Ok, I know it's not the done thing to talk about a woman's age, but our Patsy is getting on a bit. And before we go any further I should explain to any newcomers to the blog that Patsy is our caravan, though to be fair in most respects she is wearing pretty well. One area that has seen better days though is the two front bench seats. Ok during the day as sofas but at night when their duties continue as beds they're definitely showing their age: spongy and generally less supportive than is ideal. Particularly when the human back they’re supporting is past it’s prime too…
More than once we've considered toppers of some sort but always put it off, not least because yours truly hates parting with cash for anything unless it's for something important. Like beer - sorry, materials for my 'research' project. Or another long leather coat....
Step forward then a company called My Mellow who contacted us through Twitter and sent us a pair of toppers to try out.
Last weekend, in a rare mid school term outing for Patsy we were able to try them out for the first time. So, how did it go? Well. Very well in fact. Although to be fair the first night didn’t provide the sternest test. If I say end of a long tiring week and pub you get the idea. I probably would have slept just as soundly on a slab of concrete, however lying there with an early morning cuppa it was noticeable how much more comfortable the bed was. Ditto Saturday and Sunday night, which being a ‘school night’ there was very little liquid, er influence. I’m very much looking forward to using them on one of our longer trips when I think their effectiveness will become even more apparent.
So, they work although as I mentioned earlier we’ve not tried similar products from the other better known companies in the caravan and motorhome market so this review is not comparing like for like. I was very impressed though and once again wished we’d taken the plunge earlier.
Okay, a bit more about the toppers themselves and then a look at the company that makes them.
Our toppers were 190cm x 72cm each with a thickness of 5cm. They would sell at £105.06 each - all prices include delivery. From order to door was a couple of days in our case but delivery is usually within 5 working days. They were delivered vacuum packed and we followed the enclosed instructions to lay them out and let them ‘breathe’ and open fully. Inside is memory foam with a density of 120kg/cubic metre. The cover is zipped and removable for machine washing. The photo shows the topper secured with a ‘thingymebob’ - these are not included but you can find out more about how to make them with Dan Trudgian’s excellent video HERE.
My Mellow are a family run company based in Blackburn, Lancashire and have for many years supplied foam to the furniture and bedding industry but are now entering the caravan and motorhome market.
As well as toppers they make full mattresses too and offer a made to measure service through their easy to use website which shows a selection of popular shapes to aid selection, and if the toppers are anything to go by, they’ll be a worthwhile investment. The website will calculate the cost based on requirements there and then - you don’t have to wait for a quote - and the price you see is what you pay. As I mentioned before, delivery is included. All are made in house from scratch, not by third parties and because of this they are able to offer keener pricing than more established competitors. I’m sure you will want to check for yourself but to look at just one example - the nearest equivalent to our toppers would cost around forty pounds each more - and there would still be a delivery fee on top. A free pillow is sent with every topper too.
The foam used is made in Manchester and fully compliant with British fire safety standards BS7177 and source 5 - a safety standard equivalent to that used by hotels etc.
There is a short video showing demonstrating our toppers on our YouTube channel which you can find HERE.
The good folk at My Mellow have also given us a discount code - use code legsdown at the checkout to get a further 10% off until the end of September.
To sum up - we’re VERY happy with our toppers and I really like the fact that they are made in Britain too and I think My Mellow will prove to be a serious competitor in their new market.
As mentioned in my blog post back in June, this summer we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate two more products from the good folk at Solwise, namely outdoor antennae to extend and and enhance WiFi reception when on site. Those who follow our exploits on Facebook and Twitter will have already seen who we got on but I’d like to go into a little more detail about how they work in practice.
First up is the Outdoor Panel Antenna. This will be of most interest to those that already have the Patriot/3000 WiFi kit that I reviewed back in April. This directional antenna simply screws into place instead of the supplied omnidirectional antenna using the ‘N’ connector on the bottom. It has a gain of 10dBi as opposed to 5dBi. To get the best signal and the curved front needs to be facing the source, so a look around the site may be of help here. Alternatively point it towards a property where there may be another source of WiFi, perhaps a nearby pub, farmhouse or office perhaps. Once it’s aimed in roughly the right direction you will need to adjust it to get the best signal and this is where a pad/tablet pc or large screen phone is handy. You’ll see why below.
