Back in December my eldest son says he wants to go to the Big Bank Fair next year in March. We went to the fair last year at the Excel Centre in London and was an excellent, fun and useful day out, so I readily agreed.
The 2014 event was to be held at the NEC in Birmingham, which turned out much more convenient as I knew I would be Full Timing by then and will be easier to get to. With this in mind I did a search for somewhere we could camp within easy reach of the NEC.
I found the The Hollies a Camping and Caravanning Club (CCC) Certified Site (CS). A CS is a small campsite that accepts just five caravans or motorhomes and seems to be on small piece of land on a small holding for the exclusive use of CCC members. Probably a good way for the owner of the land to make some extra money from his land and to my mind with little to no effort. I rang them up the other side of Christmas and got ourselves booked in for 2 nights in March.
March seemd to come round quite quickly and we pick up both my sons, after the youngest has finished school, and off we head North to Birmingham. Now bearing in mind its a Friday late afternoon just after the weather has improved after a particularly unpleasant, wet, winter and this weekend was also looking to be good. It should come as no surprise that the M25 was not going to be kind.
Once we had got round the M25 and on to the M40 heading north a quick check of the satnav confirmed we were going to be later than expected. So Ann gives them a ring to let them know. No answer, just an answer phone. Ten minutes later she rings again. Still no one there. After a few more attempts Ann leaves a message for them in the hope they do check their messages.
I begin to get a sense of “this is not going to go well” especially since after our first experience of CSs (see previous blog).
We finally reach our destination at 7:30 in the evening to find it all locked up and the house there certainly appears to be completely deserted. I make a few attempts to raise anyone if they are in there but to be honest I knew there wasn’t by the way the place looked and the unanswered phone and message.
Despite being somewhat annoyed by this it did mean I was able to put my emergency plan in to action to see how we coped. Now that is really a grandiose name for something not that cleaver but was glad that I had this all pre-thought out. First part of the plan is always in place and involves that whenever we leave a site the grey and black waste tanks are empty (grey is the water from the sinks and blank is the toilet waste) and the fresh water tank is full. Well it will be half full when we get anywhere as we loose half a tank when travelling as it slops out through the breather pipe but thats another story.
Part two of the plan involves using an app I have on my iPhone, Campercontact to find the nearest place we can wild camp at. Turns out just down the road there is a Toby Carvery listed as being able to take up to 10 motorhomes. I give them a quick call to check they have the a place and are still accepting overnight stopovers.
On arrival, as instructed on the phone, I find the manager and she tells me where I have already parked is absolutely fine and confirms they are happy for us to park overnight and would prefer us to eat that evening in the restaurant. No problem I had intended to anyway.
Having had a very nice and not expensive meal we head back to our motorhome to get set up for the night. This was quite a learning curve as this is the first time we are sleeping a full 6, myself, Ann my two sons and the two dogs. This meant having to set up the bed in the middle lounge as a single for the first time as there was no way the two boys were going to share a bed. A lot of bumping around and getting into each others way, no mater how hard you tried to stay out the way, we got all the sleeping arrangements sorted. I think the one most please about this was Ellie that once she realise she got to sleep on a nice soft quilt with Jacob she looked very happy indeed. Its worth pointing out here that Ellie absolutely adores Jacob and has some special bond with him.
The following morning I pulled a bit of a fast one and offered to take the dogs out of the way while every got organised and put everything away. Smart move on my part I think.
After a brilliant day at the fair Nat leaves us to head for the train station and back to Uni. Now that leaves us to find another place to park up overnight. I had a look on the CCC app to find a site about halfway between the NEC and Crawley where I had to drop Jacob off the following day and found the Oxford site to be perfectly situated. A quick ring and were all booked in.
We had a little trouble finding the site but that was mostly due to the fact that both Ann and myself missed the signs to the entrance on both sides of the road. So we had a nice little detour through Oxford and back round to try again.