Music festivals conjure images of happy hippies hanging out in cool campers. Beautiful! But experience has taught me such toys are best enjoyed on Instagram.
At my age, what you really want is a good bed, a shower and a supply of cold beverages. What you really want is a caravan.
Jen and I whisked Chucky the labrador off to the Fairport’s Cropredy Convention, a long-standing and laidback folk music festival, for a blistering weekend in August. The long-term loan Bailey Discovery D4-4 proved to be the perfect companion.
First, our Volvo V70 tow car is not in its first flush of youth, and lugging tubby tourers across the rugged peaks of the Chiltern Hills en route to Oxfordshire would have been no fun at all.
Despite our car having the Volvo Brink towbar and 13-pin electrics, we suspect it has not tackled that much towing.
As we hooked up the van and attached the towing mirrors (take a look at our guide to choosing towing mirrors for help with finding the ones for you), I must admit there was a little trepidation. As a serial owner of old Volvo tow cars, however, I really should have known better than to fret.
The Disco is a featherweight four-berth and even High Wycombe’s soaring peaks weren’t enough to vex the big Swede. Fuel economy was nothing to celebrate (21.4mpg recorded – erk!), but our Bailey bobbed along beautifully behind. Progress was a little more leisurely than if one of Volvo’s big five-pot diesels was under the bonnet, but our proximity to London’s low-emission zone means petrol makes more sense, more of the time, than diesel.
We’ve towed the Bailey before and I was struck again by the Discovery’s good road manners. With a long drawbar, central kitchen, gas cylinders over the axle and the battery under the floor further back, it is inherently well balanced.
In fact, you need to load up with care to ensure there is sufficient noseload. We used the space between the sofas to store some bulkier items, such as outdoor chairs and a table. With fridge and kitchen safely loaded with provisions, the van towed well, with little sag from the car’s rear and none of the ‘nodding’ common in a nose-heavy van behind a softly sprung car.
We spent the night before the festival at Wigrams, a small site just outside Southam. Adjacent to a marina and a mere 15-minute walk from the excellent Kings Head pub at Napton on the Hill, it’s an ideal halt ahead of three days in a field of folkies.
It also allowed us to meet friends, travel to the festival in convoy and pitch together, just in case we needed to borrow a bottle opener. Or a bottle.
The short hop to the festival took 20 minutes and while navigating up the (well-marshalled) entrance road, we were grateful for the relatively modest dimensions of the baby Bailey. There were a few large motorhomes in particular that were getting a bit of a thwacking from the overhanging foliage on the way in, but we were able to keep clear.
In previous outings with the Discovery to more conventional campsites, it has been guaranteed to cause conversations. The curved backend and the extended A-frame often draw the attention of the keen-eyed caravanner who wants to know more. The single upright window is another standout feature.
At a festival, however, the crowd is less about the caravan, more about the craic.
That definitely proved to be the case at Cropredy. The eclectic mix of touring vehicles from all corners of the camping kingdom meant that it blended right in.
It was a great base for the blisteringly hot weather we endured. Too much for Chucky, who we evacuated to the nearby in-laws, to keep him out of the sun. We were brave and stayed for the duration.
Careful management of blinds, rooflights and windows stopped any Disco infernos inside the van, which remained comfortably cool despite temperatures of 37°C.
With no hook-up, we were relying on the leisure battery for our power, and gas for the fridge and hot water. All worked well for a long weekend, but peering out of the window, you could see a lot of people putting the sunshine to good use with portable solar set-ups.
We had removed the battery from the Bailey to charge it before we left, and it had been on hook-up for the night at Wigrams, but by the end of our three nights, the on-board meter showed a measly 12.5V.
Even a simple solar set-up would have kept the power topped up. We only used a couple of lights and charged our phones, but it seems silly not to take advantage of the weather. We’ll definitely look out for end-of-season solar bargains for next time.
All told, though, this small caravan is a really great way to enjoy a music festival. Add a few twinkly lights, and it will even look good on your Insta.
- If you’re looking for your next touring destination, be sure to take a look at our best caravan park guide.
- Naturally balanced on the road, compact for a fixed-bed tourer
- Muscles needed to extract the rear gas cylinder from the locker
- Price: £21,499
- Berths: 4
- MiRO: 1059kg
- MTPLM: 1206kg
- Awning size: 1156cm
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