Log into the router software in the usual way and click on Change Profile. Those who already have used the kit with the standard antenna will be familiar with these steps.
Then click on Site Survey – this will bring up a list of all available access points. Look for the one you are wanting to connect to and note the figures in the Signal column,then adjust the antenna slightly one way or another, by holding the knurled ring and rotating the antenna, re-tightening afterwards.
Click on Site Survey again. You are looking to increase the score out of 100 (**/100) for the signal quality and lower the figure for strength (-**dBm) If you see an improvement in the figures then you’re heading in the right direction. I’ve found that you can usually achieve the best available signal in three or four goes. Once you are happy Select and Save as required. Log in to the service provider in the usual way you would with the standard aerial.
Ok, so it’s not as straightforward as using the omnidirectional antenna but is it worth the extra effort and cost? Well, having tried it extensively over the summer I would undoubtedly say yes. Two of the sites we stayed on had no dedicated site WiFi yet with this we were able to pick up BT WiFi from the farmhouse/office and as BT customers – for our sins – that was ‘free’. The only alternative would have been costly mobile data – and the amount we get through thanks to our social media presence – that would have been very costly indeed. At a little over twenty quid as caravanning accessories go it’s not a lot of money and a very sensible addition if you already have the Patriot/3000 Router Kit. Be mindful that it’s more susceptible to strong winds so ensure mountings are secure. It’s worth pointing out though that if you are already picking up a strong signal on the omnidirectional antenna – using this is unlikely to speed up your connection. For weak signals though, it will make the difference between being online and off. For for details and to buy direct from Solwise click HERE.
The second product we looked at was the Outdoor USB Panel Antenna
This is different to the above product in that it is a complete unit connecting directly to a computer or router via the attached 5 meter USB cable. If connecting to a computer drivers will need to be installed from the enclosed CD. If pairing with the router that is included with the Patriot/3000 Kit no driver installation is necessary.
The unit comes with a couple of stout jubilee clips but you will need something to attach it to. We used the Vision Plus Multi Mast which provides a couple of fixing options to your ‘van. The jubilee clips were a little large so I used a couple of thick cable ties to attach the unit to the mast.
Aligning to get the best possible signal is the same as above. However, using the Vision Plus Multi-Mast as we did you don’t need to stretch to reach the unit itself. It can be aligned by undoing the retaining nut at the bottom of the mast and rotating as required to achieve the optimum signal.
Again, it got us online when the omnidirectional aerial couldn't and with a gain of 12dBi it’s slightly more powerful than the one reviewed above and on one on site it improved the stability of a very weak WiFi signal further. At a little over forty pounds it is just under double the cost and there is no fixing kit – the Multi-Mast we used is available for around twenty pounds from Vision Plus.
So, is it worth it? Well, if you already have the Solwise Patriot/3000 router kit then perhaps the first antenna will be a better purchase. However, the router in that kit is available separately, so if you haven't bought the kit, you may want to consider pairing this with the router – don’t forget you will need something to mount it on though.
So, another couple of great products from Solwise. Yes, I was given them to review but I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t think they were worth it. These, together with our original Solwise kit have kept us online all summer and I’m sure will continue to do so.
Ever felt like you’re going to drown in your own snot? I bet you’ve never read a blog starting with that sentence before! But the Cetirizine which has done such a superb job over the summer has been found wanting in the last couple of days due, I suspect, to the cornfields being cut near our last site. However we have moved on and are enjoying a few days at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Alderstead Heath in Surrey. A nice short run beckons Wednesday when we return home.
Right, where we? Ah yes, we had a good week down in North Devon with my cousin and family. The weather did it’s best to spoil it but there were some bright moments to be had. The evening down at little Barricane Beach – just around the coastline from Woolacombe – devouring Sri Lankan curry was lovely.
