Early Days

So, there we were in West Cornwall about to drive home in our newly-purchased Compass 100 Avantgarde based on a 2002 Peugeot Boxer 1.9 td. I always find the first trip in a secondhand vehicle a bit of a tense experience – who knows what problems went undetected in the short test drive?
In the event the drive went smoothly, except for one incident that was alarming at the time, if amusing in the recollection. We left the A30 at Carminnow on the outskirts of Bodmin, turning off the roundabout onto the A38 travelling at walking pace in heavy traffic. Suddenly there was a loud noise of steam escaping under pressure. The temperature gauge was showing normal, but the noise was getting louder. I was experiencing wild thoughts involving the heating being left on in the hot water tank and a failed thermostat. My wife had her seat belt undone and was opening the door to leap out when through the undergrowth I spotted a steam train keeping pace with us only a few yards away on the line of the Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway.
Apart from that, it went well. The gearbox was indeed a bit notchy, particularly when changing down into second, but I told myself it would probably loosen up when we’d clocked up more miles after its recent re-build.
The only advantage of buying privately is the much lower price, but I’d suggest that it has to be MUCH lower to make up for the disadvantages. In our experience established dealers are totally relaxed about the time that potential customers spend checking out their stock; they will happily demonstrate how everything works and have a full habitation check/service carried out on sale. The couple that we bought from hadn’t owned the Compass for very long and we got the impression that they didn’t really know much about it. Their story was that they had decided to switch from a caravan to a motorhome, but quickly decided that they had made a mistake on the basis that they found they much preferred to travel to an area, unhitch the ‘van and have the use of the car to get around, rather than struggle to find somewhere to park a motorhome in unfamiliar towns and villages.
The potential saving of around £5,000 under dealer price had persuaded us to take the chance. We felt we had some protection in that we already knew Steve Radford, owner of Pride & Joy Caravan Services. The first thing we did was phone Steve who carried out a detailed check including damp readings throughout. The only fault he found was with a gas valve on the fridge. He replaced it and gave us a training course – total charge only £100.
Steve also put us in touch with Tow2Tow. Andrew came out and fitted reversing sensors – another £100.
So, for a total of £11,700 we were the relieved owners of a Compass 100 with a clean bill of health – we were feeling pleased with ourselves. We then had to get it ready for our use.
The curtains went to a dry-cleaners and I used up a couple of aerosol cans of upholstery cleaner on the cushions. Tucked away under the bench seat we found a solar panel, which was a nice bonus.
The unit came with two 3.9kg gas bottles – both empty. The bottles bore the unfamiliar name of Flogas. A few phone calls later I’d learned that: Flogas and Calor bottles are not interchangeable at suppliers; Flogas is significantly cheaper; most Flogas stockists do not keep bottles as small as 3.9kg. Fortunately, Flogas has one of its own depots 15 miles away in Buckfastleigh and delivery is free – even for an order as small as one bottle.
We drew up a list of what we thought we needed by way of cutlery/crockery/pans/bedding etc and bought it. I sterilised the water system, filled the cold water tank, sorted the loo and we were ready for our first trip.
Knowing that we were bound to have forgotten something, and probably something vital, we booked just one night at Dornafield, near Ipplepen, only a few miles away. It’s an award-winning, family-owned site affiliated to the Caravan Club. It may only have been for one night, but it proved a remarkable experience.
I was going to put up some photos, but Dornafield’s own website has a gallery that does the job much better than I could. The buildings are beautiful and the site immaculate.
