One of my daughters recently hired a motorhome so that she and her husband could attend a music festival in some comfort. After talking with a couple of companies and discussing what they wanted, why and for how long they settled on a Midlands based outfit, paid the £800 hire and £1250 deposit.
All went well; they had a great time at the festival and the motorhome was returned to the hire company where it was checked over for any mishaps or damage and there was none. Some days later my daughter chased them up for the return of their deposit. She was told the contract she had signed specified a deposit return in 28 days. She was a tad surprised and at the 28 day mark she called again.
Only to be told this time it was actually 28 working days (effectively six weeks) “at which point you can write to us to apply to have the deposit returned.”
“To apply to have my own deposit returned?” she said incredulously.
These terms seem utterly oppressive and unreasonable to the point my daughter thinks it highly likely there will be a huge battle to get the money returned in full. I hope she’s wrong.
It’s got me thinking in the meantime. I often say to friends who are thinking of buying a motorhome and particularly caravanners who are thinking of going over to the Dark Side that a one week hire really would be an excellent idea before taking the plunge. Now I am thinking that I need to add they need to find a reputable hire company with a more friendly attitude and less oppressive terms.
BCA offers a unique opportunity for buyers later this month when Sir Bradley Wiggins’ Sporthome is offered for sale at BCA Blackbushe on 21 September.
The coachbuilt Sporthome by McLaren is based on a long-wheelbase Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 316 2.1 with manual transmission. It was commissioned by Sir Bradley in 2014 and while finished in white, has been vinyl wrapped in Team Wiggins colours of blue with chromed wing mirrors and bull bar and 8-spoke alloy wheels. It has covered 5,500 miles.
The Sporthome features bespoke red, white and blue leather seating with ‘Wiggo’ detail on the headrests. The custom GB-inspired interior includes a double bed, combined shower/toilet, integrated kitchen area with fridge, cooker and wash basin, overhead lockers and a storage area/repair bay for cycles.
There is a seating area with two swivel seats and fold down table and five television screens (two with Sky). The driver’s area has two leather seats and a custom GB dashboard with integrated Kenwood satellite navigation and CD unit. The vehicle is fitted with privacy blinds throughout for overnight stays and there is air conditioning throughout.
The Sporthome has five doors, including a sliding side door and barn doors to access the storage and workshop area. It is fitted with two roof windows and a pull-out awning for camping and overnight stays.
The Sporthome will be offered for sale at BCA Blackbushe on Thursday 21 September from 11.00 am. See the full catalogue listing and images online HERE
by Tom Leaning of Caravan Times
CaravanTimes recently caught up with Harvey Alexander, Director of Marketing at the Caravan and Motorhome Club, who has just returned from participating in the JustGo motorhome re-location programme with his family.
Mr Alexander also discussed what he attributes the Club’s record year (2016) to, in terms of member retention and acquisition, what he believes clubs and organisations can do to continue this growth and how the Club is attracting younger members.
Here’s the interview transcript below:
“We picked up a motorhome from a company called JustGo, and drove it back through Italy, Switzerland and France, stopping at 4-5 of our sites along the way, and brought it to the UK where it will spend another year touring the UK.”
On how long the holiday took and what the highlights were:
“So, you can take anywhere from up to 14 days. We took 5 days. Some of the highlights were just the driving through Italy and Switzerland, which was inspiring. It wasn’t a chore at all. When you think of driving around the M25 on a bank holiday, it sends a shiver down your spine. But when you’re out there in a motorhome, you’re high up and you’re touring and you’re really stopping wherever you feel you want to. It was just amazing. We stayed at some really stunning sites: one on the edge of Lake Como, where you’re literally by the water, lovely surroundings, there’s mountains in the background, the kids were playing football outside the motorhome, as they do. And then, from there we went on through Switzerland and ended up in the Morvan forest in France – again, one of the most stunning landscapes you’ll see. And we stayed at this tiny little site, with probably 20 or more pitches; just a really lovely setting in the forest, a fishing lake at the bottom of the site. [It just us] the ability to escape the pace of everyday life, to simplify things and get back to nature – it was just incredible, a real treat.