Another highlight and one in which the weather did play a positive role was our fishing expedition. I didn’t catch many – less than one to be precise – and I wasn't the only one to draw a blank but the star of the show was my cousin Andy who, within fifteen minutes of casting, hooked a Shark. It was a fighter and took some getting aboard, and even then continued to put up a very spirited fight. Even the more experienced crew couldn’t handle it – and those teeth would have done some serious damage - but we did get the chance to grab some quick photos before it was returned to the water. Fishing aside it was great to be on the water with the sun shining and getting a look at the lovely coastline too.
My birthday is not something I like to celebrate these days but to commiserate Janet cooked a beautiful roast beef dinner with all the trimmings – for ten of us mind – all from the confines of her caravan kitchen. It tasted superb – but then Janet’s cooking always does – and was really appreciated by all.
Another bright day saw myself and Trev head in to Exmoor, pausing first at Simonsbath for some lens clicking, then at Exford for a cream tea. At a pub. Yes, that’s right. We stopped at a pub and I didn’t have a pint. Make a note, it’s rare. But the tea and scones were delicious.
We continued, emerging on the coast at Minehead and returned via Porlock, which looked delightful but parking was impossible. There were no such issues right down on the coast at Porlock Weir however. What a cracking spot. Tea was taken – along with sausage and chips at a lovely spot overlooking the harbour. I think I’ll leave that upcoming cholesterol check a little longer.
We could have re-joined the main coast road by turning tail and heading back to Porlock but instead turned left and took the private Worthy Toll Road, dropping two quid in the slot for the privilege. ‘Road’ is perhaps overdoing it a bit – there was some tarmac here and there – but it was good fun and took us through some lovely countryside.
The last full day saw Sarah – Andy & Janet’s eldest – say goodbye to her twenties. We celebrated with a pub lunch in land. Eating out is easy for most of us but for Sarah and daughter Esmae it’s a lot more tricky, them both being Coeliacs. The Muddiford Inn offered an extensive gluten free menu and judging by the empty plates appeared to be enjoyed by all.
After an overnight stop in Cirencester it was back to Cambridge and time for the sad task of clearing HRH’s bungalow. We’d furnished her room at the home with a fair but of stuff but there was still plenty left – some was to be distributed to children and grand children – but there was still plenty that needed to be disposed of.
A pause in the proceedings came on Thursday, thanks to a trip to the coast. The care home had planned a day out for some of the residents – including HRH – and were short of pushers. Of wheelchairs that is. We went to Hunstanton and were rewarded with a chippy and ice cream for our efforts. More importantly Trev's Mum enjoyed it too and hopefully it helped her integrate with her new neighbours at the home.
Friday brought with it our last day in Cambridge and the day that we handed the keys to Hilda’s bungalow back to the council. The end of an era as she’d lived there for at least twenty-five years. Sad obviously but given how ill she was at the beginning of July, there has been about the best possible outcome – for her and Trev and her family. She is being fed, watered and cared for in a safe, secure and pleasant environment. It’s still early days but she does appear to be settling in well.
So, that was our summer getaway. Fun eh? Well, there have been some good moments – meeting up with friends and family and discovering some lovely new campsites such as Riverside and Lynchets Farm as well as returning to old favourites like Highfield Farm Touring Park in Comberton and Warcombe Farm in Devon. There was as well the night away from the caravan in Swindon where we were invited to the launch of the 2018 Bailey Unicorn caravan range.
Overall it’s not a summer I will remember with particular fondness though. Another leading member of the cast in this summers’ blockbuster has been my sodding left knee. It’s been fine – as long as I don’t use it for it’s intended purpose – like walking. It’s got me down and I’m not ashamed to admit that it brought me to tears on a few occasions both in pain and frustration though I don’t doubt the events of the summer played their part in that too. It’s been a trying time for many however.
