Bryony SymesSee other Blog articles filed in ‘Travel and touring’ written by Bryony Symes
Despite working on Practical Caravan magazine for nearly two years now, I had never had a solo trip with a caravan. Until last week.
I figured it was safer for everybody – and far less stressful for me! – to start small. A short distance, a small car and a teeny, tiny van.
My van of choice was the Pod caravan, a lovely retro teardrop weighing less than 350kg. I collected it from Bridgwater, Somerset, in the lovely south west of England, where the owners of the company gave me a guided tour of the caravan and the prototype awning that I was trying out for them.
As a first tow, the Pod was super easy and the Volkswagen Golf GT 2.0 TDI that I towed with barely even noticed it trundling along behind us, even on the steep road up to Minchinhampton Common. The caravan is so short that you don't even really need towing mirrors – you can see all the traffic behind you with the regular wing mirror. But, of course, I wasn't taking any chances, and I secured a towing mirror on the right side anyway.
A short trip up the M5 and I soon arrived at Tobacconist Farm campsite with my cute little outfit. As soon as I towed onto the pitch, I felt relaxed and calm amongst the tall grasses that separate the pitches on one side of the field. Even throughout the two attempts at putting the awning up! To be fair, I have never put an awning up before this trip, either.
Feeling very pleased with myself, I spent the next couple of days enjoying the beautiful Cotswolds – it is a popular destination for caravan holidays and now I know why. A friend joined me for one night and the wee caravan was comfortable, even with both of us in it. We were pleasantly surprised how flexible the small space was! Turning the sleeping space into an eating space and vice versa only took a few minutes, and the drop-down footwell meant that it was comfortable for both.
I did bang my head a couple of times, but usually out of 'just woken up doziness' scrambling out of the tourer for some tea. Making tea, by the way, was lovely. While waiting for the kettle to boil on the handy gas stove, I sat at the table and gazed out at the lovely view, made so much bigger by the open 'boot' door.
We were busy bees, exploring the local villages, visiting Nailsworth for its arty community, Stroud for the vintage shopping trail, and Cirencester's maze of alleyways, gift shops and interesting architecture. We were back and forth to the campsite during the day, just to have a breather.
I always try to find the best food when I go away, and the Cotswolds did not disappoint. The Jolly Nice farm shop was just down the road, with great local produce and mouthwatering salted caramel ice cream. As a bonus, it is based in an old petrol station (suitably quirky) and had an Airstream caravan on site (beautifully iconic), serving hot food and lunches.
There were numerous cute cafés, even tucked away in tiny villages like Chalfont, as well as the well-renowned pubs. My particular favourite was the Woolpack Inn in Slad, where writer Laurie Lee grew up. We had a lovely couple of hours here, with good food, a super view, friendly staff and a traditional country pub feel. Visiting his home village inspired me to read Laurie Lee's classic 'Cider with Rosie' – quite fitting for the centenary of his birth.
The area was a hit with us, I will definitely be returning. Tobacconist Farm campsite must be one of the best campsites in the Cotswolds and its owners took good care of me on my first solo trip, and I felt safe and secure, with some charming fellow campers. Even with a classic motorbike rally showing up the last day of my stay, the campsite didn't feel cramped or too busy.
By the time I hitched up to tow the caravan back to Somerset, I was feeling much more confident towing the little Pod down steep, narrow lanes and the M5's congestion. I might add that I hitched up all by myself with ease – apart from checking the van's lights which I have yet to discover a trick to. Any tips for a solo caravanner?
Watch this space for more adventures of a novice caravanner … bring on the towing!
(Please note: the awning is a prototype still in development and is not yet available for purchase.)