Heidi the motorhome has been a member of the family for a few weeks and we’re reminded that it takes quite a while to get used to a different van. So far we have repeatedly forgotten to turn the fridge from gas, to 12v to electric depending on where we are at the time because our old one had an automatic changeover. We’ve forgotten to reset the step back to its parking place for a similar reason. We’ve lost countless things because we can’t remember where we put them but I’ve only tripped up the step into the bedroom once. We’re getting used to the sheer size of the beast and we don’t drive in the middle of the road any more – oncoming traffic will be very glad to hear this.
We’ve had three trips in Heidi and so far we haven’t managed to get her properly level. This leads me to comment on the peculiar way human brains work. After sleeping on a particularly steep tilt in Reighton Sands in Yorkshire for 4 nights I felt like I was sleeping on a tilt for a week after we got home. I’ve checked the bed at home and can confidently report that my brain was lying to me.
We ordered a set of jumbo levellers, designed for big girls like Heidi but they didn’t arrive before we left – that’s my fault for thinking that all online shopping is like Amazon. It’s not and please don’t judge me for admitting to doing most of mine on the big A.
The first of our two recent breaks away was to one of our second homes – Slatebarns caravan site beside Rosslyn Chapel. We go there for rest and relaxation, proximity to family and to indulge one of my many guilty pleasures, Ikea. We never spend much in Ikea. I believe it was a record £27 this time and now I can’t remember anything we bought other than 4 new tumblers for the motorhome, one of which is already broken. The other reason for our trip to Slatebarns was the arrival of a team of plumbers and joiners to update our ensuite bathroom at home. They were visibly relieved, after suffering the over enthusiastic welcome Poppy and Boo give to anyone who comes into the house, to discover that we were handing them the keys and scarpering to let them get on with the job.
What can I tell you about Slatebarns that I haven’t told you before? Not a lot as it is as pretty near perfect as it always was. If you fancy a break to Edinburgh don’t hesitate. It’s peaceful, comfortable and beautifully equipped. Pam the owner is friendly and helpful, the atmosphere is relaxed, there’s a good pub serving great food nearby and you can travel by bus into Edinburgh with a cheap all day ticket. When we’re not socialising, walking in the lovely surroundings or visiting Ikea we usually sit and people watch, which is one of the finest activities available to the motorhomer. Poppy joined us in this pursuit except she was rabbit watching. We managed to capture a full hour of marital disharmony when the people two pitches away tried to put up their awning and watched in utter fascination as a motorhome drove about with its satellite dish spinning, presumably to try to watch TV. Eventually they gave up and went back to their pitch to sulk.
So, about this levelling thing. We have 4 wheels at the back and 2 at the front. For some reason the back is therefore higher than the front. When we parked with the front windows looking out over the site with all its greenery and people watching potential we were down at the front. We noticed that the pitch was very slightly uneven and that turning the whole rig around would have had us level but then we wouldn’t have the entertainment. We stayed put and slept slightly tilted. It wasn’t too bad but it was at that point that we realised we needed the jumbo levellers. I ordered them the next day, fully expecting them to be waiting for us when we got home.
We were only back in Melrose for 3 days before we were off again, this time to Reighton Sands Holiday Park for a family holiday. We all set off on the Sunday for a Monday arrival with the others doing the sensible thing and staying in places with proper beds that are on suitably level floors. We stopped at a truly fabulous free stop over in Seaham Beach in Northumberland.
We can thoroughly recommend this place. It is beside a good beach, a good safe parking place, pleasant walks and a coffee shop. The only thing it doesn’t have is a level surface. Once again we were sleeping on a tilt but it was a free stop over and we were happy. Sea air did its magic and we slept like logs.
Reighton Sands Haven Holiday Park
We chose Reighton Sands because the rest of the family could have a big static caravan and we could stay in the motorhome. Theirs was a 3 bedroom Premier static with room for Chris and Mary, Adrian and Rachel and Cara and her wee bestie Sophie. The plan was for us to eat together for lunch and dinner, play some games in the evening and have a wee explore of nearby Scarborough and Whitby. The girls had lots of activities to keep them happy and the rest of us had lots of food for similar reasons.