Right, onwards and upwards – what’s next. Well, term starts next week, so driving duties resume – and fortunately that’s one thing I can still do even with the aforementioned knee. It’s traditionally a busy term so hopefully there will be lots of overtime to keep the caravan trips coming and the beer flowing. Patsy our dear old Coachman caravan gets the longest rest of the year – until the end of October when it’s half term and we have our 9th Twittercamp – at the Camping & Caravan Club site near Devizes. All are welcome – just get in touch for more details. In the interim here’s product reviews to be written up and lots of site arrival videos to do as well. We’ll get there.
Ok, until then, thanks for sticking with us this summer. It’s certainly been different.
Rich & Trev.
Hello, and firstly, thank you. Part 5 was one of our best read blogs of the year – by some margin. It was also the easiest one of the summer to write. Which is more than can be said for this one at the moment. Just waiting for the caffeine to kick in I guess.
Right, well as you may well have deduced from the title, we’ve been making progress – on a number of fronts – and I’m typing this from the south-western corner of Somerset, near the Devon border. Tomorrow we move on to the North Devon coast for a week with my family and hopefully some R & R. It’s been a trying few weeks.
Talking of trying, the other matter on which there has been progress is HRH a.k.a Trev’s Mum. Finally, on Tuesday she took up residence at her new home. Myself and Trev spent the morning personalising her room which as much of her stuff as we could – photo’s, trinkets, tv and her powered recliner. So far, she seems to like it although it’s early days. On a positive note with her now being in her own room again, the strategically positioned pillow is once again an option. Again, I AM joking……
I mentioned in the last blog what an amazing job Addenbrookes have done on her, so we really need to say a big thank you to the all the staff on ward G6 for their wonderful care and attention. I personally am so grateful to them for breathing new life in to my mother-in-law. Thank you very much. Now readers please feel free to apply as little or as much sarcasm to that last bit as you deem appropriate….
It’s not just HRH who’s been enjoying the attentions of the dedicated folk at Addenbrookes either. Last Wednesday I, after considerable persuasion from the Portly Partner presented myself at the reception of A & E with my dodgy knee. I was reluctant because it wasn’t either an Accident or an Emergency and it just didn’t seem appropriate but they understood my predicament and I joined the queue.
Within an hour and a half I was called and a VERY nice physio gave me – ok just my knee, one can fantasise – a good going over and soon isolated the problem – that one of the tendons on the inside leg was on the blink again. Treatment was simple. Rest and gentle exercises to strengthen it and pain relief. Well, I’ve managed one out of the three - although I’m not sure real ale was what the physio had in mind – and it’s my own fault that there has not been much improvement yet but hopefully this coming week I’ll be able to take more care of it.
We had a lovely stay once again at Highfield Farm Touring Park in Comberton, just outside Cambridge pitching up as it turned out, for over two weeks. This was our third visit and there may well be a fourth when we head back to Cambridge in a weeks time – to catch up with HRH and carry out the sad task of emptying her bungalow. There will be a Site Arrival video and a Site Tour too at some point, though I’m making no promises as to when. My creative ‘get up and go’ – such as it is – seems to have got up and buggered off for the time being.
Anyway here we are in the south-west at Gamlins Farm near Wellington. We had a lovely evening last night, joining fellow caravanners Dan, Angela, young Chloe and the gorgeous Chops in their awning just a few miles away for grog, grub and a good old chinwag and it was nice to talk about stuff other than just hospitals, care homes and recalcitrant mother in laws. Dan is a vlogger – and a bloody good one too - and it was exciting to hear about his upcoming projects. Many of you may already be aware of his YouTube channel - The Trudgians – but if not I urge you to check it out. Great tips, tricks and product reviews for both the novice and more experienced caravanners alike.
So, a quick look at our current site. I grabbed some pictures this morning with the phone in what turned out to be a very short window whilst the sun was out:
It’s quite a pretty site as you can see and fairly easy to get to with just the last mile after you turn off from the A38 requiring a little more care. There will be the usual site arrival video in due course. There’s the usual facilities in including free WiFi which we don’t need the aerial to pick up. Trev is making use of the laundry and getting caught up with everything whilst I sit and pretend to type..
