Me & My Van: Caravan Tourers Terry and Mary Stewart
Campsite chats by Sharon Serpell
This caravanning couple have had a fair few ups and downs. But they wouldn't swap their caravan for the world!
Do you have a long caravanning history?
Not as long as some! Because of my work I did a lot of driving, so for a while towing a caravan for pleasure didn’t seem much fun; although as a child I have some wonderful memories caravanning with my parents. I promised Mary when I retired we would buy one.
And did you keep that promise?
Absolutely! We have some excellent friends who have been caravanning abroad since 1973 and have a wealth of experience, so, in 1997, when the big day arrived to head to the dealer, we splashed out on a new Elddis Shamal, hitched up and followed our friends across the Channel. We ended up in Spain — what an adventure that was!
But what did Mary think of all this?
As a child Mary stayed in boarding houses with her parents, and had no interest in camping until we started courting and went away in a tent. That wasn’t really her cup of tea, so after we got married we purchased a comfy chalet in Northampton Boat Club. However, after our Spanish escapade she was hooked on caravanning and wanted more!
How long did you keep the Shamal?
Only two years; although there was nothing wrong with the 'van, the layout wasn’t the best for us, so we purchased a brand-new Coachman with an end washroom and after that a VanRoyce — not the best! Things kept falling off. And then our eyes fell upon this one’s predecessor.
Predecessor — who or what was it?
The identical Geist we have now! We purchased it new, the manufacturers had made 100 of this model for the Australian market with aircon and strengthened chassis.
At the point of shipping the Australian dealership went bankrupt and LMC were left high and dry. So a dealership in Northampton purchased the lot. The layout is perfect for us — no more bed making — although it’s slightly larger than we wanted, we kept that one for eight years.
Sounds perfect — what happened to it?
We were away and the 'van was on the drive with its hitch lock and wheel clamp on. She was jacked up for the winter. Our neighbours saw a van pull up; within seconds two men had jumped out hammered the hitch and wheel lock off. Smashed the jacks out, hitched up and drove off waving ‘goodbye’ to them.
Being New Year’s Day, the police were overwhelmed with emergency calls and couldn’t do anything. With the help of our insurance and Gary at our friendly Northampton dealers we managed to buy an identical second-hand model.
What an experience — any other stories?
I think our sat-nav has saved our marriage, especially on the motorways when my wife would say, ‘I think we should have turned off there?’. The air would be blue and maps thrown on the floor.
There has been the odd time when Mary has either fallen out of the car or caravan with devastating consequences — the latter happened in France! I carry copies of all documents in case of incidents like this! Poor Mary spent five days in hospital, they had to insert a plate in her broken ankle.
Afterwards a nurse called every day to our caravan to give her an injection. The local bars and restaurants got to know us really well and were wonderful. First with Mary in her wheelchair and later on her crutches. They kept us watered and fed for the months we were there.
And how did Mary fall out of the car?
Her arms are too short! She has problems at the toll booths. She had opened the door to drop the money into the basket but instead dropped the money on the floor. As she got out she caught her eye on the door — not a pretty sight!
So, we’ve solved that problem by subscribing to Sanef. You pay £25 for the box, (refundable), and a yearly subscription of £7. Now we sail through the toll booths and the amounts are withdrawn from our bank account.
Can’t do without?
My caravanning journal where I record all the places we’ve been with mileage and driving times. This is a great help when we are thinking of revisiting areas.
Although a useful aid to navigating, sat-navs can get you lost and cause arguments, so I always write out the route and before driving, I brief myself.