The route we chose was via Whitby and down the coast road. There is a very steep hill on to the North York moors as you drive out of Middlesborough and we felt a bit anxious in the, as yet unknown, abilities of Heidi to pull up such a slope so we were relieved to get to the top. We felt we deserved a break for breakfast after that so we pulled in at the top of the hill where a large viewpoint and carpark was conveniently placed. To our great delight there was a refreshment wagon in the carpark with bacon and egg rolls being served to a gathering crowd. Truckers, coach drivers, caravanners and motorhomers had all spilled out into the morning sunshine to partake of its delights. We soon found out why. The rolls were huge, fresh and packed full of bacon and the coffee was good and strong. Once again that age old excuse for buying a motorhome (we won’t need to spend money on eating out en route) went out of the window and we tucked in with gusto.
Having meandered down the coast road we pulled up at the gate of Reighton Sands Holiday Park to be greeted warmly by a staff member who told us that Kevin would be there to greet us at the touring area. As we approached we noted two things. One was the smiling face of the lovely Kevin and the other was the steep slope and small pitches of the touring area. He looked at the van and looked at the available spaces, promising us that somehow we would fit on. He then told us that the water point was behind us about 50 feet and we would need to manoeuvre to get onto it. Shirley managed a turn around the touring area and a reverse onto the water point but not before a bin lorry came up behind her and paid her no heed at all despite the fact that she was actively reversing in their direction. That’s twice we’ve had dealings with a bin lorry in 3 weeks. Just saying. Safely onto the water point at last I filled the van up with fresh water. By then Shirley was tired after driving along the busy coast road so I said I would drive it onto the pitch. In the meantime Kevin came along to tell us he had levelling blocks. Everything should be fine now we thought … I pulled away from the water point, which was also on a steep slope and therefore demanded a hill start made complicated by the fact that Shirley had had to leave the van in gear because the handbrake is still stiff (see the previous post). As I pulled out of the water point I heard a loud rumbling noise. Shirley waved her arms and flapped them in unmistakeable distress. Apparently there had been a rubber bollard in front of me – it was now underneath and objecting vociferously. Somehow Shirley got it out from under the van and I tried again, this time managing to meet Kevin on our pitch. His levellers were made of wood and were clearly not up to the height necessary for the size of the slope but he encouraged me onto them. The first time I went right over the top, much to his consternation but the second time managed to stop at the highest point, which by its nature is the very tip of the leveller. We were most definitely not level. In fact walking down the van was like the moment the bus driver decides to set off before you get to your seat. And all that is just to explain why my brain didn’t recognise a level bed.
Would we recommend this Haven park for motorhomes? Only if you’re in a van less than 6 metres as the only pitches that you have any chance of getting level on are the smaller ones at the back. It’s a good park though, not too commercialised and beside a huge unspoilt beach. Haven parks generally are pretty good and you can get a good price in low season for a short break. So far our favourite Haven Park is Seton Sands in East Lothian. It has serviced pitches, great facilities and a golf course, a pleasant restaurant and access to Edinburgh by a bus that calls into the park regularly.
Scarborough and Fish and Chips
I admit to looking forward to the trip to Scarborough and the fish and chips for weeks. You simply can’t visit this area without trying them. When we arrived in Scarborough it was cloudy and cool so our original plan of sitting on the sea wall eating our supper was abandoned in favour of the The Fish Pan café where we were guided upstairs to find two tables, one in the window looking out over the beach and the other just behind it.
The children, Shirley and I sat in the window seat and the four adults shared the other table. Note that we have abandoned any attempt to describe ourselves as adults. The girls ordered the children’s menu of fish and chips followed by jelly or ice cream. We ordered the traditional fish and chip tea complete with a pot of tea and bread and butter. As soon as the meal arrived we realised that we should have ordered the children’s meal. The portions were massive and we were defeated long before we could finish. All was not lost as the waitress fed the solitary seagull sitting outside the window with our bread and butter. Judging by the size of the seagull and his willingness to be hand fed this was a regular occurrence.
Walking along the sea front we saw a sign asking visitors to help Scarborough recover from the disastrous effect of the lockdown. Everyone we met in the local businesses was friendly and welcoming – we could almost see the relief in the air as the visitors flocked in and we were glad to join them.