Right, that’s it for now. Thanks for bearing with us. Hopefully they'll be some photos from a sun-drenched (yeah, right) Devon to share in the next blog. Until then,
Rich & Trev.
Hello and welcome to another riveting blog documenting our fun packed summer tour of er, Cambridgeshire. As I type a traditional British summer is in full swing. The wind is howling and the rain is lashing against the van. Yes, one is feeling a little sarcastic this morning I’m afraid. Although I am impressed with the way in which the guy next door has taken down his awning this morning, despite the arctic conditions outside. So precise, methodical and controlled and any offers of help I am sure would be a hindrance. That’s my excuse for staying put in the warmth of Patsy anyway!
I’m having a day ‘off’ from visiting HRH in Addenbrookes today, but it looks like Trev may be there most of the day. He’s having a meeting with someone this afternoon about options for when Hilda is ready to be discharged. So things seem to be moving at last – probably so they can clash with our planned trip to Devon in a couple of weeks. Sorry, there I go again, grumpy cynical old git.
So, I’ve mentally composed a to do list for today. Writing this blog is one, so at least I’ve made a start. Getting the www.alearchive.uk up to date is another – there’s at least half a dozen beers to write up. Third is to spend some time learning some new video editing software, a trial of which I’ve downloaded. There’s some Site Arrival videos to prepare, the ‘van could do with a bit of a tidy up and I need a haircut. The clippers are charged and ready to go. Trouble is, none of them are urgent so a bit of self-motivation and discipline is needed or I’ll end up spending all day on Facebook and Twitter, interrupted by rather more frequently than desired trots to the toilet thanks to a pint last night which was most definitely past it’s best.
Right, enough of the whinging. Probably. Those who’ve followed our exploits on social media will know that there has been some events of note to report since my last missive other than visits to Addenbrookes hospital and pubs various. Here we go.
Last Monday, when we were still at Lynchets Farm, I woke to hear the idle of an unfamiliar diesel engine on site. Being naturally nosey and wondering if was a very early arrival, I raised the blind on the door to have look, only to discover an ambulance outside one of our neighbours. It transpired that the gentleman - Donald - had had severe chest pains and feared a heart attack. They stabilised him but decided a visit to hospital was necessary and whisked him off, not to Addenbrookes but Stevenage. His wife Pamela elected to follow in the car but there was a third party to consider – a 13 year old Jack Russell shaped object by the name of Alfie. Knowing from experience that Pamela likely had a long day a head, I offered to look after Alfie. I should point out right now that my offer was in no way made in the knowledge that I would be unable to visit HRH in hospital that day. Whatsoever. At all. Honest!
Anyway, dear old Alfie was as good as gold and no trouble at all, although he was either deaf or just ignoring me – but as a married man I’m used to that. He even ended up joining us in a couple of pubs and seemed to love it. We moved site on Wednesday and Alfie came with us so Pamela could again visit the hospital, but we took him back in the evening and were delighted to see Donald back having had an angiogram and then a stent. It’s all to easy to knock the NHS but we all agreed what fantastic care Donald had and to get him on the road to recovery so quickly was superb.
That in a way mirrors HRH’s experience. Her care has been nothing short of superb, although she has now been moved from a single room to a ward and I’ve lost any opportunity to discreetly bring things to a conclusion with a suitably positioned pillow. I AM joking…
As I mentioned, we’ve moved site and after booking in for a few nights, they’ve agreed to put up with us a for while longer and we are here now until we hopefully head down to Devon in just under a coupe of weeks. We’re back at Highfield Farm Touring Park – one of our favourite sites near to Cambridge – and whilst it is more expensive, the showers alone are worth it. There was nothing wrong with the one at Lynchet Farm – it was at least as good as what we have at home - but the ones here are just divine. I frequently emerge shrivelled like a prune after an extended stay under the hot monsoon. Just lovely.
