Nigel DonnellySee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Nigel Donnelly
After getting my confidence up in the controlled conditions of Chobham test track, I was ready, according to instructor Nigel, to take to the open road.
I certainly felt more comfortable after an hour whizzing around on the track. In fact, I’ve got something of a crush on the Passat and feel comfortable with the Elddis Avante 372. I’m thinking big — we will go away somewhere just the three of us. Unless I wanted to holiday at the test track however, I was going to have to master the roads first. So that is where we headed.
Caravan route plan
Nigel had worked out a route which took in a mixture of roads. First up, we swept through the leafy Surrey villages around Chobham, heading south west toward Guildford. How jolly! Yes, it looks splendid but I didn’t want to stop here. That would require some reversing. So ever onward we go.
As we trundled on, the roads got busier and tighter as we approached suburban Guildford. Aside from one slightly alarming stall on the main A3 roundabout in the centre of the town, progress was steady, and even merging onto the busy dual carriageway presented no real issues. Intense concentration on my part had kept conversation minimal at times but I was now relaxing and I even found the time to get Nigel to pick out some driving tunes. I was enjoying myself.
All smiles as CK plots the Elddis and Passat through the Hindhead tunnel
Turning off the wide, fast moving and stress-free A3 onto the A272 near Petersfield focused the mind once more. This twisty, hilly, single-carriageway A-road needed a lot more concentration and because of all these things, our speed dropped off a little.
Nigel, out of politeness, suggested I pull in somewhere to let the small queue of drivers following to pass. Thinking this not an unreasonable request, I pull into a turning, giving them all the space required to let them march on. I nearly wave. But suddenly, it becomes apparent that there is no room to pull back onto the main road and I’m taking all of us for a trip up a non-descript, not-very-wide country lane. Nigel explains that the first rule of caravanning is...never do this.
Nerves of steel: Clare reverses uphill during her enforced three-point turn
It certainly looked very pretty but one thing that seems to have carelessly been forgotten is the provision of a sufficient space to turn around with a caravan. We come to what could be described loosely as a suitable place to turn and before you know it, I’m ordered full throttle into my first three-point turn.
The three points you need to know are this: I had a lot of advice; it took a while; no farmers were hurt.
Back on track
Caravan contortions complete, we were quickly back onto the A272 and the rest of the route through to the M3 motorway beckoned. The day was not over yet. A slight detour unfolded as I ignored Nigel's instruction and hopped onto the M3 south, rather than north toward the PC headquarters. No matter. I explained to my instructor that it was the perfect opportunity to experience the stop-start of a traffic jam. Lorries became my friends, cars appeared to want a closer look at me: cutting in front — almost, but not quite kissing me as they did.
The rest of the journey was strangely serene. With the miles disappearing under the six-wheels of my pretty little outfit en route to PC office car park, the motorway presented no problem. Nigel advised that if you stick at the same speed as the lorries, you can just sit tight, neither overtaking or being overtaken by the wagons. Confidence peaking on the final miles, I did pull out to get in front of a few stragglers before negotiating the suburban sprawl of south-west London and eventually swanning into our caravan car park, feeling delighted and exhausted in equal measure.
So my first day of towing could be summed up i simple numbers. I stalled twice, screeched to a halt half-a-dozen times, clocked up over 150 miles of road driving, felt my heart routinely at 100 beats per minute and completed one three-point-turn. Statistically speaking, I’m quite impressed with that.
Now when can I get out again?
To see the first part of the Clare's towing experiences, click here
To see what is being said about Clare's experiences on the PC Forum, click here