London February 2020 | Part 1

This trip had been some time in the planning – as most of mine are – and whilst my last visit to the Caravan & Motorhome Clubs’ site at Crystal Palace was only in October, I wanted to make the most of it while it was still open. It was my 10th visit and quite possibly the last as, at the time of typing, the site is scheduled to close in October as Bromley council want the land for redevelopment.

This trip would be a bit different as friend and fellow caravanner Sandra would be joining me for a few days, staying at a nearby hotel and I was looking forward to having company. We’d booked up several things including a couple of visits to the theatre, something I always enjoy when in London. Sandra has written a blog post of her recollections of the trip and I’m going to include that in this series of blog posts, interspersed with my own usual waffle.

I was due to head up the A23 on the Saturday – it being school half-term – and with arrivals not permitted before midday this meant braving the likely considerable traffic along the Purley Way, however it came clear early on in the week prior that a re-think would be required thanks to the imminent arrival of Storm Dennis for the weekend. Whilst I was keen to get away after a long and sometimes trying half-term, I was not going to put myself, others and dear old Patsy at risk. Options were limited – Sunday was out as the weather forecast was still grim and living on the coast the predicted winds were considerable. Monday was a little better but with Sandra due to arrive on the train around midday and a show booked for the evening, it would have been the last resort. Travelling up Friday night was do-able, however with access to the storage yard only permitted during daylight I would have had to put Patsy on site locally at Brighton for a few hours then hitch up when I finished work at around 7pm. To be honest I didn’t relish that at all.

There was a window of opportunity early on Saturday morning with the severest of winds not predicted to arrive until around 10am. I called the site and they were more than happy for me to rock up early, the only caveat being that I may have to wait if I arrive whilst they're cleaning the facilities. I took that to mean that I should arrive before 10:30am which I was more than happy to do. The only issue would be if the storm came in early and for the next couple of days I kept a very close on on the weather indeed.

Sandra recalls:

This blog entry for me starts on the Thursday evening before the Storm Dennis weekend. It was fast becoming apparent to us both that our travel plans needed to be looked at very carefully if we were both not to fall victim of the storm.

I decided to bring forward my departure to, likewise as early as possible, Saturday morning and arriving at 11.45am, 15 minutes before the warning. It was to prove a very wise move as transport links on the Monday morning were in a complete mess and I would not have been able to get there. Equally important was the fact that we had already booked several theatre shows, the London Eye and other visits in advance.

Saturday 15th February

20200215_081403Another check on the weather over an early morning cuppa and it was all systems go – the storm hadn’t advanced and my window of opportunity for a safe tow was on. Patsy was almost ready to go, most of the essentials being loaded in during the previous week. All I had to do populate the fridge, remove the plethora of clamps and locks and we’d be away. A glance at the voltmeter suggested the battery was just about holding up so I motor-moved her on to the back of the car and we were exiting the storage yard at 8:20am. Given a journey time of around two hours I’d still likely be on site before bog-cleaning commenced.

The tow up went pretty well, with little buffeting on the exposed sections of the A27 which I knew through experience to be vulnerable. Once inside the M25, the pace was as usual much slower and by the time I hit the Purley way, getting above second gear was a luxury. There were more pot holes and sunken drains to avoid too, along with suicidal Deliveroo riders but I still made reasonable time, pulling up outside reception at 10:10am. There was no need to stand on the brakes at the mini roundabout outside the site as is per usual, although the required sharp turn for the about face did remind me once again that Rosie’s rear diff oil needs changing. She managed a reasonable 28mpg on the 60 mile trip though. I wouldn't have expected much better to be honest, taking everything into account.

The wardens could not have been more helpful. After some light hearted banter they changed my allocated pitch as it was understandably still occupied, allowing me to get pitched straight away. Patsy’s home for the next week was to be Pitch 23 – another I’m sure she – or her predecessor Patsy 1 – has occupied before. Located in the North-Western corner of the site, the nearby TV transmitter looms large above. Almost opposite I spotted the ‘van belonging to fellow caravanner and friend Rob and family who had driven down the night before and utilised one of the Late Night Arrival Area’s.

I made several attempts to reverse Patsy onto her pitch but I was worried about getting Rosie’s nearside front getting overly familiar with the caravan directly opposite so having got her thereabouts, unhitched and engaged the motor mover to finish the job.20200215_103853

Well she moved about a foot before coming to a halt. Clearly the battery was the cause and the tow up had not replenished it sufficiently. It’s suffered several complete discharges now and after after eight years I suspect it’s had enough.

Fortunately Rob saw my difficulty and helped me man-handle the old girl the final few yards, thankfully there was no levelling required other than a few turns with the jockey wheel handle. Satisfied that her offside was in the vicinity of the pitch marker I set about a rather swift set up, the first job being to crank the heating up to make her habitable. The ProTec towing cover did it’s job in keeping the front nice and clean but also served to show up the rest of the van. The winter has not been nice to her and she was going to need some serious tlc to get her back to her best. I owe it to her, myself and to Trev to keep her nice but a busy week was planned so that may have to wait.

The new charger unit seemed to be working fine and hopefully it would replenish the battery by the time it’s services were called upon at the end of the week.

Sandra was due to arrive at Streatham Common station late morning so set up was rather hurried, before I made the twenty minute drive to pick her up. The wind had got up considerably since my arrival and, back at the site, although Patsy was in a relatively sheltered position, the noise of the wind gusting through the nearby transmitter was initially a little unnerving. After a quick cuppa we dropped Sandra’s stuff off at the hotel and went shopping, splashing some Nectar points on stuff for dinner. Once again it was nice to have someone cooking for me. Later, the volume was frequently adjusted on the telly as the wind got louder and louder, though there was thankfully little movement at Patsy level!


A very busy Friday ensued with getting ready for an earlier departure and Saturday morning arrived and after an uneventful journey for the both of us we duly arrived in London. In many ways, we came to realise that, notwithstanding the storm, it was a good call to have made and we had more time to relax and fit in a lovely stroll round Crystal Palace Park, having a coffee, seeing the dinosaurs, getting covered in mud. We were very frugal and for the first two nights we cooked and ate in the van. Nothing beats caravan cooking and two roast joints went down very well, the latter one providing lovely baguettes to take into the city for lunch on two days.

That’s it for Part 1, more soon!

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