On the JustGo motorhome re-location programme:
“JustGo offer this to anyone who wants to try and drive a motorhome across Europe. They do it every year to bring their new fleet back to the UK, and we did it as a bit of a trial for our members to really see how we can make that the best experience it can be, in terms of getting the right routes for people, and giving them the opportunity to build their memories.”
On what he attributes the CAMC’s record year (2016) to, in terms of member retention and the acquisition of new members:
“It’s really interesting. We’ve seen record amounts of new members joining. Also, we’ve seen 90 per cent of existing members staying with The Club. And I suppose what’s most important to us is the fact that we’ve had a record amount of members touring our sites network across the UK. So I think it really comes down to our members loving what they’re doing, and enjoying it so much that they’re extending their season. Our last quarter of 2016 – October, November, December – was one of our best last quarters ever. So, it’s just incredible. We’ve got 40 per cent of members coming in who own a motorhome now, which is really interesting because they’re changing the dynamic and we’re seeing that motorhomers tour later into the season, which is great. So, we need to make sure that our sites are ready for the caravanners and the motorhomers, trailer-tents, whoever wants to come, but making sure we’re always staying relevant for that touring member.”
On what clubs and organisations can do to make sure these positive results continue:
“Well, I suppose the key thing, in this digital age, is we’ve got to keep inspiring people to get out there and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s about recharging. We attribute quite a lot of the increase down to shorter breaks. We have members who love their summer holidays with the Club or their Easter breaks, but it’s also down to the members who decide on a Friday night who say “d’you know what? Let’s just go away for a few days this weekend. Let’s recharge. Let’s get back to nature, and enjoy ourselves” rather than getting caught in that daily grind. We all feel that it all goes too quick and you’ve never got enough time to do anything, but I find myself if you just put that bit of effort in to just stop, go away – it doesn’t even have to be that far – I live in Rochester and we’ve got some wonderful sites around Kent. I go to Daleacres in Hythe or Bearsted – they’re literally 45 minutes away. But what it means is we can go and we can be in the middle of a lovely countryside park, within for 40 mins to an hour, where we’re just enjoying time as a family.”
On attracting younger members:
“I think that if you go around any of the shows and you look at these caravans and motorhomes, they’re anything but basic. They are homes from home. Some of them offer more luxury than their own homes. And I think that the fact is with all the latest mod-cons where you’ve got the proper heating in there, you’ve got cooking facilities, you’ve got digital [equipment] in there. It just helps people enjoy the great outdoors without feeling compromise. We’ve just come off the back of sponsoring the UK surfing championships down in Cornwall. The age group there is obviously not a typical age group for the Club, but they all love Club sites, they all love being part of the Club because we’ve got 40-odd locations that are near the greatest surfing resorts across the UK. So, I think it’s about being relevant for members and those people thinking of joining and creating that relevancy for them because there has been a stigma attached in the past that [the Club] was just for retired people, but I’m 40+ with a young family, and I guarantee you the best holidays we have are when we get the motorhome out or the caravan and we go down to the coast and we just have a great weekend.”
On falling back in love with the UK:
“We have recognised that people are starting to enjoy the UK more. They’re falling back in love with the UK. And that’s really the spirit of the Club in terms of touring. So, I think it’s important to recognise that, that they’re so much on our doorstep to explore.”
For more information about the JustGo motorhome relocation programme, visit:
When I was at school we had – of all things – an observatory tacked on to the end of the school buildings kitted out with a big telescope with a mechanical timing mechanism which enabled you to track the moon and stars without losing them because of the earth’s movement while you were sat at the telescope watching things. This instilled in me a love of astronomy and later the NASA space programme.
I was staying with a school friend in Chelsea when Sputnik cut across the night sky – a thrilling but slightly frightening experience because it was Russian – The Cold War was running full tilt then. Years later when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon I was living in Toronto and enjoying at the time a very good party in Mississauga. Everything stopped and we watched in amazement on the TV screens as the events unfolded. Never to be forgotten despite the many subsequent conspiracy theories that actually it all took place on a sound stage in Seattle and there was a really anxious moment when the studio cat nearly strolled into the picture……
So this interest has been with me since early childhood but somehow along the way I had never been to Jodrell Bank which even now is still the third largest radio telescope of it type in the world having slipped from its original premier position. A great day out for me amongst the earnest parents teaching their reluctant children the difference between stars and planets and goodness knows what else; how lovely it was for me just to enjoy it!