No sooner had we arrived though, then we were off for a night away – heading west minus Patsy – to our venerable Honda’s ‘birth’ place, namely Swindon – or at least the outskirts. The reason? We had been invited to the launch of a range of Caravans – the 2018 Unicorn range from Bristol based manufacturer Bailey. This was very exciting for us and quite an honour to be considered worthy of an invite. The hotel in which the launch took place was actually owned by Honda too. The Stanton House Hotel is popular with visiting executives from Japan thanks to it’s proper Japanese restaurant upstairs and it’s proximity to the Honda car plant where dear old Rosie was (hopefully) lovingly crafted several years ago.
The launch was Friday morning but I took the opportunity to get all my photo's on the Thursday afternoon in the sun, then indulging in some research thanks to the surprise presence of a real ale on the bar, before writing up my blog – the ale ensuring it would be down to it’s usual standard - so it could go live when the embargo was lifted midday the following day. It was great to meet up with fellow bloggers and vloggers as well as caravan industry journo’s and execs from Bailey for a good old chinwag. It’s the first time a caravan manufacturer has included us bloggers and vloggers in such an event and goes to show how seriously they are taking social media. Something other manufacturers should consider as it ain’t going to go away. Social media will no doubt evolve – as it already is – but it’s here to stay and companies need to embrace it.
Right, for once this trip I’ve managed to waffle on sufficiently to hit the word count. Do please check out the links below if they are of interest.
Thanks again, as always for reading. I never imagined when I started writing about our Egypt trip in an email some eight years ago that my recollections of our travel experiences would evolve into a blog this popular. And that’s only because you lot are kind enough to read it. Cheers!
Rich & Trev
Blimey. I never imagined for a minute that when I started scribbling about our travels in a caravan, that we would be invited to the unveiling of new caravans by the UK’s longest established manufacturer of caravans – Bailey of Bristol.
So, here we are, just outside Swindon – Rosie’s ‘birth’ place in hotel owned by Honda no less to get first look at Bailey’s best selling range of caravans – the Unicorn.
There are ten layouts in the new range – and we were able to nose around eight of them here and I’m delighted to be able to share with you some photo’s of them – and as owners of a Coachman – albeit an ageing one – we were both very impressed.
There are a number of specifications that would have once only been considered optional extras but are now fitted as standard across the range – the TyrePal Tyre pressure monitoring system for one and a plethora of those all important USB charging points along solar panels and the wiring for motor movers. TRACKER Monitor Stolen Vehicle Recovery System with intruder alarm is standard as is the more expected AL-KO ATC system and wheel locking point.
Alde central heating is standard so no more dry throats and bunged up sinuses courtesy of the once popular blown air system:
Extensive testing at Milbrook Proving ground resulted in structural changes that allow more internal space and seats and beds up to 5% and 10% longer as well as extra space in the kitchen areas which was instantly noticeable when we had a nose around. The full range will be available to view at the NEC show in October.
As a couple without kids our interest was mainly in the 2 and 4 berths. Sadly there was no side dinette here – that will be ready for October, but we really liked the two berth Seville:
Loads of wardrobe space – important for the Blogger in Black - and a sizable shower too:
Our favourite layout – and one that may well go for next time is that with twin rear beds – featured in the range as the Cadiz, but there is plenty to interest families too. The six birth twin axle Segovia is one well worth considering:
There are five fixed double bed options are here too and I love the window opposite on the Cartagena and Vigo models:
There’s plenty more features worthy of a mention. Ecocamel shower heads and a clothes rail in the bathroom and a natty dustpan and brush incorporated into the door bin:
A gas bbq connection point and mains and aerial outlet for the awning telly and heavy duty legs fitted to the rear as standard. I’ve never seen such a shiny leg!
So, there you have it. The 2018 Bailey Unicorn range. Many thanks to Bailey for inviting us and what a lovely location it is too. It’s been great to meet up with fellow caravan bloggers and vloggers too to share in this special occasion. See more in our next blog as Legs Down’s Road to Somewhere Tour continues.
Thanks as always for taking the time to read, it’s much appreciated. For more information head over to www.baileyofbristol.co.uk 00
Rich & Trev