We hadn’t been on a campsite for more than 30 years. To say I was gobsmacked wouldn’t come close. A hillbilly from the Appalachians parachuted into Las Vegas couldn’t have been more bemused. The toilet blocks left me open-mouthed. I’ve been in five star hotels with facilities that couldn’t compare – comprehensively equipped, everything gleaming, underfloor heating, air-conditioning, soft music playing. The floors looked clean enough to eat off. The last campsite toilet block I’d seen looked as if a hundred people already had eaten their dinner off the floor.
The pitch was fully serviced with electrical hook-up, water tap, waste water drain, chemical toilet disposal point and refuse bin all alongside. To top it all the site shop has a daily delivery of still-hot croissants from the local bakery. We were giving ourselves a very gentle introduction to the world of motorhoming.
It wasn’t just the site that impressed, it was also the motorhomes and caravans on display. We had just got ourselves settled when a stunning motorhome pulled onto the pitch opposite. We knew from our recent searches that we were looking at £70,000+. The couple settled onto their pitch and the lady set off towards the site shop. I was momentarily taken aback to see the chap appear with a bucket/sponge/long-handled brush and start to wash the already-shiny unit. It dawned on me that if I’d just laid out that sort of money I’d not only be doing the same, but I’d then be covering it with a giant plastic sheet to keep it spotless.
A few pitches along, an elderly couple were making preparations to leave with their caravan. We’d seen him moving about the site on a mobility scooter. Out of it he clearly had problems walking. We were imagining all sorts of problems and were ready to offer assistance – but they were set up to cope competently and efficiently. First he parked the scooter behind their opened hatchback. A remotely-controlled hoist appeared from the boot, the arm swung over the scooter, three chains were clipped into place and the hoist lifted the scooter and swung it into car. One task easily completed, but how were they going to move the caravan and hitch it? We suddenly realised that the caravan was moving while the couple stood watching. Then we spotted the remote-control unit in the lady’s hand. The caravan moved smoothly off the pitch and lined up perfectly behind the car on the roadway.
That was our first sight of a caravan motor mover. We’ve seen many since, but the entertainment value of watching one at work hasn’t reduced.
And how were we doing in our bargain basement unit? It wasn’t all good news. We were pleased with the feeling of quality in the Compass. Catches and hinges all still worked like new and we were impressed with the amount of storage, especially in the many overhead lockers. We were also pleased with ourselves as we didn’t seem to have forgotten to bring anything significant. But we were kicking ourselves for not having spotted a couple of irritating deficiencies before buying.
The height from the mattress of the overcab bed to the roof is inadequate for us. We’re not as flexible as we used to be and the contortions needed to get from the bed to the ladder, while bent double, are a bit much.
We deliberately chose the shortest motorhome that offered us what we thought we wanted, but that lack of length brings its own problems. The bench seat opposite the dinette is too short to act as a single bed, so to sleep two ‘downstairs’ we have to convert the dinette to a double bed. When we do that the gap between the bed and the bench seat is only three inches, making it very difficult to move freely enough to make up the bed without slipping a disc or bruising shins. Also, the double bed can only be put together with the ladder to the overcab bed removed. We wanted to take our granddaughter on trips and have her sleep in the overcab bed, but it doesn’t feel right to remove her means of escape.
As there was nothing to be done about the size of the unit there was no point in worrying about it. The Compass was ours, everything seemed to work fine and we resolved to make the best of it. Brief as it was, we enjoyed our first trip and as soon as we were home we began planning more.
We managed a couple before more serious problems became apparent. More about that next time.