I was lucky enough this week to be included on a visit to the new Auto Trail factory in Grimsby. Part of the all powerful Trigano Group this factory produces Tribute van conversions and Auto Trail coach builts in a modern, light and well laid out environment. As we all know, Trigano encourages brands to keep their very strong individual identities but the sheer size of the group must make their central purchasing operation based in Paris for the big components such as the power train a serious force to be reckoned with.
It was an extremely good visit and the Auto Trail management team was generous with its time answering literally hundreds of questions very openly indeed. On the day we were there we saw motorhomes being built for the UK, Australian and New Zealand markets.
And what one thing most stuck in my mind? Care and attention to detail by everyone involved. And maybe one unexpected fact? Like most motorhome manufacturers, Auto Trail has eliminated wood from the structural components but continues to build nearly all its own furniture. Waste timber is converted to pellets which feed a biomass boiler making the factory self sufficient for heating and hot water – coupled with a rain water collection system dramatically reducing fresh water consumption.
I know my friends in Toronto where I used to live would be laughing themselves silly about me muttering about a minus 2 degrees C temperature this morning when minus 20 in Toronto was routine and well below that not uncommon. However, these things tend to be relative and in my part of the UK, minus 2 is a big deal and a couple of inches of snow is a life disrupting event.
Today has seen no snow but a sharp frost and the playing fields at the front of my house are looking picturesque. I love these cold mornings and there has been a fair bit of comment from motorhomers and caravanners alike that waking up with a minus 2 degree temperature inside the van and not a lot of action from the taps for a cup of tea is no fun at all. Which clearly it isn’t.
So what do I do? My motorhome lives here at the house and is ready for use at five minutes notice. I keep an eye on the weather forecast and the moment it indicates temperatures below 10 degrees C on comes the heating set at 10 degrees and in that way everything stays fine – no freezing pipes, clothes and bedding kept in prime condition and everything ready to go at the drop of a hat when I am in the mood. Mostly I stay on regulated sites in the UK and in continental Europe and I mostly rely in these temperatures on all electric heating to provide background heating. Frankly I love my creature comforts and simply cannot see the point of travel coupled with severe discomfort. I was brought up as a child in cold houses; ice on the inside of windows and all that sort of excitement and I vowed at quite a young age not to carry through this spartan upbringing into adulthood.
Call me a wimp but I enjoy EVERY aspect of touring in my motorhome; including touring at short notice in very cold weather.
Oh. I forgot to mention I keep an excellent bottle of Japanese whisky in the freezer. Clearly the alcohol content keeps it from freezing and, maybe contrarily, ending a winter’s evening in the motorhome with a measure of this much prized drink seems to help me sleep. It’s a medicinal thing……
None of us much like being told what to do and us motorhomers are of an independent disposition and we in particular do not like being bossed about – we can always just drive away to a better attraction or a better site or, at this time of year, a more friendly relative. Remember over Christmas my mother’s adage that “Fish and friends go off after two days.”
However, as a mature adult we all learn that some rules are good to follow. Best not to murder anyone over Christmas if you can avoid it, pay your VAT on time and don’t drink and drive.
And, follow the directions to a Caravan Club site as printed in the Sites Directory and Handbook.
I have been at Hunter’s Moon this week which is near Wareham and despite having an all singing and dancing satnav with the sites pre-programmed, it would have had be wandering round Poole and Wareham given half a chance whereas by staying on the A35 as specified in the directory everything is kept simple and in no time you arrive at the site.
Simples. But am I and others tempted to pop the address into the satnav and hope for the best? Of course we are – but over time we have learned to do the right thing. Even as a motorhomer.
I wish you a very Happy Christmas. Try not to muder anyone over this very stressful period; plan a nice January trip instead!