-packed in a box. Once undone, the topper or mattress quickly regained its shape and is labelled as fire resistant.
The topper is well made and consists of generous memory foam inside a sturdy creamcoloured cover. The cover is smooth on one side, which faces
the cushions, and the other is a deep-ribbed pattern, which I found comfortable because it helped to keep the body cool while sleeping. The cover can be unzipped and washed at 35C, or dry cleaned and then easily replaced. I also purchased a fitted sheet from another supplier, which went over the topper and looped under the cushions – in effect making up a single bed. I then used a normal single duvet on top. I could not wait to try it out so I did so, on our driveway!
It was very comfortable and I slept like a baby. The topper remained in position when I turned over and all in all it was as good, if not better, than any hotel bed I have slept on. I woke without any back pain at all. What I liked was that this topper – and this is its advantage over other items on the market – allowed me to make up a more traditional single bed.
The toppers can be folded over or rolled up and the company is intending to supply them with Velcro straps to hold them together when rolled up, plus a nylon storage bag. I found that the toppers can be stored inside one of those vacuum bags – using a vacuum cleaner dramatically reduced its size. This certainly helps with space on journeys and storing at home.
Weights will vary depending on the size you have, of course, but ours are 188cm x 72cm and 5cm thick, and it weighs a manageable 6.4kg.
I can assure you I do not work for this company and discovered its product by chance. Graeme Wakerley
CHANGING TO A FIXED-BED LAYOUT
We thought we would share our solution to sleeping arrangements in our two-berth caravan, having tried different ways with the beds.
My wife has rather complex back problems and found it uncomfortable and painful to sleep on the seating cushions. We tried sleeping as side bunks, made up the double bed, used mattress toppers, but nothing helped. We even considered
buying a large mattress and making a fixed double bed, but that would mean having to sit out in the awning in all weathers because there would be no seats in the caravan. Then we hit on the idea of removing the seat cushions and replacing them with custom-made mattresses. Now we have comfortable beds to sleep on, seats to sit on during the day and as we always cover the seats with fleeces, no-one would be any the wiser. To make life easier we also put sheets on the beds before we go away, then cover with the fleeces and at night all we have to do is take the fleeces off and put a duvet on. It took us a while to figure this out and maybe to some people it seemed an obvious solution, but now we can say we have a twoberth caravan with fixed beds! John Martin
HEDGING YOUR BETS FOR MORE PRIVACY
As I reside in Jersey, I rent a garage in France ( just north of Rennes) to store my Bürstner caravan – the reason being that due to politics I am unable to ship to Jersey direct from St Malo.
As it is I have reviewed many UK sites and although my wife and I would love to tour the UK, we find that all sites appear to be open-plan with little or no privacy. Most Continental sites have hedging between pitches, individual or grouped in threes or fours, which is what we prefer.
Can you do a feature about sites which have some privacy? Also, why are pitch prices so high in the UK? The most I have ever paid is €22 at a 5-star site during high season for a pitch for two people with 10A electricity! Philippe Carré
THE DANGER OF CLEAR CONTAINERS
As a former tent camper, I was a subscriber to a camping magazine which frequently reminded campers that leaving water in clear plastic containers in sunlight resulted in them forming a nasty algae. Walking around caravan parks I see a large number of people using these clear plastic containers; maybe a reminder to inform caravanners of this potential problem would be appropriate?
Ironically a lot of high-end or newish caravans are ones that use these containers. Maybe their owners have no money left to buy a branded water container! Mike Allen
VANMASTER PRICE WAS OVERSTATED
In the review of the Airstream International Missouri in the October edition of Practical Caravan, you included a Vanmaster V580 SBEW with a 2017 retail price of £58,250 in the list of alternative caravans. It’s actually priced at £51,750.
We are a small bespoke caravan manufacturer. Overstating the prices of our range damages our brand and leads to loss of sales. Phil Narey, Managing Director, Vanmaster Caravans Ltd
Niall Hampton replies... Sincere apologies to Vanmaster for this error – and for not spotting it before going to print.