Westcountry Folk Festivals 2015

There have been so many changes to the programme, both additions and cancellations, that I’ve decided to delete my original post and re-post the whole thing. As with the original, I’ve restricted the list to festivals south of Bristol.

January
2nd-4th : English Folk Weekend – Halsway Manor, Crowcombe, Somerset www.halswaymanor.org.uk
17th Bradford Roots Festival – Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

February
27th : Inter-Varsity Folk Dance Festival – Exeter University, Exeter

March
5th : Swanage Blues Festival – Swanage, Dorset (it’s not folk, but it’s fun)
14th : Lyme Folk Revisited – Lyme Regis, Dorset – www.lymefolk.com

April
17th : Crediton Folk Weekend – THIS HAS BEEN CANCELLED

May
22nd -26th : Scilly Folk Festival – www.scillyfolkfestival.weebly.com
22nd – 25th : Bude and Stratton Folk Festival, Cornwall www.budefolkfest.com
23rd – 24th : Don’t Wake the Fish – The Gurnard’s Head, Zennor, Cornwall
29th – 31st : Wessex Folk Festival – Weymouth http://www.wessexfolkfestival.com/
Note: Dulverton Folk Festival has been cancelled.

June
12th – 14th : Bradninch Folk Festival. Devon. – http://www.bradninchmusicfestival.co.uk/events/page/3/
12th-14th : Falmouth International Sea Shanty Festival, Cornwall http://www.falmouthseashanty.co.uk/
12th – 14th : Wimborne Minster Folk Festival – http://www.wimbornefolk.co.uk/
13th : Behind The Castle – Sherborne, Dorset http://www.behindthecastle.co.uk/  CANCELLED due to disappointing ticket sales.
14th: Seaweed Festival, Clovelly, Devon. Here’s a new one: a festival to celebrate the health-giving properties of seaweed – with folk music throughout the day.
19th – 21st : Teignmouth Folk Festival. The usual main venue, the Carlton Theatre, is being re-developed and the United Reformed Church is being used instead. I imagine this has much lower capacity – so get your tickets early! http://www.teignmouthfolk.co.uk/
26th – 28th : West Somerset Folk Festival – Carhampton, Somerset http://www.westsomersetfolkfestival.co.uk/
27th – 28th : Folk on the Quay – Poole http://www.folkonthequay.co.uk/

July
3rd – 12th : Frome Festival http://www.fromefestival.co.uk/
4th South Brent Folk Day, Devon. http://southbrentfolk.org.uk/
10th – 12th : Priddy Folk Festival – http://www.priddyfolk.org/
10th – 12th : Tiverton Balloon and Music Festival. https://www.tivertonballoonfestival.co.uk/
22nd – 26th : Hatherleigh Festival – folk, pop & rock – http://www.hatherleighfestival.co.uk/
24th – 26th : Village Pump Folk Festival, Westbury, Wiltshire http://www.villagepumpfolkfestival.co.uk/
24th – 26th : Devon DubFest – music and VWs! Bicton College http://www.devondubfest.co.uk/
31st – 7th Aug : Sidmouth Folk Week, Devon http://www.sidmouthfolkweek.co.uk/

August
7th – 9th : Dartmoor Folk Festival http://www.dartmoorfolkfestival.org.uk/
8th – 16th : Bath Folk Festival. http://bathfolkfestival.org/
21st-23rd : ‘Beautiful Days’ Escot Park, Devon http://www.beautifuldays.org/
21st-23rd : Lyme Folk Festival, Lyme Regis, Dorset. http://www.lymefolk.com/#!festival/cjg9
27th-30th : Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. Swanage, Dorset http://www.purbeckvalleyfolkfestival.co.uk/
28th-31st : Cornwall Folk Festival, Wadebridge. http://www.cornwallfolkfestival.com/

September
3rd-6th : Burnham-on-Sea FolkFest. Somerset http://www.folkfest.co.uk/
4th-6th : The Wareham Wail – the 27th festival of traditional singing. Verwood, Dorset http://www.wail.org.uk/
11th-13th : Swanage Folk Festival, Dorset. http://www.swanagefolkfestival.com/
12th -26th : St Ives Folk Festival, Cornwall. A two-week celebration of music and the arts. http://www.stivesseptemberfestival.co.uk/
18th – 20th : The Priston Festival, near Bath. http://www.priston.org.uk/festival/18th – 21st Henry’s Little Big Gig, Kynance Cove, Cornwall. http://littlebiggig.co.uk/

October
14th – 18th : Lowender Peran. Festival of Celtic music. Newquay (not Perranporth!), Cornwall. http://www.lowenderperan.co.uk/?page=home
24th : North Dorset Folk Festival, Marnhull, Dorset. http://www.northdorsetfolkfestival.co.uk/
23rd-25th : Baring-Gould Folk Weekend, Okehampton, Devon.