Summer 2019 - looking back

OK, not the summer itself – weather wise it’s been a real mixed bag hasn’t it? I am talking about my time away in Patsy for a month or so and many no doubt okay, maybe some, will have observed the absence of any blog posts during and about the trip.

It was always going to be a tricky one this with the first anniversary of Trev’s passing slap bang in the middle and with this increasingly playing on my mind; as term drew to a close my usual enthusiasm for an upcoming trip was waning considerably. I even cancelled the first port of call, Henley-on-Thames.

Eventually though, I did depart the south coast, my destination being the Camping & Caravan Club site at St Neots in Cambridgeshire, a nice easy reach from the A1 with an expected journey time of around three hours. Yeah, right.

D_NHxefXUAA4omBWith multiple closures on the M25 it took nearly five hours in total, the frequent stop-starting doing Rosie’s ageing clutch no good at all. With around half an hour to go I decided I’d punished my bladder enough and turned off for Baldock services and duly followed the signs for caravan parking. There were three spaces and only one car/caravan combo in residence but they’d selfishly managed to take up all three spaces. There were some choice words delivered to no-one in particular as I dragged Patsy through the car park and out again. Fortunately, a lay-by a bit further on provided an opportunity for some, by now, urgent relief and I was mighty glad when I eventually got to the site and quite chuffed when I successfully reversed onto a lovely grass pitch under the watchful eye of my new neighbours.20190712_120327

It wasn’t the most ‘productive’ of stays, lethargy and lack of enthusiasm rearing their heads frequently, but a nice walk around the town gave me a good overview, the knee largely behaving itself for the duration. There’s a little video slide-show HERE if you want to take a look. I put up the new sun canopy and with the fridge struggling at least initially, deployed the little USB fan we picked up last year, to help with air flow. The Cadac got it’s first - and last - use of the summer, and probably the year. The whole outdoor cooking thing no longer holds it’s appeal.

DSC_0132The undoubted highlight was an impromptu run up the A1 to the Nene Valley Railway. I was in time for the first train and was made up when I saw that we were to have both steam and diesel traction for the day. I stopped off at Overton for tea and cake, fuelling up for a brief walk around Ferry Meadows, noting with interest how close the Caravan & Motorhome club site was – definitely one for a future visit. Back on the train, the journey continued to Peterborough, where I had a stroll around the grounds of the cathedral before returning to my starting point for the run back to the site. Again, a short video HERE if you’re interested. DSC_0091

Next stop was Cambridge, my old home town and at just 22 miles between sites, one of my shortest tows to date and I felt happier as soon as I arrived.

I gave my first ever lot of blood at the nearby blood transfusion centre at Addenbrooke's Hospital and a friend and fellow caravanner joined me for a long weekend, staying at a nearby B & B and I had a lovely time showing her around. You can read her account of her stay HERE.

Once back on my own though, I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to meet up with many people, but a couple of meals out and pub quizzes were good fun and it was great to catch up with fellow caravanner Andrew who was also on site for a few days. On what turned out to be the hottest day of the year I took an early run out to Wandelbury Country Park for a pleasant meander while the heat was still comfortable. Just a few minutes drive from the club site at Cherry Hinton and yes, there’s a video HERE.

20190726_134705Next stop was Suffolk and Clockhouse Farm near Long Melford, just for four days and it didn’t start well. The motor mover was giving me grief and it took ages to get the sun canopy properly taut. My obvious relief that an unsecured bottle of Pinot Noir that had escaped from drinks cabinet and landed, unbroken under the dinette table was tempered by the dent it had made in the worktop on the way down. The only outing in the end was to a supermarket in Sudbury and I spent far too long on the phone to Powertouch about the mover - and even longer waiting for them to phone back. I was annoyed with myself for not making more of my stay in what is a lovely area but also aware that this year was always going to be different.20190731_090308

Then it was time for my next tow – south east to Essex and a return to Woodpecker Meadow. I had decided, soon after I came home last year that I wanted to come back – at least this year - on the anniversary of Trev’s death and had soon booked and had confirmed that I could have the same pitch. So I was somewhat put out when I was advised on arriving, that I couldn’t have that pitch as the electrics were playing up and I’d be on the opposite side. My mood was not improved by the heavens opening shortly after pitching and, not trusting myself to keep my cool face to face, I fired off a polite but firm email.