We spent a merry hour playing 2p slot machines and gathering several small prizes before standing watching the dolphins in the bay. As we stood there in the evening light watching the dolphin’s antics it occurred to me that there is something quite special about touring in the UK. We’ve been feeling quite disheartened by the fact that our European tours can no longer be more than 90 days, having previously enjoyed several six month tours. That moment, standing on the coast of Yorkshire lifted our spirits. There is a lot for us to see here too. We will just need more jumpers and a good raincoat.
The Angel View Inn
We broke the journey home at the Angel View Inn close to the Angel of the North near Newcastle. We had booked for Dinner, Bed and Breakfast for the whole family on a rather special deal the hotel was offering. They have space for motorhome parking, with electric if necessary, pleasant rooms, good food and a very friendly atmosphere. It was a surprisingly beautiful spot with fantastic views of The Angel and a very nice dog walk. Everyone was happy and we can thoroughly recommend it.
Times are Changing
We’ve been thinking a lot about the future and our touring plans. Brexit has happened and we have to accept the fact that we can no longer spend more than 90 days in any 180 in Europe. Unfortunately this means that we can’t escape the whole UK winter by travelling through Southern Europe and also it will inevitably cost a lot more to do the trip. First of all the pet passport that used to last 3 years and then only needed updating with a rabies injection before being useable again has now changed. The new system means getting a pet health certificate that lasts only 4 months and costs between £100 – £200 per dog per trip. It also involves more frequent unpleasant injections and tests for the dogs. On a long trip the costs of ferry or Eurotunnel plus the diesel required to drive to the very south of Europe are spread over several months. The shorter the time in Europe the bigger the monthly cost. When travelling we try not to spend much more than we do at home so these changes make a significant difference to our options.
Touring in the UK is the obvious way forward and there is undoubtedly a lot to explore in these islands. Sadly the pet health certificate also applies to a visit to Northern Ireland, even though it is part of the UK. We were very disappointed to discover this as Ireland is high on our list of places to explore.
The long term plan may be to return to the solution we had before the pet passport came into being and get house and pet sitters to come and live in our lovely wee place in the Scottish Borders while we are away. If you are curious how this works look here.
We’ve always had garage envy. We would see other motorhomers hop out of their motorhomes and open their garages and sigh. Wouldn’t it be marvellous to have all that storage space? Well now we have one and even more exciting we have uprated our permitted mass to five tons meaning that we don’t need to worry about overloading. When we first saw Heidi we saw that she had a lot of space in her underbelly but we didn’t realise straight away that it was in fact a garage. Certainly its door is a bit lower than most but the space in there is cavernous. It was obvious, once we’d climbed about inside, that we no longer needed the trailer and one hot afternoon we set about packing everything into Heidi’s ample rear portions. In there we have two barbecues, a small twin tub washing machine, the massive utility tent that serves as an awning, a folding table and four chairs, a lot of cleaning material, a spare toilet cassette, buckets, sweeping brushes, wellington boots, walking poles, wet suits, outdoor toys and a spare wheel. Very soon after shifting all the stuff we advertised Doodle the trailer and she was snapped up by a family with three children who didn’t have room in their car for camping gear, bikes and toys. I’ve heard from the new owner, he absolutely loves the trailer. There’s one Dad who doesn’t have to groan when the family piles up all the stuff for a camping holiday.
A Good Dealership
Number one tip for the would be motorhome owner is to buy from a good dealership. Yes you will pay a little more for the van but the peace of mind a proper warranty gives you will more than make up for it. We’re very glad we went back to Cleveland motorhomes to buy Heidi because she now needs to go back for some major work. It wasn’t long after we got her that her clutch started to slip a bit on the hills of the Scottish Borders. I phoned Cleveland and got an immediate response – please bring her back in and we’ll get that fixed. We had also discovered that the cab air conditioning had a leak and couldn’t be re-gassed so she will get that sorted while she’s there. She’ll be away for a few days so our touring wings are clipped but we’re not too worried. The local golf course is our current best friend and we will while away the hours losing balls in the water hazards and swearing.
Happy Summer folks!