Home sweet home, now

This story happened on: 30/04/2012

Home sweet home, now.


My wife and I were considering ideas for our holiday. The last two we’d enjoyed were pure decadence aboard a very well-known brand of cruise ships in the heart of the exotic Mediterranean. The first in 2005 was our honeymoon. The second, three years later was to celebrate our anniversary. They were complete luxury – eating, drinking and dancing the night away before retiring to bed in anticipation of waking up in a different port in a different country.


Things had changed though. Not long after our second cruise we decided to get a dog, as we both enjoyed country walks and wanted a companion. We picked a tiny Jack Russell puppy who we named Alfie. He was the perfect choice, smart, sassy and loving. He brought us so much pleasure that, three months later, we picked a companion, a cute little Shitzhu who we named Chloe.


They bonded as closely with one another as they did with us and so there we were, a new family – but what to do about holidays? There was no way we wanted to be separated for two weeks and we couldn’t enjoy the luxury of a cruise knowing that our precious pups were in a kennels so we thought long and hard about the type of holiday we could enjoy all together.


In our youth we had both enjoyed camping, but the hassle of pitching a tent and all the organising that goes with it no longer appealed, so we hit on the idea of buying a caravan. Our friends teased us mercilessly, especially our camping fraternity, but I just replied with a smile that we were simply upgrading from 1* self-catering to 5* ritz-style self-catering with comfy beds and hot and cold running water!


We spent a few weeks scouring various caravan outlets and eventually chose a ten-year old Bailey Pageant Imperial from a Bailey dealer in Chipping Sodbury. We had checked that our faithful VW golf GT 2.0 TDI would tow it, but there were still a few raised eyebrows as we hitched her up for the tow home. The team at the dealers was fantastic, talking us through every aspect of the van, emphasising safe towing, which was my biggest concern. I have been driving since the 80's but this was my first time at towing a caravan and I was as nervous as a lobster at a seafood restaurant.


Finally we waved goodbye to the crowd on the forecourt and headed home, slowly. My initial nervousness was gradually replaced by a sense of achievement, even more so when I successfully reversed onto our drive and we were able to introduce the pups to their second home.


We joined the Caravan Club and investigated the huge array of sites. As first-time caravanners you’d think we would have opted for somewhere local to start, but instead we opted for an adventure. We booked a week in the Lake District at the Low Park Wood site, followed by a few days at beautiful Bunree in Scotland before finishing with a short stay at Warwick racecourse to allow me to enjoy a belated birthday present, driving an Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini. What would that feel like after towing a caravan the length of the country!


The pups quickly adjusted to their new lifestyle. They loved the endless walks and outings, and exhausted at the end of the day, they would curl up on the bed sleeping soundly ‘til dawn – just like us! We were grateful for the friendliness shown to us by everyone we met. Our first attempt at setting up an awning was so painful to watch that our neighbour felt obliged to help out! Everyone asked us how long we had been ‘vanning for and seemed surprised when we said that we’d covered almost 1,600 miles on our first outing.


On our return we were met by our doubting friends who asked how the comforts of a two-bed ‘tin’ stacked up against our experiences of five star cruising. We laughed and said it was perfect, the two weeks had gone by too quickly and we hadn’t wanted to come home. We hadn’t given up our travelling adventures at all, we’d just changed vehicles – one that would now take all of us anywhere we wanted to go!


Mark Watkins