Well, as you know if you follow me online I got nowhere, my frustration more coming from the sense that she (the site owner) didn’t understand the problem. There was a tent occupying ‘my’ pitch and I harboured faint hopes of him leaving the next day, but it wasn’t to be.

DSC_0106Away from the site though I went out with Andy & Janet - and Poppy - their eight month old Cockapoo - for a walk along the waterfront at Maldon and later for a meal at the Layer Fox pub, the food as superb as it was one year ago when Trev and I were there. The light, as the sun set on Abberton reservoir wasn't as impressive one year on though.20190801_091725

And so to the 1st of August. Shortly after nine A.M. I positioned my recliner looking across to the pitch where it all happened last year, with a small glass of Trev’s favourite whiskey on the side. Thought back to the events of a year ago, sobbed for a few moments, then at 09.20 raised a glass in his memory. It was the moment I’d been working myself up to for some time and now it was here. Year one, done. The relief came, not like a tidal wave, but gradually over the course of the morning as I pottered about and was thrilled to hear that Amanda – Andy & Jan’s youngest - had given birth in the early hours. Somehow it just seemed right.

I’d booked for four nights but decided it would be good to get away a day early, so the next day I hitched up and pulled away, confident I wouldn’t feel the need to return again. The next destination was back in Suffolk, on the coast at the White House Beach club site in Kessingland. My cousin would be joining me the next day but was delighted that fellow caravanners Rob and Andi would be on site and I ended up pitching next to them.

There was only one thing definitely on the agenda here and that was to replace the rollers on the motor mover, which I did two days after I arrived, wanting to attempt it early in case it didn’t work out. I didn’t want to attempt it at all but having given up on Powertouch sorting out an engineer I felt I had little choice. It wasn’t easy but I got there in the end, not least thanks to help and encouragement from Rob and Andy. Having people around to bounce ideas off when it wasn’t going well was invaluable. No video, but for those of you interested, there is a blog post about the process HERE.

DSC_0214The rest of the stay was pretty relaxed. I went out a few times with Andy & Jan for a drive, calling in at some delightful little villages on the Broads, often for a lunchtime pint and portion of chips. There was a couple of solo outings too, one of which was to the East Anglia Transport Museum, just a ten minute drive from the site. I had a fun couple of hours wandering about and grabbing rides on the miniature railway, tram and trolley buses.

Another day I took the bus to Lowestoft, hopping off at the train station. I had no plans other than to take a train somewhere for a ride 20190808_114329around and plumped for the next train which was to Norwich. It was clear my birthday had a come a day early when an old Type 37 hove into view as it rumbled along and towards the platform. I hadn’t seen – and more importantly heard - one of these in action since I was a child - waiting at the crossing at Histon as the goods train rumbled through hauling hundreds of tons of sand. Grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat I spent the whole of the 35 minute journey to Norwich in the company of an enthusiast in the doorway, both sticking our heads out of the windows to take in the sounds and smells. I was truly made up.

At Norwich I paused for a pint – the most expensive one I’ve ever bought, and it was dire - before boarding another train, back to the coast at Great Yarmouth. This was rather dull in comparison, the engine of the Sprinter class sounding like a lawn mower compared with the power of the awesome old Growlers.

The triangle was completed with a bus ride back along the coast and a welcome pint with my cousin back at the pub near the site.

We had a run into Southwold on the Sunday – our last full day – to meet up with Sarah and her family – that’s Andy and Jan’s eldest – for a birthday lunch.

I’d decided to head home after – I was beginning to feel quite jaded generally but didn’t fancy the likely four hour run in one go so decided to break the journey at the handily placed Kelvedon Hatch Camping and Caravan Club site near the A12 and M25. The app had only let me book a minimum of two nights but on arrival the extremely helpful and friendly couple at reception amended it to one. Patsy had a bit of a clean up and by lunchtime the following day we were back home.

Well, that was riveting wasn’t it! Again, I was frustrated with myself for not blogging the trip as I went along – it’s what I do and have done for years – but at least there’s this albeit rather truncated version, to look back on.

Thanks for reading – and thank you once again for your support this summer. As I hope you already know, I very much appreciate it.

Cheers & Beers


Powertouch motor mover roller replacement.

Those of you that follow my exploits on Twitter will know that I recently had to change the rollers on my Model 3 Powertouch motor mover. I did initially think of vlogging it but to be honest it was a job I was not looking forward to and the last thing I wanted was the added complication of filming - never mind trying not to swear!

