Sweet dreams are made of this

Practical Caravan - - Caravan Chat -

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


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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

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