THERE’S MORE THAN ONE FERRY ROUTE
As long-time readers of Practical Caravan, we enjoy reading your tours of France, but are disappointed that you never start your tours from Portsmouth.
We have been holidaying in France for 20 years and have always travelled with Brittany Ferries as going from Portsmouth from our home in Wales is more convenient, means less time travelling and uses less fuel than by going via Calais.
Our holiday starts as soon as we board the ferry to Caen. We can then relax for six hours enjoying wonderful hospitality and great food in the restaurants. Good entertainment is also provided, so we are then well relaxed for the journey down south, either to Cap d’agde or Perpignan.
SELFISH BEHAVIOUR RUINED MY WEEKEND
Please inform your readers that there is an alternative to the long drive to Dover as this could put readers off going to France and experiencing their wonderful campsites and culture. Margaret Twinam
Claudia Dowell replies... We have used Brittany Ferries on the Portsmouth/caen or Portsmouth/st Malo route on several occasions, most recently on our trip to the Loire last autumn and on a tour of Brittany last spring. Our choice of port all depends on where we are heading once over the channel. I agree with you that once on board your holiday begins, that a six-hour crossing means you can relax over dinner, take in a film, do a little shopping, but most of all take a rest from driving. It’s a great start to a tour. The Bailey Pursuit 570-6 running report (October issue, p94) filled me with horror. Just what I need when I go away for a quiet caravan holiday is a bunch of rowdy stag and hen parties descending on the caravan site. Yet that’s exactly what happened to me on a site near York, a few days before buying the magazine.
In this case it wasn’t a stag/hen do but a family celebrating a birthday. I arrived back on site at tea time on Friday to find five caravans, two motorhomes and a few tents had set up near my caravan. All the occupants appeared to be from one family.
The nearest motorhome had several crates of beer, wine and other drinks outside its door so things looked bleak. Over tea time more caravans arrived and most of them had two or three children in them. During the evening the adults made merry around one caravan while the children raced around the site roads on bikes and scooters, screaming and shouting. Their parents completely ignored them. This went on beyond 10 o’clock. The children were up and about before breakfast and the crates of booze were still fairly full. It looked as though Saturday night would be a repeat of Friday night and probably worse. The warden offered an alternative pitch but as it was a small site this would not have solved the issue. I packed up and left with two days still paid for, with no refund.
I think it is unacceptable for any group of people to be allowed to use a site for their own purposes, with no regard for the people already there. If they want to book a whole site for the weekend then that’s fine, but just descending on a site in a mob is too much. It’s a cheap venue for their party but costly for everybody else. The practice must be stamped out, and not encouraged by Practical Caravan. Caravanning might be popular at the moment, but if this continues it will drive many people away from an enjoyable way to holiday. It is no wonder that ‘adults only’ and sites that do not take parties are on the increase. John Paddison Niall Hampton replies... Thanks for writing in, John. For the record, writer Paul Regan is a former colleague and a responsible individual – we would not have allowed him to use our long-term loan vehicles had this not been the case.
CARAVAN TALK & ALPHAQUAD LTD
On page 91 of the December issue, in the ‘Owners’ views’ sidebar in ‘Used Tow Car Buyer’ on the Seat Alhambra, we published text taken from a forum post by Milkymarsh on the Caravan Talk website.
This text was reproduced without permission of the copyright holder, and without any attribution.
Practical Caravan would like to make clear that this was a genuine oversight, and is happy to set the record straight.
“This was the remains of an Italian-owned caravan just after it arrived at our site on Lake Garda. Luckily no one was injured. An electrical issue was suspected,” says Carol Allen
The J and A Foam topper is made to fit your mattress (inset) and you simply place it on top, lattice side up, and make up the bed
We used the Portsmouth to Caen crossing for a recent France trip
Last issue’s ‘Used Tow Car Buyer’ on the Seat Alhambra