Ideally I would have happily paid someone to do it, but when it first started playing up I called a mobile engineer that covered the area I would be in. He was not available for a month and whilst it was certainly possible to get the caravan back in it’s storage spot without the mover, the yard’s owners had a strict no servicing or maintenance policy on site. Ideally I needed to get it sorted whilst on the road.

Powertouch said they would arrange for an engineer to get in touch with me to arrange fitting, but having chased up numerous times I decided to bite the bullet and order the parts to fit myself. I never cancelled my request for an engineer but, to date am still waiting.20190802_175034

Fortunately instructions were available on their website but, perhaps unsurprisingly it didn’t quite go according to plan, so I thought I’d write a blog post about the whole process in case anyone else finds themselves needing to do the same thing. You will find the instructions I used HERE but what I’m going to do is repeat them below, then add my own comments but it’s worth explaining first why they needed to be changed:

The bearing on the offside roller had completely disintegrated and whilst I may have been able to just replace the bearing, the rollers did occasionally struggle in wet weather anyway, so the newer fluted design would be a worthwhile expense.

1) Remove the 3x M6 screws(10mm hexagon head)

No problem, handily I had a 10mm spanner but the adjustable would have been ok.

2) Remove the roller end cap

No problem on one side, although it turned out that the remains of the bearing came with it. The other side refused to separate from the roller until that had been removed too.

3) Remove 2x M6 screws from the secondary gearbox cover and remove the cover

Again, 10mm, easy enough to undo but quite awkward to see clearly due to limited clearance and having no way of jacking up the van. I was glad I had some latex gloves knocking about as there was lots of grease inside.

4) Remove the gear located on the inner end of the roller by firstly unscrewing the counter sunk screw using a 3mm Allen key

Easy enough to undo the screw but the gear did not just come off. It would not shift by hand but yielded eventually by using a brace and tapping firmly whilst someone operated the mover, rotating the gear in short steps. This was perhaps the hardest bit, not least because of lack of space and vision.

5) Remove the roller drive gear and keyway

When the gear eventually yielded, the keyway came with it.

6) Remove the roller

Again some brute force was required to get it to shift. Due to the chassis it was impossible to strike directly with a hammer. On old large drill bit came in handy, one end being help against the inner end of the roller, the other being hit with a hammer.

7) Insert the new roller into the housing and gently tap the outer end by using a soft faced mallet to fully drive the roller home.

No drama here, although a hammer and folded cloth were the nearest I could get to a soft faced mallet. I’m assuming this is to protect the bearing in the end of the new roller.

8) Replace roller end cap and re-tighten the 3x M6 screws 20190805_100843

I had to bypass this step. The remains of the old bearings stubbornly refused to separate themselves from the end caps despite considerable effort from a caravanning friend. I ended up having to order new caps as well.

9) a) Replace the keyway in the roller slot, then slide over the gear locating the keyway in the gear.

Fiddly, not least because of above and the roller still being free but with someone holding the outer end firm I was able to position the keyway and gear, then hold in place whilst tapping the outer end of the roller until it was firmly in place.

9) b) Fit the countersunk screw and re-tighten

Yep, easy enough.

10) Re-grease as appropriate using general purpose grease

Funnily enough I didn’t have any to hand! However to my untrained eye there seemed more than enough as loads had gathered in the corners of the gearbox cover. I made a point of smearing that over the three gears as liberally as possibly and it’s something I can do at some point in the future.

11) Refit the gearbox cover and tighten both M6 screws (10mm hexagon head) to 7.5nm

Whilst I had a torque wrench - to check the road wheels - I didn’t have the necessary socket so tightened them to what seemed appropriate.

20190804_140739I ordered new endcaps that afternoon and to Powertouch’s credit they came very quickly indeed. These needed to be tapped into place - again using a folded cloth and hammer, before fastening with the three M6 screws.

Right, some figures. The rollers cost £60 for the pair, the end caps were £15 each. Delivery was included in both cases, so total cost was £90. All in all it took me about four hours including a much needed coffee break. I don’t doubt for a minute that it could be done much, much quicker by someone who had more of an idea what they were doing! I was extremely grateful though for the help and support of friend Rob and my cousin Andy, particularly when things were not going well.